But Really, Where Are you From?
By: Reenita V
Here, there, everywhere! These are the exact places where you can find microaggressions. While microaggressions are perhaps not always intentional, they are out there and masking blatant racism. Essentially, microaggressions are racism covered in glitter, wrapped in a gold ribbon and are the unwanted gifts that keep giving. We need to accept that we are not perfect nor always fully aware of what we are saying and how things are being transcribed, racism has always been such a natural, normal thing. Canada is literally dripped in a history of racism but if you ask anyone, Canadians are the friendliest people around. So, while we become more aware and politically correct, it doesn’t mean that racism is disappearing, it’s just fancier now.
As an Indo-Fijian woman I get to rock a permanent tan all lifelong; therefore, my tropical heritage is super obvious. Even while rocking a plaid shirt, Roots Canada tuque, snow boots, winter coat I am still asked the same question ‘where are you from?.’ I am literally a poster child for a typical Canadian and still I am asked about my birthday place. I often wonder if carrying a beaver or walking a moose would perhaps stop this question from constantly being asked, but I know the truth, my skin gives people permission to ask this question. While I appreciate people’s curiosity, and have no shame in being an Indo-Fijian Canada woman, no one has the write to spit these microaggressions. I get that I have an ethnic background that is not being white, I know every day when I look in the mirror. “You’re pretty for a brown girl”. Have you heard this one too? I used to think this was such a compliment. I was the only brown girl in the room and someone thought I was the prettiest? Cool! No, it’s actually pretty gross. What this compliment is actually saying is that you fit the guidelines of what it actually means to be attractive according the dominate culture.
See, it’s complicated and it takes some thinking before speaking for us to create respectful dialogue and to be empowered to rebut microaggressions as they come. Thinking before speaking is a great option if you feel a microaggression coming on. Having conversations with friends and family about statements that make you feel good and statements that makes you feel good. Conversations where you can cultivate a better understanding of what you are saying is a great way to discover if what you are saying is actually something that might offend, erotize, or other someone. Another great place to start is to think of all that has said to you that may have not been as complimentary or funny as the person saying it thought. From there, you can start unpacking microaggressions given and taken and make a change.