Queen's University — Since 1873
22nd October 2013

Mixed messages

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Many mixed race people, myself included, have trouble defining our ethnic identity.

As a child, I’d put on my mother’s makeup and be confused as to why her dark brown foundation didn’t blend with my pale skin. A family reunion with my dad’s side felt strange as I looked nothing like the blonde hair, blue-eyed bunch.

Both sides of my family, South Asian and Anglo-Saxon, have thoroughly accepted that I don’t reflect either side in my appearance. But, the question remains, where do I belong?

In 2010, Statistics Canada reported that more than 340,000 children are a part of a mixed-race family.

With these numbers growing, and other standards of identity being blurred, attempts to place individuals into single categories of gender, race or sexual orientation should be a thing of the past.

It’s sometimes unsettling when people ask me where I’m from. While it might seem like an innocent question, it makes me feel like I have to accept a racial label. I’ve completed many surveys where I’ve had to state my race as “other”.

It’s especially sickening when I’ve been told that I am “lucky” to pass as white. Some people feel comfortable saying racist comments in reaction to my appearance. I’ve been told that I’m “pretty, for a brown girl”.

Looking “white” does not mean I am okay with racism.

Although I’d never say that I’m thoroughly Indian, I grew up with a heavier South Asian upbringing. Most of my extended family lives in India; I celebrate Diwali and there are pictures of Shahrukh Khan on my Macbook. Even the more intimate aspects of the culture, such as understanding Hinduism, remain deeply important to me.

Sometimes I feel that I’m not allowed to identify with my South Asian heritage due to my appearance. My brother, who has the same blood as me, looks completely Indian. He asks me why he can’t choose to be white.

Even though our appearances are different, the truth is that both of us can choose the racial identity we feel comfortable with.

As Canada becomes more multicultural, society should understand that individuals may no longer belong to a single group, and that ethnicity can be fluid.

Olivia is an Assistant News Editor at the Journal. She’s a third-year history major.

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