Wente Watch

Friday, September 15, 2006

Those funny accents are so cute

Trust it to Margaret Wente to put ethnic stereotypes in a column about nail bars.

Wente doesn't just quote her Vietnamese-born stylist, she quotes the stylist's accent, by conveniently omitting verbs. "My English not good...your eyebrows beautiful...". And of course, Wente can't resist describing how stereotypically petite the stylist is.

To Wente, nonwhite people are a strange, exotic breed. Even when she has praise for them, she has to emphasize whatever can be laughed at, whatever can be found unusual or different.

And if she wonders why immigrants flock to small businesses, one very good reason is their exclusion from the formal labour market. Canadian employers are notorious for insisting on "Canadian experience" for even the most highly educated immigrants. This leads to the phenomenon of Indians with medical degrees driving taxis in Toronto while Canada has a doctor shortage.

Self-employment is not always a path to riches. If one divides profit by hours worked, it can be well below the legal minimum wage. Sweatshops, where owners exploit workers with ultra-low wages, are illegal in Canada, but self-exploitation is not. So we have Vietnamese immigrants working 80-hour weeks cleaning newspaper columnists' nails, for ridiculously low prices. Does Wente really believe they would be doing that if they had any other choice?

Wente pays $38 for a mani-pedi to an immigrant struggling to pay the rent, a service that once cost much more. To her, that's justice.

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