In the past few months, we have heard so much about refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants. It's election season here in Canada, and the rhetoric is out in full swing. We hear about immigrants not assimilating into 'our' culture, issues with niqabs, about #PeopleLikeNenshi and #BarbaricCulturalPractices. Racism, islamophobia, homophobia, immigrant hate, divisive politics - all par for the course.
Then we have a picture of a little boy washed up on a beach. Things change for a few days, as we rediscover our compassion, but then they're back to the usual. Fear, loathing and hate.
Stop the world. I want to get off.
I am an immigrant to Canada. It is probably a little more obvious in my case, as I am brown. I know a lot of people here in Edmonton, and I daresay, I am well liked. But in the world out there I am an immigrant, a face among millions that move from the country of their birth for reasons ranging from love (in my case) to fear, to escape, to seek a better life.
I am an immigrant. So –
Do you hate me? Is it because I am brown?
Do you hate that I took a job that should have belonged to a 'Canadian'?
Would you deport me if I failed to pay my library fine, especially if I become a second-class Canadian citizen? (see Bill C-24) Would you deport my daughter, because she was born in England, despite the fact that she was a Canadian citizen first?
Why are you surprised when I speak fluent English, while also being able to converse with my mother in my native language?
Are you scared of me? Am I scary? Am I the 'other'? Do I look like a 'terrorist' if I protest, say, for the environment, or gay rights or equal pay for women?
Do you hate that I write about Indian food?
Should I go back to where I came from?
Are you scared that I won't assimilate into 'Canadian' culture? What is 'Canadian' culture?
Does your family have a 'secret' recipe that came from your immigrant grandmother?
Do you absolutely dislike that I am going to take on a hallowed, traditional dish like stuffing and add my own little twist to it? Am I thumbing my nose at 'old stock' Canadians?
The absolute worst is when people look at me and say, but you're not the kind of immigrant we're talking about. I look at them with pity as I think, no, I am exactly the kind of immigrant you're thinking about. I should be the person you think of when you think of immigrants.
Perhaps all this is a bit too political for just a thanksgiving stuffing recipe. But I am angry. I am angry, and hurt and sad and upset. I am angry that this is the world I am handing over to my daughter.
I am like you, but I am not really, am I? What would it take for me to be seen as 'me' and not the 'other'?