Thirty years ago, I was just a young child playing on our front lawn. It was a warm summer day and the sprinkler was on. My sister and I were running back and forth in the water, having fun splashing around.
Some men happened to pull up to the stop sign beside our corner house. They rolled down their windows and gave me my first taste of what some of the world thought of me.
“Get out of our country.”
I was four years old.
It’s funny because I don’t remember a lot of what happened as a young child but I remember that.
I remember it all the time.
I remembered it as a kindergarten student when the doctor's receptionist made fun of my parents’ accents with the other staff right in front of us. I’m not sure it would have been any less painful had my parents not been there.
I remembered it as a student in grade three when two older boys pulled me down by my braids and kicked me repeatedly because I looked different. I think they said I had ugly hair.
I remembered it in my first junior high school class when the teacher laughed along at a classmate’s joke about pakis and curry. It wasn’t really all that original or funny.
I remembered it in high school when my sister told me about the picture of a lynching scene that had been taped to her locker. The teacher told her the best course of action was to ignore it. The school didn’t want to create a big hullabaloo about nothing. It was just a prank, after all.
I remembered it at my first job as an awkward fifteen-year-old when I was made aware of how I didn’t fit the part of a Calgarian. Apparently I looked unauthentic in my cowboy hat and was asked not to come back. Perhaps they thought another type of headdress would suit me better.
I remembered it while I watched Big Brother this summer and saw players be ridiculed for their ethnicity. I suppose they made for easily visible targets.
I remembered it just a few weeks ago when Miss America was elected. I know by now that most beauty queens don’t have brown skin so I’m not really surprised by the backlash. After all, she can’t possibly be the girl next door.
I remembered it when Quebec came out with its proposed Charter of Values. I know what it feels like to look different. To be judged because you look different. To be made to feel like you don’t belong.
I remember that day again and again.
I was four years old but it took only an instance to learn that I was easy to hate.
I am easy to hate.
Easy to hate because of the way I look.
And that is something I can never forget.