Dear White Canadians,
When I was a little girl, I remember clearly the first time that I was called a racist name, that moment where I understood that I was not equal. There is a pain in these experiences that stays with you for life. I am sure that every person of colour in Canada has a story like this one.
I used to comfort myself in the myth of multiculturalism, with the belief that most Canadians were not racist. To be honest, over the last few years, this has not provided much comfort.
I am, like many, searching to understand why Tuesday night's election results are having such an impact upon me and other people of colour I know. There is much fear and deep sadness around me as we hear about the acts of racism Americans are facing.
At this moment, I feel foolish for believing that "equality for all" was near a social consensus that a majority had signed on to. I knew we had our issues in achieving this ideal, but I believed that the majority of Americans would openly condemn the racism, xenophobia and sexism that were so deeply rooted in Trump's campaign.
Do you believe that Canada would be better if people like me were not here?
For what it's worth -- it looks like a lot of them did, except for White America. This is a realization that has gutted all people of colour and filled them with fear for the future.
I have heard so many attempts at explanation for these votes from America -- globalization, inequality, etc. But it should not have been. Their consideration of Trump should have ended at the racist chants at his rallies, at the policies of deportation and discrimination based on race and religion, at the endorsements from the KKK and so many more things. But it did not.
The world is changing in our midst and now is the time to openly and honestly confront ourselves. If it is true that Canada stands alone as a country where far-right, anti-immigration, fear-based politics have not gained real power -- we are living in a dark time. Can we remain this way in the future?
White Canadians, I need to know -- how does the Trump victory feel for you?
Is there a part of you that feels empowered by Trump's win? Do the words now coming out of Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch's mouth fall upon your ears? What do you think are "Canadian values?" In your deepest of thoughts and wildest dreams, do you believe that Canada would be better if people like me were not here?
How will you respond now?
I worry that you can too easily find comfort in your privilege and wrap it around you like a blanket to filter out the horror that we feel. That this comfort will allow you to move on and become silent on the terror in Trump's plan and the voices of racism.
White Canadians, we need to know now -- do we have to worry about you? Will you stand with us for a Canada that openly and loudly rejects hate of all kinds? Do you truly believe that no one is equal unless we are all equal?
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Even teens with the same identity -- be it racial or gender -- can be guilty of bullying and discrimination. Ontario's Ministry of Education defines bullying as "a form of repeated, persistent, and aggressive behaviour directed at an individual or individuals that is intended to cause (or should be known to cause) fear and distress and/or harm to another person's body, feelings, self-esteem, or reputation."
Social media can be a platform for bullying to continue even after school is out. Cyber bullying occurs when young people take malicious actions online. through chat rooms, email, social sites and instant messaging.
"You don't need to go into full confessional mode, but have fun with it, if that helps. Or be perfectly honest," Author Jonathan R. Miller said. Miller pens e-books with multi-ethnic characters and themes. You don't have to talk about all the nuances of your family tree every time you're asked about your background, He said. That can be exhausting. Find something that works for you personally.
"I like the word 'mixed' because it's a messy word, and in my experience growing-up mixed is exactly that," Miller said. He suggests that it's important to allow yourself to truly wrestle with questions of identity in environments you consider safe.
If you are struggling with your identity, you don't have to tell the whole world, but confide in a friend that you trust. Having someone to confide in is important. "If you can, find someone who you can talk to about your most honest, ever-evolving, often-messy answer to the question, "What am I?" Miller said.
"Maybe you don't have anyone trustworthy to talk to honestly about your experiences. Write about them. It helped me, sometimes, to get those out," Miller said. It may not make a lot of sense initially and it might feel uncomfortably personal, but write. Keep a journal, write short stories and rename the characters, try your hand at poetry -- whatever feels best.
"You are likely being told at different times, more or less, to hurry up and get off the fence, pick a side and get on with it," Miller said. It's not necessarily a bad thing to be unsure of who you are, even if your peers seem to have their acts together, he said. Teenage years are discovery years. Miller also quoted author Rainer Maria Rilke: " 'Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. ...live in the question.' That's good advice. Difficult to follow, but good."
When it comes to mixed heritage, "you don't have to be 'both' or 'other' or 'all of the above' all of the time. Sometimes the only way to figure out what you are is to choose one thing and be it for a while," Miller said. Explore how it feels to fully embrace a single aspect of your identity, for short period of time. See "what stick and what slides off." It's simply learning, Miller said.
"I can't tell you how many multi-racial people I've met who have chosen a single race or ignored race entirely and been perfectly content with the decision. A biracial friend of mine used to tell me, 'I'm black and white, yes, but I'm black. Period,' " Miller said. He said he knows many people have chosen to identify with only one aspect of their multi-background, while others have embraced the blend.
Find creative ways to occupy your time, Miller said. Join a group or do an activity (with others) where you are empowered to be who you are, instead of having to act how others think you need to be in order to fit in.
Take pride in your ethnic (culture, colour or religion) heritage. You have no control over your heritage, and you can't change that fact that this is who you are. So embrace it and learn as much as you can. "You may feel like it would be an insult to your heritage to embrace one aspect of yourself above the others, but trust me, it wouldn't be. This is important: it is not your job to uphold, with perfect equity and grace, all of the elements that went into your making," Miller said.
"Often they're the 'gatekeepers' that decide whether you're 'in' or 'out.' But what you can do is have a ready answer for the 'charges' they level against you. Whether you use humour, earnestness, or self-righteous anger, it helps to have your defense lined up and ready," Miller said. Sometimes people think all the "members" of their cultural or ethnic community must behave, dress and think a certain way. But as an individual, you can do whatever you want and find your own identity.
Follow Niki Sharma on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nikisharma2