The Brown Canadian Expat



I’ve experienced this many times and I actually read about it in school as well, that Canadians (or Americans and Europeans) who are not white get asked where they’re REALLY from even though they might’ve been born in Canada. It’s a form of soft-racism since white people don’t really get to be asked where they’re really from. I get this a lot in South Korea, and it doesn’t bother me much, but it can be annoying when at times I feel like I have to prove my “Canadian-ness.”

This phenomenon is probably most apparent if you look at the wanted ads for teachers in the country where schools specifically look for Caucasian applicants, perpetuating the notion that Americans, Canadians, and Europeans are supposed to be white.

This can sometimes be annoying when it comes to other Canadians who ask where I’m from, then in an attempt not to be offensive, ask where my parents are from. Uhm, and why are we talking about my parents? What is really being asked? Why are my origins so important at this point? How will this improve the current interaction especially when I really couldn’t care less where the other person (or his/her parents) are TRULY from or why their skin is colored that way. I just wanted a beer and I feel like I’m being questioned by an immigration officer.

So with the distasteful history of having to prove my “Canadian-ness” to the gatekeepers of “Canadiana” for whatever reason, it was a bit of a twist the other day when a group of people in an African bar were quite insistent that I was South African. For once, a group of foreigners insisted that I was one of them and that for whatever drunken reason I must have some African heritage in me. I realize I was still being judged by my appearance, but this time it was welcoming. I wasn’t about to be tested… apparently I already passed with flying colors.

What’s a guy to do? Join them and listen.

(There’s a Filipino population here as well but there’s very little chance of interacting with them since the blue collar Filipinos usually keep to themselves. Also, I tend to get strange looks from some Filipinos here.)

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