Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canadians, whether you are a citizen or a resident. This day brings up one aspect of citizenship that has bothered me at times.

I remember seeing this online

http://imgur.com/gallery/9HcXN

I laughed and appreciated the joke, and I assumed most people did. I forget which outlet I saw this on originally, but I remember comment after comment saying “But he’s Indian.”

Being a black Canadian, of Jamaican birth and descent, I have run into this conundrum as well. Not the conundrum of whether I am Canadian or not, but the conundrum of whether people can accept me as a Canadian.

I was at a bar with my friends one night in Toronto and we introduced ourselves to a group of tourists sitting at another table. My friend, of Indian descent, was talking to one of the girls. After he tells he’s Canadian she turns to me and asks if I am, with a tone that indicates she was expecting me to say no.

I then responded, “No I’m from the jungles of Africa.”

She shut up after that. My friend was upset that I said that since he was hoping to hook up with her, but I do not regret what I said.

The way she became quiet instantly, made it clear she realized why I was offended and probably realized she asked a stupid question.

I found the situation amusing as well since she never really questioned my friend’s nationality. It was as if she could accept Indian- Canadians, but a black-Canadian was like a unicorn.

Maybe I could understand the question if I had a noticeable accent that clearly indicated I was from somewhere else. I lost my Jamaican accent about twenty years ago. Of course, I might still have traces of it and I have been told by friends that I do have a slight accent they can pick up on. However, anyone who has seen my YouTube videos can probably note that my accent doesn’t automatically disqualify me from being Canadian. There was no reason for this woman to assume I was foreign, aside from my skin colour.

Despite the age-old truth that everyone has immigrant ancestry, unless they are Native, the falsehood that whiteness indicates a true Canadian or true American still persists. On a day like Canada Day, I think it is important to realize how foolish this mindset is. If you live in any of the (relatively) diverse areas of Canada, like Ottawa, the GTA or Vancouver, realize you will see people of colour proudly celebrating. Do not think they don’t have the right to, or that they don’t belong. Embrace everyone who wishes to celebrate the day. Visitors, residents, citizens of a few generations and citizens of a few years.

As Canadians we pride ourselves on being a cultural mosaic, not the melting pot that the US tries to uphold. If you want to be a “real Canadian”, uphold that principle.

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