Why We Need To Look Beyond The Surface

by GEM Magazine / Aug 06, 2015 / Comments

Let’s play a game. I will say as many countries that I can think of, trying to guess where you come from, without actually saying the country that we are in. How long do you think you’ll let me ramble on before you interrupt? How many countries will I get to say before you correct my mistake? Or will you, like I do, smile and nod politely as they continue to guess the wrong places and wait until they give up before you give them an answer?

I am Canadian. I was born in Calgary, Alberta, and lived there for the first 18 years of my life, I then moved to Vancouver to continue with my higher education. If someone were to ask where I am from, I would proudly say that I am Canadian. Then, I would be forced to stand there and watch as their expression become confused because that’s not the answer they want to hear.

They want to know which country gave me my dark hair, my brown, almost black eyes and my tanned skin. They want to know what part of the world I come from that makes me so different, so ‘special.’ So I say the Philippines, and I can see the light turn back on in their eyes.

Once that spark is ignited they begin to ask me questions about my ‘home’ country; "What is it like there?" Or, "what dialect do you speak?" But I can’t answer any of those, because I am Canadian.

My parents are from the Philippines and I have seen them work tremendously hard to get where they are in their lives. But as I grew up in Calgary, I haven’t been exposed to much of the Filipino culture, except the food, and I’ve never visited the country, nor do I know the language. I think it would be unfair for me to classify myself as a Filipina above a Canadian, since I don’t know too much about it.

Growing up, I never gave much thought to ethnicity. My friends were my friends, and my teachers were my teachers. Looking back now, it is safe to say, that I grew up in predominantly caucasian society. There were maybe six of us non-caucasian kids in my entire grade in elementary school. At junior high I experienced a more diverse community, but still, I found myself with mostly caucasian friends. I found that I didn’t identify as much with other Asian kids, who would talk about things in their culture that I knew nothing about.

I had never really thought of myself as having a hyphen to my identity, like others who see themselves as Japanese-Canadians or African-Canadians or any other combination there might be.

I have never been anything other than Canadian. Although I would love to know more about the Filipino culture, and one day I will, but as of right now my experience with that side of my heritage is very limited.

When people see me, they automatically assume I'm not from Canada. I’ve had people ask me how long I’ve been in this country, and are surprised by my english being 'so good'. Then they're more surprised when I say I was born in Calgary.

Having people add a ‘hyphen’ to your identity is difficult when you don’t see yourself with one. As a society, we make snap judgements about others based on how they look. Whether it be the colour of their skin or the clothes that they wear.

I fight stereotypes placed upon me by others who think that they know who I am based on how I look.

I have a constant need to justify my position in this society, and sometimes it can make me feel as though I don’t belong on the surface, when at my core, I know I do.

The prejudice certain people have against others who they think are completely different to them takes their toll. It becomes tired and old.

At our core, we are all the same.

I understand that most people don't do this on purpose, they're not being malicious. I just wish we had more awareness around what it feels like to be put in a box because of how we look or where we might be from.

Everyone has a different story. The world is a mosaic of people from different cultures, religions and appearances. By acknowledging that others have a completely different life to our own and different than the one we think they might have, we become more open and accepting.

Taking the time to learn who people really are is what is important. We are all different, each person has their own unique way of life, and that is what me must learn to accept.

By Danika Enad

Danika is a young writer from Calgary who believes that words have the power to change people for the better and encourages all forms of storytelling. Being truthful to oneself is something she aspires to maintain while still trying to grow as a person. When she is not at school, or doing one of her many creative projects, she can be found spending copious amounts of time with her family eating at their favourite Pho place.

Twitter - @DanikaCEnad

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