A personal experience on subtle racism in a Canadian School system.
This thread seeks to shed light on some of the misconception that Canada is a holy land with no iota of racial discrimination whatsoever. A land where you can just come in and start plucking millions of dollars from maple trees.
Sometimes last week a lady uploaded a video of herself seeking help due to racism. Many downplayed whatever she was going through asking her to give full context of how the whole scenario played out arguing that the Canada they know is quite welcoming.
Back when I was in school studying Human Resources Management, I was open minded & was positive that a large percentage of Canadians are friendly while majority of them do not discriminate. That is true but doesn’t rule out the fact that racism does exist.
I had worked for a couple of months before starting school. Also, I had made a number of friends prior to starting so all the experience cemented my ideology of a less discriminatory society.
Fast forward to when I started school. Class was diverse having different types of races, religions and people you could think of. I loved it. Also, I was vocal and active as I loved the inclusiveness with the opportunity to learn from diff people who had various backgrounds.
Recall that before I started studying HR, I had almost 2 years HR experience. This comes with several skills that I love, one of which is having adequate knowledge on Non-Verbal Communication. This is where the type of racism that exists in Canada comes to play.
The type of racism that exists is much more insidious and that is why it so hard to recognize at times. This is why people will debate the legitimacy of calls of racism by immigrants or international students.
So this lecturer in question did not for whatever reason known to him, readily relate or exhibit any form of affinity for international students. From my non-verbal skills I had also noticed that he wasn’t readily welcomed with me answering questions in class.
A class where other lecturers and students saw me as one of their favorite? A class where a lecturer called me out to address everyone because I asked a question during lunch which he said no student ever thought of when he talked about a particular subject matter?
This was where I began to question if this man was racist or not. How do I argue my point that his racism was hidden beneath a veneer of normality? He further proved my point when out of everyone asked me to re-do a project stating it did not have points he had requested for.
I did not even argue with him. I also did not go to the international office to complain. Maybe I should have. Maybe. But I handled it in a different way. I did the assignment meticulously using the arguments he had pointed out.
That period coincided with when I got my internship while in school as we were expected to get internships before the semester was over. Before he started teaching the class, I went to him to inform him that I had re-submitted the assignment, and form fake catching up with him.
I added that I had gotten an internship. When I mentioned the name of the org, he almost choked from the water he was drinking. Apparently, he was going to use the org as a case study because they had been on the list of best companies to work in Canada for a long period.
That day, he used me as an example to other students while indicating that he had tried to get a job in that same org for a while but couldn’t. He paid so much attention to where I was sitting that day and I can assure you it wasn’t coincidence.
I don’t want to make excuses for him, but a part of me believes majority of ignorant ones like him always have this notion of ‘what good can come of Africa’. That’s where the argument of how do we continue to use our media to suppress the agenda of the western media?
The second instance was when I went to the internship office to inform them I had gotten a verbal offer from the org for my internship, but they indicated until they see a written offer from the company before I get registered for my internship credits.
I called the org. Asked if I could get my offer earlier. They sent it. While giving the lady, I told her ‘because I am an African doesn’t mean I can’t work in XYZ company’. You registered other local students using a verbal offer but declined to do so with me. I walked out.
So, to all my bothers and sisters, when you find yourself newly in this environment, don’t think it will come easy. You will have to be excellent at what you do. For some, there is a surface they see, a surface embedded in their ideologies which has been formed over the years.
An ideology lined by ‘what good can come out of Israel’. And to shatter that ideology, you must be excellent. Today, I work in one of the top 5 coys in Canada and fortunate with the level of diversity and open minds around me.
So yes, there is discrimination and racism in this society hidden beneath a veneer of normality. But to excel, you must be exceptional. “I was raised to believe that excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism. And that’s how I operate my life.” – Oprah Winfrey