When you attend an elementary school where POCs are the majority and racism is used as an effective form of bullying, because Russell Peters is the shit, you learn a thing or two about power.
We were the majority. We were represented in the classroom. We were supported. We were the norm. We joked about rice, curry, and pasta to diss each other, and we relished each other’s creative ways of twisting our cultures for our amusement. We were ignorant of many things.
I never understood that I was part of a minority until I reached university. Even though the signs were there in high school and other aspects of life, I was too caught up in books, band, and friends to process them. I knew what racism was, Grade 10 history taught me that, but something wasn’t clicking.
It wasn’t clicking because in elementary school I felt the freedom of a dominant culture where I was represented, where I wasn’t compartmentalized into a stereotype; except when we were dissing each other, of course.
In first year university, our teaching assistant said that one person in our tutorial group had achieved a perfect grade while handing back our midterms. Conscious of being the only POC and having an extensive knowledge of stereotypes, I got up. I wasn’t confident in my grade, so I was more focused on passing than being Southeast Asian. As I glanced at my passing mark, I returned to my seat, relieved. I heard one of my classmates whisper to another, “She’s the one who probably got it.”
Power is a hell of a drug.
When you realize that your elementary school disses were nothing new and used in propaganda to demonize an entire group of people, you start to realize your own ignorance. When you’re supposed to be smart because of your race, you realize to some, you’re of one dimension. When you’ve grown up in a space where you were the majority, you will do everything you can to empower the minority.
Everyone should have a space to feel empowered. Everyone should have a space to feel safe. Everyone should have a space.