I once was told that I was a banana. I didn’t know what this meant. I was told to ask a White person. It’s weird being a coloured person not being accepted into your own race and if you ask any white Canadian, they will not accept you either. Sometimes, I wonder if we are asking the wrong question or fixating on the wrong things.
Diversity to me is such a mixed bag. I say this because I haven’t ever truly faced racism in my life or it just never mattered to me. Sure, I’ve been called the “ch*nk” word. I just didn’t care. I maybe got glimmers of it when covid happened and certain people avoided me in the mall. But was it covid or my skin colour? Who knows. (In this instance, he bluntly said “Chinese” people. Ironic or not, I’m not Chinese. Although genetically, that’s a different story.) It’s probably why it also didn’t offend me. Also, offending me is hard to do. It means I have to care about what you think of me. I should know me better than you.
I acknowledge racism exists. I just don’t make it my livelihood. I have thrived in spite of it. What I find interesting is previously, when hiring, you weren’t allowed to ask me my sex, my race, my sexual orientation and now people are freely giving this information away.
What scares me about diversity is that it isn’t a number checklist. It isn’t we are diverse because we hire x amount of people from this background, this sex, and this sexual orientation.
To me diversity was me was my grade school. We had girls, boys, straight, gay. Sure we still had more “white” people but there wasn’t any bullying because of colour. You were just accepted as you.
I was valedictorian in grade school. I won this accomplishment because I could float in between all cliques in the school–the nerds, the popular kids, even the unpopular kids. I was just accepted. This to me is diversity. Where you are accepted for just being you. Skin colour, gender, sexual orientation is just accepted.
But sometimes I wonder, where do we draw the line? I say this because at some level are we also forcing people to move to becoming more open when maybe they aren’t ready to do so or they weren’t taught this or acceptance?
I can’t help but reflect upon my family’s personal journey. I have not 1, not 2, but 3 gay siblings. We saw our sister struggle with trying to get our parents to accept her for being herself and liking girls. My parents thought it was a phase. She still to this day, is seeking their acceptance.
I think what we should do is what I did for my brothers. I saw my sister struggle, so I told my brothers, that my acceptance and their own is going to have to be enough. I told them I love them and accept them as the flawed humans they are that will continuously grow and learn and become the best versions of themselves–whatever they choose that to be. I told them, they won’t get acceptance from mom and dad. Or if they do, it’ll be years and years later. You can choose to resent them or you can choose to love them. It’s also accepting them and their beliefs. Beliefs are hard to change. Heck, people fundamentally hate change.
It has taken my parents over 6 years, but my mom missed her son and put her value of loving him above all, that she finally went to visit him at his home with his partner. You also have to give people time to accept you and your changes. You also have to remember, parents will paint a picture of what they see for you in their heads so not only are they disappointed but you also are changing their dreams for you. Whether this is wrong or right, we all have to remember, at some level, we are also a product of our upbringing. It has shaped us and for some of us, it’s all that we know.
I reflect upon that picture of two sons–one is rich and nicely dressed and the other looks like a homeless person and both of them said, “I am this because my father was a drunk.” You get to choose your choices. You get to choose your attitude and how you act.
I remember trying to educate a girlfriend on this. She said, “A parent’s job is to love me unconditionally, whether I am gay or straight. They should just love me and accept me.” I told her, “You are acting no different than them. You are forcing your beliefs on them. They just aren’t ready. Sometimes, they won’t ever. But I believe love is strong. I believe they’ll come around. You just have to be patient and wait. Sometimes, you might be waiting forever. But know that I love you. Your sisters love you. Is that enough for you? If not, we might have to dig deeper and see if you love yourself.”
Diversity to me is giving people an opportunity to learn and grow from each other. It’s funny as I do a lot of these self reflections. I hung out with a buddy’s mom waiting for him to come home and I realized how close the Indian culture is to mine. She talked about family values and putting the family first. About how not even thinking about sending people money and not expecting anything in return. It was how women are in the kitchen cooking and sharing stories of life while men tinkered around the house fixing stuff up. It is when we start to notice the commonalities that true diversity begins.