Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Returning Racist

Two of the other Canadian interns and I have a terrible joke between us: left Canada to save the world and came back racist.

Personally, I haven’t become increasingly aware of race since moving here.  But that’s because I was already more conscious of skin colour than the average (white) Canadian.

To illustrate this phenomenon, I’ll tell you a story about one of the girls getting her hair cut.  She told us she went to Rosebank – a mall for the middle/upper class – and was surprised to have a black hairdresser.  Moreover, she was surprised that the hairdresser did such a good job.

“I don’t want to notice these differences!” she complained.

Unfortunately, once you start to categorize people by race or ethnicity it’s impossible to go back to that innocent place where you didn’t see it.  I know because I’ve tried.

On the other hand, I don’t think it’s bad to notice differences.  Human beings are so diverse!  Who wants to be there same, anyways?

The problem stems from the associations attached to certain differences: prejudges

Even though I don’t condone the jokes the three of us make, I actually think it’s good that we’re having these conversations regarding racism.  I think it’s beneficial for white people to understand what it means to feel like an outsider, even if it makes them uncomfortable.  In fact, especially if it makes them uncomfortable.

Maybe that’s appalling for a Canadian to say.  But ignoring racism doesn’t make it go away.  I’d rather discuss it and get all those unpleasant feelings out in the open. 

We have to acknowledge our demons to fight them.


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3 thoughts on “Returning Racist

  1. Lynne Alton on said:

    That is for sure- whatever our demons!

  2. I encourage you to continue to get all those unpleasant feelings out in the open. Racism also happens between the same race and social classes. But multi-racial people usually have the biggest challenges. You would be surprised of the dynamics.

    Open heart + open mind = no hard feelings

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