Racism In Canada


A Personal Perspective
by Mani Amar

I was walking back from the park with my older brother, on our way home, we noticed one of our new neighbours had a small black dog. I was very happy. I insisted to my parents that my brother take me back to that house so I can give the dog a cookie. As we reached the neighbour’s house, the dog neared the fence. I gave the small black dog a cookie. The dog was happy. I was happy. A lady opened the door when she saw us.

“Don’t feed my dog you fucking hindus, next time I will call the cops” she yelled across the yard.

My brother grabbed my hand and ran me home. I didn’t know why. I was 3 years old.

It was a beautiful day, after school, I was riding my bike around the block with my brother and cousins. As we decided to call it a day and headed home, we cut through an empty city lot. As we got off our bikes to walk them through the fence, two older boys came in with their bikes.

They yelled at us, “why are you here you fucking hindus?”. My brother instantly grabbed my arm and told me to leave the bike and run. I didn’t. I stood up for myself. One of the older boys grabbed a glass bottle off the ground, smashed it on a rock, and approached me. I did not move. My brother still pulling me to leave. The boy turned around, and slashed my back tire.

“You stink like curry you fucking hindus!”, the boy with the glass bottle yelled as he got on his bike, “go back to your country”, the other boy yelled as he biked away.

My brother, older, wiser, pulled me, and ran me home, leaving our bikes. I understood why. I was 7 years old.

School was out for summer. Our town had beautiful weather. Every day was a new adventure. As soon as our mom allowed us, we played outside.

One afternoon, I walked a half a block from my house to my friend Justin’s home. As I knocked on the door looking forward to another day of climbing trees and building forts, a man opened the door, a man I didn’t know. “What do you want?” he said in a bothered tone. “Can Justin come out to play?!” I replied with excitement. He gave me a blank stare for a moment, then he yelled in the full house so everyone could hear; “Justin! Some little hindu is here for you!”

I looked down at my feet. I felt shame. I did not understand the emotional response, but I understood why he described me with that term.

I changed my mind to play with Justin that day. I walked home. Sad. I was 9 years old.

Another year of elementary school had started. I was in grade 5 now! Lunch time was always fun with my friends Keith, Jimmy, Andrew, Chris, and others. I remember too often when lunch times were also about boys and girls coming up to me, telling me “you stink like curry!” and running away laughing.

These sort of comments didn’t bother me much these days, they were common. Weekly, if not daily. I was 10 years old.

My older brother was coming home from doing his paper route. I was tagging along on my bike. I always followed him around. He was a good brother.

As we approached home, just outside of our back alley, two boys were walking past us, one from my class. “Hey Dean!” I said.

The older boy whispered something into his ear, Dean came closer. He shoved me off my bike, I fell hard, it was unexpected, I thought Dean was a friend. They walked away, Dean laughing, the older boy yelling, “fucking brown shits!”

My elbow bleeding, my brother picking me up said, “don’t worry”. I didn’t worry. I was confused. But it would be the last time I’d let a peer treat me like this. I was 11 years old.

I’m in junior high now. Times were changing. I was changing. I noticed schools were more divided. The First Nations kids hung out together, the South Asian kids hung out together, the Caucasian kids hung out together.

Halloween night. It wasn’t as fun as it use to be. Our house had been a target for egging. This year I was prepared. I sat on my stoop with my hockey stick all night. No one came. I went in. A few minutes later, at my door, “pop! pop!”, at my windows “pop! pop! pop!” I opened the door, I ran down the stoop, they were already up the hill, “fuck you, you stupid fucking paki!” they both yelled in unison.

I was mad. I would fight them at school. I had to. If I don’t, they will never stop. I was wrong. They wouldn’t stop regardless. I was 13 years old.

Grade 8, time is flying. I enjoyed the elective courses.

Woodworking class. Boys were being disruptive at my table by throwing pieces of wood chips at each other. The instructor saw me throw a piece back in retaliation. “Leave Mani, you don’t get to do the project today” he said disappointed. “Why!” I yelled across the room.

“Wait outside.” he said calmly. So I did.

He came to speak to me a few minutes later.

“What is wrong with all you East Indian boys?” he asked.

“Nothing. What is wrong with all the teachers?” I quipped.

He walked away.

High school! Things have really changed in my town. The school was very divided.

One day, early in the school year, I was asked to stay after Social Studies class. I didn’t know why. Another South Asian student was asked to stay after as well. He didn’t know why either. My teacher came to us. He said, “who has it?”

“Has what?” I sharply replied.

“You know what?” he said.

“What are you talking about?” my classmate said frustrated.

