By Stephanie L. Age 16, Toronto, Ontario
At Sixteen, I'm old enough to see the world as it really is, with its shallow people and less than honourable motives.
For some people, feeling adequate about themselves means having to prejudge or demean others.
Strangers still stare at me like they always have. But it's different now that I can see things from a more mature perspective. I realize they're looking at me not as a person, but as something different from them.
I'm only some weird Chinese girl, an exotic import to gawk at. The problem is, I'm not imported I'm Chinese Canadian.
You see, I'll never be acknowledged as Canadian. I'll only be seen as Canadian hyphen Chinese. It's not that I'm ashamed to be Chinese, but if I ever visited China, I wouldn't be considered Chinese either. To both groups, I'm just some dumb English-speaking Chinese girl. So where do we, children of the second or third generation, belong?
So far, it appears we belong in urban neighbourhoods, surrounded by other people with similar cultural backgrounds.
As a family's knowledge of their heritage diminishes and assimilation takes over, it's mainly up to parents to maintain their children's awareness of their culture and roots. This often means moving to where people of the same race live.
Most of these kids grow up in large cities, enabling them to join gigantic cliques with other people of the same race. Often, urban neighbourhoods are designated by the racial majority of their residents, such as Greektown or Chinatown.
I've lived all my life in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. Even at a young age, I noticed the great diversity of my neighbourhood. I watched as my peers and I became culturally acclimatized to the point where we were virtually colour-blind. It didn't matter what colour the other kids were – they were just kids, and it was wonderful.
Little did I realize, not everyone in Canada was so open minded. Sadly, in a country that claims to be diverse our tightly packed cities are the only places where this statement holds any truth. In fact, according to a 2003 census report in the Toronto Star, 42.8 per cent of people in the Greater Toronto Area are visible minorities.
But these statistics hardly represent the whole of Canada where, according to Statistics Canada, only 11% of the population are visible minorities. And even Ontario, despite higher diversity in its provincial capital, only contains a 15.8% minority population.
It seems that as citizens pass from out of the gripping rat race of Toronto, towards more scenic northern lands, they only move deeper into the aptly named "great white north."
Up in northern Ontario, my family and I often explore smaller towns and communities while camping in the lush forests of Algonquin Park and Tobermory, which is located at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.
These quaint "villages" are so pleasant and homey that sometimes I can almost imagine living there. I picture a nice wooden cabin on a dark blue lake with no neighbours anywhere to be seen. I hear children playing on the floating dock out in the distance, and the calming sounds of waves slapping against the shore.
But I realize that's just a fantasy as I scan my surroundings. I'm taken aback when locals stare at my family and me. Some think they can be rude to us just because we don't look like them. This isn't an exaggeration, I can feel the tension as I walk by them, utterly rejected by their snubs as they pretend I'm not there.
Am I not a fellow Canadian? Am I that much of a freak?
Perhaps I'm overreacting, but I feel disillusioned by the behaviour of a few narrow-minded people. To give credit where it is due, the few occasions where non-minority people have reached out to us have been the most memorable of my short existence, and the kindest people I've ever met.
I try not to blame those people who persist in treating my family and I like second-class citizens, because often people are the product of their environment and are conditioned somewhat by biased agents of socialization, such as family, peers, and school.
When will the era of true tolerance grace our lives? I believe that as long as ignorance exists, diversity in Canada and the world won't be given a chance to thrive. People need to realize that underneath every skin type is a person of the human race.
We all need to be accepted for who we are and not what we are.
I want to be seen as Canadian. I want to be seen as Chinese. I don't want to be singled out or labeled as one or the other, because they're really one in the same me.
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