An African-Canadian woman I know became very tired of being asked which "island" she came from. Her family had lived in Canada for many, many generations, so her answer to this question was "Toronto Island." But what happens when a child is quizzed in this way? If we are not careful, our children will learn to internalize the assumptions that others make about them.
Lupita Nyong'o's moving speeches, the Dark is Beautiful campaign in India, and Anita Majumdar's play, Same Same But Different, have me in a different frame of mind as we approach International Women's Day. I'm not just thinking about women's rights and battles. I'm thinking about what it means to be a woman of colour in Canada.
Last week I was speaking about rights and freedoms to a high school law class. I asked the students if they could think of any laws that had changed in their life time. They knew that the alcohol limits for driving had changed. But when it came to changes that had brought about legislation against racial, gender, and other discrimination, they had to be reminded or even simply informed.
Now that Black History Month is over (didn't take long) I feel more comfortable in saying that I very much dislike it. Black people are more than a month, and are more than several prominent black figures. Black history should be a regular part of educational curriculum and media programming, yet it is differentiated and set aside, just as black people were not so long ago. How is this good?
How long does it take a new immigrant to be profiled in Montreal? Before you hazard a guess, place "black male" in front of immigrant and "racially" in front of profiled. The answer in my husband's case? One week. Bob crossed an intersection beside two white pedestrians. Singled out by a white, French-speaking police officer, Bob was asked to produce his identification without an explanation of his "offense." By the way, the two white pedestrians with whom Bob crossed the intersection were not stopped and interrogated.
I find it appalling that the NFL who has a whole team -- I repeat a whole team -- that is named after a racial slur against First Nations peoples, the Washington Redskins, is all of a sudden in the business of "politically correctness." In terms of the Redskins, the NFL finds all kinds of excuses on why they should keep the name.
"I like my violence like I like my beer: domestic" This was the recent Facebook status of popular east-end Montreal bar, Nacho Libre, whose social media manager somehow thought it completely appropriate to publish this cringe-inducing "joke." Isn't domestic abuse a riot? Sexist jokes are not funny -- they're hostile.
Is there something wrong with Zionism? Has it been declared verboten? Is he suggesting that Zionism is racism? These organizations talk about bringing peace to the conflicts in the Middle East. No, wait, I must amend that. They are only interested in the conflict regarding Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state amidst multiple Muslim states particularly with regards to the Palestinians.
Life is an ongoing exercise in empathy. As a human being, your job should be constantly learning how to make your own way in this world while causing as little harm as possible. Which is why I'm ultimately baffled when people wonder aloud if they're supposed to look at everything critically and worry about its potential to harm others. Because yes, that is exactly what you are supposed to do.
Change is never easy and it often creates discord, but when people come together for the good of humanity and the Earth, we can accomplish great things. Those are the lessons from Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and all those who refuse to give up in the face of adversity when the cause they pursue is just and necessary.
I was born in South Africa, under apartheid -- a white child with every privilege. It was the year 1969, five years after Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. In my first year at Queen's University, in 1990, Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison. My classmates were euphoric about what this would mean for South Africa. My optimism was more cautious.
Rolihlahla "Nelson" Mandela is a global icon. His legendary ascension from prisoner to President is the stuff of fairytales. In this time of international mourning, our leaders should wipe their crocodile tears and reflect upon their actions, or lack thereof, in fulfilling the promise of racial equality which Nelson Mandela stood for. Mandela may no longer be with us, but his legacy, his message and his estimable struggle live on. They reside inside all of us who acknowledge that the pursuit of integration and equity belongs not in the apartheid past in a foreign land but in the bosom of our beloved nation.
A somewhat awkward, bespectacled Chinese man by the name of Xiao Wang wandered onto the stage of Holland's Got Talent. The PhD student announced he would perform a rendition of "La donna è mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto. And that's when Judge Cornelis Willem Heuckeroth, who goes by the nickname Gordon, cracked his first joke: "Which number are you singing? Number 39 with rice?"
As we all watch in awe as the human train wreck that is Toronto mayor Rob Ford continues to unfold, let us take a moment to reflect on the very ugly role that racism is playing in the Ford saga. I think that many of the people who claim to be disturbed by the fact that Rob Ford does drugs are, on some level, actually disturbed by the fact that Rob Ford (allegedly) smokes crack with Somalians in Little Mogadishu.
Leveraging women's bodies became a political sport in Toronto this week. It began with the blurted out defence Rob Ford offered to reports that he sexually harassed a former employee, and sadly continued with Rosie DiManno's Toronto Star article about domestic violence. It's a mistake to focus on these issues.
You walk into a store and the salesperson is a different colour, a woman wearing a hijab, a young man with piercings and tattoos. You walk into a room and realize that no one looks like you. A sense of anxiety sets in from the fight/flight response to fear. That instinctual response to fear begins because we instinctively fear the unknown -- be it a place, an event, a person.
She explains what the "Shoah", or Holocaust was. She states that the reason she is being so slow and re-explaining basics to a room full of adults is that there are a lot of 'Orientali', or Asians, in our class, and they don't know about this period of history, especially the Chinese. She says this several times. I can hardly believe what I'm hearing.
When I leaned over and asked a woman in a movie theatre to please put her cellphone away, she started yelling at me. She AND her husband called me an F'ing TERRORIST repeatedly. Does the colour of my skin or the fact that I wear a piece of cloth on my head make it alright to lambaste me in public in front of my child and her friends?