I’m Caucasian. In another country, in another horrible time, most of the family would have been considered Aryan. Long before research discovered that we are, actually, gene mutations. Not a higher life form than those with dark eyes, dark skin but simply genes that mutated, probably due to environment.
Humans migrate; we now call it “immigrate”. We leave areas detrimental to our continued existence and seek greener pastures. It is what we do. In fact, if you are living in North America and you are not aboriginal? You are an immigrant from some other country that was not to your ancestors liking or perhaps, not of your own liking. We have all ended up here. I will be using Canada as my reference frame because…I’m Canadian.
When I was a kid and we are talking wayyyyy back in the day; my neighbourhood was like a loaf of Pom Gold bread. Whiter than white, uniform and the same; behind each door was a Mom and a Dad, and kids. All white, all the same. The biggest difference was whether or not you were Protestant or Catholic. Every Sunday morning, the various churches’ parking lots were filled to overflowing; the car doors would open and sameness would spill out in their Sunday best. Our shoes would have been shined the night before, the girls in dresses and the boys with their hair slicked down with Brylcream or a last minute application of Mom spit.
My family was a bit different and this was brought to my attention a few times, as a kid; my Dad was Protestant and my Mom was Catholic. Each group convinced the other would be spending eternity in hell. The first time someone told me that my Mom would be going to hell, I was nonplussed. I had nightmares. I spoke to my grandfather about it; he was a Protestant, he was old and I figured he’d be the one to know…after all, he was old. He told me it was a ridiculous notion and that God didn’t care what religion you were, as long as you were a good person. He told me that Mom would be going to heaven and not to worry.
That was my first introduction to prejudice. It may seem, in the grand scheme of bigotry, a very minute thing but it did teach me a life lesson. Don’t believe words that are designed to separate human beings.
Around the same time, construction started to boom in our little enclave of sameness. I heard people speaking about “Jews” moving in and not with kindness. I had no idea who “Jews” were…I asked my Mom. She told me that these were people of a different religion. I sorted through that and understood this was the same situation that had upset me so much – the whole “Mom” going to hell thing. I decided this was stupid and went about the serious business of talking my Mom into the newest Nancy Drew book.
While I read about the Haunted Staircase and The Clue in the Diary; my neighbourhood was changing. French people moved in and my Mom was the only one who could communicate with them. Most of the people on the street ignored them. After all, they weren’t “ONE OF US!”
Then a family from Guyana moved in and the entire community was agog. I met one of the daughters in school; she was my age and in my class. We became friends – Shahzeeda Khan. The only thing I ever really noticed about her was that she had gorgeous long black hair that shone in the sun. There were those in my class who wouldn’t talk to her. They were downright mean to her. It baffled me. Shahzeeda was a blast, she was a fun kid. The kids who were mean to her were not my sort anyway. They were mean to anyone who was not the same as were they. Same type of kids that told me my Mom was going to hell.
Along came Nancy. Nancy was a Korean orphan. I had absolutely no idea what that really entailed. I just liked her and she liked to play with Barbies as well. We went to Brownies together, we took ballet together and those same kids were mean to her as well. She was different. I still didn’t understand what the big deal was – yeah, she had different eyes, her skin was not white and she had thick, thick black hair but she played with Barbie, she didn’t like vegetables and hated fruit for recess. This seemed “same” enough for me.
Then the FLQ crisis hit. Bombs went off in Montreal. The army was in front of my school because people were threatening to blow it up because…we spoke English. We WERE English. Yet they kidnapped and murdered a French guy. Again, prejudice and hate boggled my mind. I learned to associate it with ignorance and stupidity. It was and is an association that has stayed with me.
I look around at the people in my life – they come from all over the world. They represent believers of every religious sort and non-believers. Some are blonde, some have black hair, some have brown and some have hair that changes with their mood, from hot pink to purple to green. Some have white skin, some are olive, some are brown and some are almost black but that is simply their packaging. My packaging does not represent who I am because that packaging represents a crazy quilt of ancestors. I am not Irish or Ukrainian, I am not Austrian or Scottish. I am not French or German. I am Canadian. I come from immigrants. My entire country comes from immigrant stock. When the Irish came here, they were met with prejudice. They survived and thrived regardless of the ignorance of others. When the Ukrainian stock arrived, again they were met with prejudice and hatred. Hell, some of them landed in the internment camps during WWI. And they were as white as anyone already here.
Then folks of different hues arrived and were met with prejudice and hatred. They had it worse than did my ancestors. My family had the luxury of blending in and as long as they didn’t open their mouths to speak with an accent? They were all good to go. Ignorance could be kept at bay. When your skin marks you as different? There is no escaping the stupidity of others – it is a daily onslaught.
Later on, when I was all “growed up”, the “Gay Plague” hit. And boy, the hate-speak hit the fan. At this point, I had lost all religion some time before; it seemed to be the root of all that was evil in the world. What followed in the wake of the decimation of the gay community truly sealed my opinion that religion was simply a cover for those who wished to feel superior without any real qualifications…God’s punishment, unholy unions, Sodom and Gomorrah, child molesters and variations on the theme.
Once again, I was flummoxed. Really? Who loved whom was some sort of nefarious Satanic plot? “Fag” was a particularly loathsome and somewhat confusing term to me. My grandfather called cigarettes “fags” and I still don’t understand the connection, nor do I wish to understand it. The word when used to hurt sickens me. It transports me back to my childhood and the mean kids. I do not see the point in any of this – that two people love is the only important fact. Who or how they love is, quite frankly, none of anyone’s business. My own grandmother and grandfather ignored this – they were of different cultures. Some, in the family, hated my grandmother because she was not Ukrainian and no doubt, some hated my grandfather because he was a “Hunky” – a Ukrainian. They loved and ignored the grown up versions of the “mean kids”.
It is easy to judge based on appearance and human beings are terribly adept at seeking what comes easy. The destruction of our environment is a damn good example but so is the racism and the ugly vitriol that surrounds us. Skin, religion, sexual preference? These are things on which we judge whether another human being is good or is bad? Absurd. If that were indeed the case? I would hate Christian white people because in my school – all the mean kids were white and Christian.
Does it not make much more sense to not prejudge and base any opinions on real experience? If we want to judge on appearance? Well, most serial killers are white males. In the last century, the biggest mass murderers were white males. More child molesters are white, heterosexual males. Does this mean all white males are psychotic, murdering child molesters? As ridiculous an assumption as my Mom going to hell because she was Catholic. Get your heads out of your ass, use that brain to think and not assume.