A Culture of Check Boxes: Immigration

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This week we are featuring a blog on intersectionality and privilege as it relates to the immigrant experience in a country as diverse as Canada. The blog comes from one of YW’s team members who had the opportunity to present on this very topic, entitled “Immigrant, minority, developing country, racialized minority: The fallacy and reality”. We are thrilled to share her perspective and thoughts. Enjoy!

Not another Box Please!

The past three and a half years as an immigrant have been a great experience of understanding, learning and appreciating this new beautiful land and culture where I choose to migrate. I was often told before immigrating to Canada about its incredible diversity. I have been witness to diversity at its maximum, to the extent that I have never experienced before. On the flip side, there is an ongoing experience of being viewed stereotypically and being placed into a box.

“Indian woman”

“Doesn’t understand English”

“Has an accent”

“From a developing country”

These stereotypes, as stereotypes go, are based on a lack of knowledge along with Western media, ideas, perspectives and a sense of superiority in how the Western world’s views the developing world without recognizing its own privilege. I have felt viewed as someone from the 1960’s and being put under the very subtle, but constant pressure of having to prove myself as equal.

However, what I would like to invite you all to reflect on is whether Calgary and Edmonton are the same? Or Alberta and British Columbia? While we know these cities are in the same province and the provinces are in the same country, we also know that they are each still so diverse and unique in nature. Similarly, I encourage each one of you to apply this law of diversity to each immigrant that you meet. Each of us are so diverse and different in form, colour, culture, religion, values, education, work experience and life experiences.

Now the question “how are we supposed to know what diversity each person we meet hold individually?” Clearly this is not something we can do within reason. What we can do is to stop ourselves and check whether we are putting people into several boxes that they may not belong in. Boxes that we are attribute to a person we don’t know that try to define who they are based on what we are comfortable with.

Instead, let’s ask and learn more about their background, try and answer the questions we don’t know. Let’s embrace the individuality of each person instead of labelling and judging them at every turn.

In our work, in our home life and outside of the country we need to refrain from labelling and judging those we meet along our journey. During my stay in Canada I have learnt and realised that diversity is beautiful and enriching. My ability to understand and appreciate different cultures has increased folds.

It is my humble opinion that nurturing the skill of understanding and appreciating diversity is an indispensable life skill in Canada, which would essentially add to the quality of life of those involved.  All it takes is the conscious effort to genuinely connect to an individual. They may be diverse and different from who you are but I suspect you’ll learn that we are all similar in the need to be treated as equals. Let’s open up our hearts and minds and find common ground amongst the rich diversity we share.      

Anne Sureshkumar