“One of you has the class text book that you are not allowed to take home to study from. It is the class’s copy” he barked.

“I don’t have it!” I barked back.

“Neither do I!” the other boy yelled.

He searched us, pulling our bags from us, getting more angry.

“Only one of you two would take it, none of my other students would have!” he claimed.

I didn’t realize for a moment, then it clicked.

“Why? ‘Cause we are the only two brown kids in your class!?” I said very heated.

“Get out of my class” he said shoving the bags into our chests, we obliged.

I was an honour roll student, a good student, a happy and friendly student. I was 15 years old.

My locker was next to the locker of one of the prettiest girls in school. Long blonde hair and big blue eyes, I had a crush on her since the beginning of the school year. I was slowly working up the nerve to talk to her. One day as I was about to say something to her, her friends approached. “Did you hear what that fucking little hindu and nigger did at the party this past weekend?” Her friends gasped when they saw me, I had overheard. She turned around, looked at me, “oh…sorry,” she said.

She wasn’t that pretty anymore. I was 16 years old.

In English class I was singled out for talking. I wasn’t talking. I politely said it was not me. I was told to leave. I refused. He puffed out his chest and stormed at me. “Get out!” he yelled inches from my face. “Make me!” I yelled back even closer to his face. “All you and your kind are the same,” he whispered then walked away.

I was less friendly with teachers from then on. I was 17 years old.

18 and free! The first chance I had, I took to leave my small mill town. I enrolled into post-secondary.

Walking home one day, a jeep was roaring near.

“Fucking shit skin!”

Looks like the happenings of my small town followed me into the city. This happened at the exact corner of a street where the day before I was helping a stranger, a Caucasian stranger, push his broke down car out of the intersection.

9/11, still fresh in everyone’s mind, I went to see my cousin at her apartment building. I approached the main entrance, a gentleman ahead of me, looked back, concerned. He got buzzed in, I was still waiting, as soon as I got in, I shouted, “please hold the elevator”, he didn’t. Confused, I ran and got my arm in, he looked, disgusted. He stared at me, exhaling loudly and finally working up the nerve to say, “why don’t all you terrorists go home?”

“Excuse me?” was my angered reply. “You heard me!” as he ran out of the elevator, leaving me dumbfounded, but not surprised.

22 now, in the work force. The post-secondary institution I work at had a union strike. One day picketing, a student and his father tried to enter the premises. Union members blocked their entry, I was not one of them. The student asked me why he couldn’t enter, I kindly replied, “sorry bro, the school is closed due to the strike”, to which he arrogantly replied “you fucking curry hindu, ruining my life,” his dad, still in the car, smiling.

I did not feel like picketing that day.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of racial epithets have been cast my way in my young life. Some situations, racially motivated, even turned violent. There have been times where I let my emotions defeat me in the sense of fighting back with words of anger (but never words of racism) and sometimes, even with my fists. I am person, a flawed person, and I am not proud of some actions I have taken. In the moment, and perhaps on some level, I felt justified, but my reactions in hindsight, should not be accepted with comfort. See, if I react emotionally, or violently, then I reinforce the ignorance in which their humble minds reside. And that is not fair to them, to me, or to our collective futures.

Sticks and stones, may break my bones, but ignorant racial slurs and confused prejudice remarks will never hurt me.

And in those above words of solace, I humbly write this article tonight, hoping, no actually, knowing that the pen is mightier than the sword.

Our country, so vast and beautiful, so diverse. Our federal government, so inspiring and strong, so diverse. In a time where a South Asian man can represent an entire country as a Minister of National Defence, racism still exists.

I am 34 now, and a few hours ago, in the parking lot of a grocery store, I was met with racism, defending a man who would not defend himself. Though the racism to me was nothing new, I was disappointed at the level of inaction of those fellow Canadians that looked upon me as I faced racism from 3 different people. Not a single one defended me. Not a single one defended the other South Asian man.

With a heavy heart, I posted on social media about my experience. I stated how today, I was disappointed in being Canadian. My defenders; my friends, my colleagues, and many others, wrote with support. However, one particular comment single-handedly shattered my statement about being disappointed in being Canadian and rejuvenated my soul with positivity. He simply said, “Why are you disappointed in being Canadian… I saw only two in that story.”

Thank you, Arup, sincerely.

inspired by this beautifully written article;

original facebook post;

© Copyright Mani Amar

About Me
In self-reflection; I can honestly say all that is good in my life has been a direct result of my artistic expression. Be it through writing poetry, prose, or philosophy, through painting or photography, or through filmmaking, art saved my life and it can save yours.
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