A couple of insignificant words shouldn't matter much, but to me, it meant a lot. Forgetting a few words meant having awkward, half-formed conversations with my parents. It meant feeling alienated from an ethnic community that was strongly bound by a common language. Most importantly, it meant losing an inherent part of my Vietnamese identity. Each time I forgot another word, it was like I was a little less Vietnamese.
Introducing Born and Raised. A Huffington Post Canada series that will delve into culture and language, growing up in Canadian cities and the responsibility some of us feel when we think about our parents' future. The stories are told by our editors, writers and by Canadians from coast to coast. We explore the effect of parents who never told us they were proud of us, what it means to be mixed-race in blogs, features, and through video and Facebook Live segments with our editors. These are daily conversations second-generations have with each other, but this time, on a larger platform.
In seventh grade, I took a family trip to India and my weight was the hot topic. Family members I hadn't seen in years commented on how "fat" I had become; and when I walked into stores to buy sarees or lenghas, store owners told my mom it wouldn't look good on me or fit. It was blunt, but it was normal.
I didn't grow up in Chinatown. Neither did my mother and father. My ancestors didn't come to North America to pan for gold or build the railroad. No one in my family paid a head tax. Chinatown was just a place we visited every weekend to stock up on supplies. Even still, this neighbourhood, this community, this place we call "Chinatown" has become very near and dear to my heart.
These three, blonde, 20-somethings were dressed as cotton pickers and had painted their faces in the most offensive, unrealistic mud black I've ever seen. They said absolutely nothing, only smiled, mouth closed. Here before me, like never in my life, were three white people targeting us, the non-white people in the bar.
I am Malala. I come from a lineage of women who fought stereotypes, racism and bigotry in their adapted homes in North America. I continue to fight it here in Canada. I am Malala because I understand what it is like to have others want to silence you, your beliefs and your actions. Each and every single Muslim woman who has been a victim of racism, prejudice and bigotry is Malala.