Will my Kids also Have to Hear “Go back to Where You Came From”?

| May 22, 2013 | 3 Comments

Peace and love

Last week in the suburbs of Toronto,  a woman came up to my mom and said “you people, go back to where you came from”. My mom defended herself. She shouldn’t have had to but she did – But I am a Canadian. But I am a tax payer. But I give back to the community.

My mom is a special education (dyslexia) teacher helping many children not only with academics but also with self-esteem and other co-morbid issues. She does more good for fellow Canadians by practicing here than somewhere else. See, here I go defending her when I shouldn’t have to either. Perhaps, it is an instinctive defense mechanism.

Yes, mostly folks are open-minded and very accepting of all kinds of people. I can count on one hand the number of times someone has made similar references to me in my 25 years in North America. But every once in a while I hear a comment like the above and it does sting. I get over it and move on but on that day or for a few days after it does sting.

I still remember vividly the first comment I ever received. It was my first few weeks in 8th grade and we were waiting for the bell to ring to dismiss us from class. One of the supposed popular girls came right up to my face and said “You are a bigot”. I had never heard that word before but when she said it had hurt. It had been her tone and the demeaning way she had looked at me. No one had ever looked at me like that before. Not only was I not the minority in the place I came from but I also had lived quite the privileged and sheltered life up until that time. I had gone home and cried in my room first. Then I had taken my mom’s dictionary and looked up the word. And then I had laughed really hard at the irony of the words spoken to me.

My parents’ generation and my generation do get comments like that. But what about my kids? They are now third generation Canadians (their Dad was born and brought up in Toronto). How many years and generations does one need to be in this country to not have to go back from where they came? Because didn’t we all come from somewhere unless you are a First Nations person of course. Actually, I think there is a really funny Russell Peters’ comedy skit about this.

And like me, I am sure most of us are proud of our original heritage. I wouldn’t change it for anything. My skin is brown. I was born in Karachi, Pakistan and have lived there, in the USA and now in Canada. I am Canadian, I am Pakistani and I am a peace-loving citizen of the world.

And how can you tell how long one has been living anywhere without having even spoken to the person. My mom speaks English better than most I know and dresses very well but okay she does carry a slight accent. I don’t have one at all and my kids certainly sound as Canadian as the next kid.

Or then is it the colour of one’s skin? My older son does look like he could be from somewhere else. But my younger one has very light skin and light hair. So is my older one more likely to hear a comment like that than the younger one?

My kids are exposed to much less of my original culture than I would have hoped or liked. Since my husband only speaks English we are a one language household. I admire a close friend of mine whose kids speak English, French, Greek, and Arabic fluently. At the very least,  it is important to me that my sons know about their roots and heritage but with a sense of pride and not with a sense of shame, and not with their guards up ready with justifications defending their right to be an equal citizen in this country.

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Category: Kids

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  1. Maria Iemma says:

    As a first generation Cuban immigrant I was always made to feel like I did not belong because I had an accent (I was 10 years old) Now my accent is gone and unless I mention it no one knows my country of origin. I think we’ve come a long way.

  2. Christine says:

    Some three good friends and neighbors live next door to me. They are also from Pakistan, other neighbors are from Mozambique, Zaire and Haiti. Not all people are narrow minded. Media spread hatred by pointing fingers at what is happening in India, Bangladesh or some other parts of the world, and this can and may disturb someone who likes to point fingers. Knowing who and what you are is more important than racism remarks. Keep up the good work that you and your mom are engaged in remembering that mosty Canadians are respectful of other ethnics.

  3. comments to people like that are cruel,ignorant,rude, and so uncalled for! I have experienced way to much prejudiced comments in my life, and unfortunately I have heard that one! Maybe one day??

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