Canada Chronicles, Chap 4: Witnessing What “Get Up, Stand Up” Really Means [Part I]

I never thought much of what it takes to actually do something about the way you’re treated by others. In my lifetime, I can honestly say I’ve played the ‘good girl’ character to my detriment. That’s the result of being brainwashed at a young age to believe that this is the way to succeed in life. Shut up, listen, follow the rules. DON’T DO THAT.

I decided to start breaking rules at age 19. I know I was late, but there’s a reason for everything. I partially regret making that decision, but I’m also grateful I did. Life is nothing without learning experiences, and sitting in a Race Studies course is probably the most palpable one I’ve had. It’s downright SCARY.

Going to Canada meant immersing myself into a culture that didn’t belong to me. It meant not getting into anybody’s way because, though you’ve been invited, you don’t deserve to intrude on someone’s space. That seems to be the running motif so far in that particular course.

I remember thinking in the few weeks I landed, that Canada in no way makes space for me. No one notices you because you’re just another person being tugged by the tide. Why should you stand out? Why should anyone stop to care? But then you sit in a classroom and you’re one of only 4 black people in a class of probably 60. Not only that, you’re the darkest you’ve ever felt. But it feels good. And besides, everyone is nice, they address you with a smile, so after a while you don’t even notice you’re different. Then one day the guest speaker arrives, and you really get a sense of what sticking out means.

When the guest speaker arrives, he’s dressed like everyone in the room, but his bearing says he is not. The tension in the air is puzzling. You thought Canada’s blindness was its way of showing its acceptance. Turns out, uneasiness around certain people is still a thing to be felt here, since there is still some history yet to be cleared up.

He is here to make a point, to stand up for his rights, but you’re not uncomfortable because of the determination in his voice. You’re uncomfortable because you’re suddenly hyper aware of not being part of the history that he and the others in the room share, of not belonging. What are you doing, encroaching on this space anyway?

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