Everyone becomes a racist at least once in their lifetime, knowingly and at times unintentionally. Racism is a global, social, human, inherent problem.
The sudden urge to dislike someone different than one’s group is not a new phenomenon. It comes naturally – we fit easily in our group, but struggle to mingle with a different one. Perhaps it is psychological or natural, I do not know, but I strongly feel that human beings are generally hostile to the outer groups. There are exceptions, however.
Last week while talking with a friend about how people here mistake you as a part of another group I coined a new phrase: “mismatched racism.” She lived in Norway and England prior to emigrating here with her parents who have roots in Iran. I bring this up because she said people ask her if she’s from Pakistan or Saudi Arabia rather than asking where she is from. If you listen her speak, one cannot assume she’s from that region.
Not all Asians are Chinese. Not all Europeans are British. Not all westerners are Americans.
My argument here is that there are hundreds of people in Canada who have moved from one country to another, have different accents and certainly do not belong to a visible majority group like Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and others. So why are there people here, even international students, who bluntly tell me (not ask), “Are you from India?” I understand that most people do it unintentionally but again the majority of the people make a false assumption.
The first problem with mismatched racism is when someone asks a person if they are from a particular group instead trying to acknowledge their real origin that person can turn hostile, exasperated and knackered. When that happens there’s possibility that they try to reinforce their own identity through various means – forming groups or associations and staying away from the majority group. This enfeebles the integration process and even complicates the progression of multiculturalism. In Europe, it is already failing.
The second problem is that such events instill hostile feelings in the person against the groups that they are matched with. But being human being and from the land of Mt. Everest I do not like people assuming that I’m from one so-called particular group. Such assumptions do in fact abate the possibility of making new relationships with others. Immediately I assume that people who ask such questions are not broad-minded and hence do not require my friendship. I’m working on this and next time if anyone asks me that way I’m going to fire back with question if they are from another country and observe their reaction. I’m jesting.
The third problem is since I’m new here it is difficult for me to give up my origin and past. If I settle here only the second or third generation will be able to integrate completely, which means, I have to deal with this issue for life. Even while trying to enter the Social Club and Cellar I have to show them my passport because there’s no birthdate on my UNB identity card and feel harassed as I neither have driving license or other IDs with a photo and birthdate despite telling them I’m a grad student!
I love Canadians and international students but whoever reads this I hope when you meet someone different next time you’d start conversation in a proper logical manner by saying: Where were you born?