You probably already know about racism. You’ve probably even seen acts of racism right before your eyes. But little do we know about racism at the core of a mixed-race community. In fact, this new type of discrimination is sadly rising in our society. It is best defined as “mixed people being discriminated by their own community”. Someone that’s half-White, half-Black, but is attacked by both his or her communities. A Blasian who gets hate from the Asian community because he or she “isn’t Asian enough”. A teenager who’s half-Lebanese, half-White, but gets picked on by either the White or Lebanese community. You might not know this yet, but this type of racism is more frequent and closer to you than you think. Just here, in Québec, 59% of Quebecers have admitted they tend to be racist, according to a recent poll. In New-Brunswick, a few years ago, a mixed-race couple wasn’t granted access to a spiritual holiday of their culture, Pow Wow, because they were only ⅛ First Nations. I’ve seen people being oppressed because of the color of their skin. I’ve seen mixed-race kids being called “milk chocolate”. I’ve heard people laughing at a bunch of mixed kids, just because of their skin tone. I’ve seen these kids’ smiles vanish instantly.
What if it were you? What if you were mixed and every day of your life, you’d be apprehending negative comments upon your skin color? What if it was you who grew up to be uncertain of your own ethnicity? What if it was you who had to choose between one of your nationalities? Your own community would be turning their backs on you. You would receive hate from your own people. If you were half-Arabic, you’d be called ghyr wafi. Disloyal. You’d never be considered as “enough” of your own ethnicity. You’d be too White to be Black, and too Black to be White.
I grew up here, in Québec. I went to very good schools and I grew up well. I woke up every morning in our home, kissed my mother good morning and missed my father. He was part French, part Spanish and part Algerian and he was very tall, my mother said. I had his hair and his golden skin, and his full lips that were typical of the Maghreb. He grew up in Marseille, in a difficult neighbourhood, which he left to come here in Montreal and ended up marrying my mother. My parents were very much in love. I think he left because he couldn’t stand risking his safety every day. It was hard back then in Marseille for Arabs, as well as for the French, because of the war that had taken place between the two countries decades before my father was even born. There were still tensions between the south of France and Algeria and my father would be persecuted a lot because his mother was Spanish-Algerian and his father was French. One generation before me, he had dealt with racism towards mixed-race people. 25 years before I was born, a little boy was running in the streets of Marseille and the passers-by would call him bâtard. Illegitimate child. Sure, coming to Québec was easier on him because both the social and racial pressures were lower there. But it was still hard for me. Being uncertain of my origins, I wasn’t completely certain what to say when people would ask me about my background. I got laughed at. Who in the world doesn’t know their own ethnicity? Things got worse when I turned 8 and my father left us. I was the bâtard child with no dad. I was a walking stereotype. I was left clueless and unsure of my ethnicity. For a few years, I got called names and I had people giving me strange looks whenever the subject was brought up. I am still uncertain of my background, and I probably always will be, but now that I have worked on myself as well as on my self-esteem, it has gotten better and I now know that my ethnicity doesn’t define me, nor does it my worth.
Racism at the core of the mixed community is a real problem, and in order to act upon it, we must understand the source of the issue. Why do people hate their own peers? In 1999, Andrew Sullivan wrote: « Hate is everywhere. Human beings generalize all the time, ahead of time, about everyone and everything. […] At some point in our evolution, being able to know beforehand who was friend or foe was not merely a matter of philosophical reflection. It was a matter of survival. […] We’re social beings. We associate. Therefore we disassociate. » Hate is what tears us apart, and it has been like that for ages. On the 28th of August, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr delivered a moving speech to give a message of hope. Hate is a common feeling we sadly nourish, but a brave man once stood up for equality, inspiring thousands of other men and women to do the same for what they believe in.
As much as racism is a big issue in our society, some people give us hope and mend our broken bones with their words and their actions. But what can you do now?
Smile. Be kind. I beg of you, if you see a kid being persecuted because of his skin tone, the way he speaks, the way he looks or the way he simply is, stand up for him. Speak up.
We are the new generation. We must do what we can to make our society a liveable place and time for the little kids running in the streets of Marseille. You must give what you can to stop kids from calling other kids bâtards. If you don’t do it now, who will?