I went the mall the other day and stopped at one of those sunglasses cart and started looking and talking to the vendor. As we’re talking, he start asking me where I’m from. Before I could even give him an answer, he says ” I mean, which part of the states are you visiting from”. First off, I’m neither impressed or flattered that you’ve mistaken me for an American, and second, how about you let me talk you little old, Oliver Twist. When I told me him that I was in fact Canadian, he then asked me where exactly, because I sound America, I told him Montreal and then he came me that FUCKING look. For those of you not familiar with the “look”, it’s when a person of color is asked where they’re from and it’s usually asked by a white person squinting their little their beady eyes as a way of meaning “you know what I really mean= Canadians are not black” or if you’re really lucky they’ll straight up ask you. “I mean, where are you really from? When did you come to Canada?” which is when I start remembering the breathing techniques that I learned in anger management (a story for another day…).
Over the years, that question has left me angry, sad and often confused that some people still don’t get that Canada is not just a a gigantic white slice of bread. So let’s just get it out of the way now, I was in born in Montreal from 2 immigrants from Haiti. I’ve lived in Haiti, the US other places in the world, and I consider myself Canadian. And I also consider myself Haitian and this is where I start struggling. Anyone who has been birthed by immigrants, especially from what some would consider a third world country, can attest that being Canadian is hard as fuck. To live in such a liberal society, where we often play fast and lose with morality, and your freedoms allow you partake in all the wonderful and depraved things that this great country offers… Sleepovers, smoking weed, drinking, going out to the club, going away with your girlfriends, these have all been points of contention with my mother. She simply didn’t understand why I wanted to enjoy my life Like, hello, I’m a teenager, of course I wanna live as close to the edge as humanly possible. To live a life between two culture, especially when your immigrant keep starting every goddamn fucking sentence with ” well, back home”…I applaud those who have been able to find the balance because I did not and hence why the strain relationship with the life-givers (more like takers but I digress…).
I have very conservative, religious (and by religious I mean, crazy, obviously) parents. The way that I live my life is a direct contradiction to the way that they chose to raise me. To my parents, I am a constant reminder of what is wrong with “Canadians” (and by Canadians, I obviously mean white people). Too loose, too drunk and too loud. I have several issues (only dead people don’t have issues) and I could benefit from seeing a psychiatrist (Thanks Dad). Did I ever try to be a “good Haitian woman”? I did, but then I remembered that I don’t GIVE AN ACTUAL FUCK about being a good Haitian woman…To be the person they want me to be, is the complete and total opposite of who I am today (we’re an all or nothing kind of family). And I’m sure there is a balance, but I frankly don’t care to find it. I sometimes wonder if I’d been raised in Haiti how different would my personality really been. And I don’t want this to come across as bashing Haitian people because I love my people and I will rep for them until the day I die. I am proud to come from a country of strong and resilient people, a place rich in history and beauty. I know where I’m from. My personality has been forged by the richness of both of these cultures. As much as I want to get angry when people ask me where I’m from, I’m starting to understand that maybe it’s my outlook that needs to change. I need to understand that the Canadian landscape is now so rich in culture that being Canadian now has a new definition, and that the old Canadians are trying to catch up…
*Illustration by Brad Amorosino