But what are you

Race was not something I was taught to see. I was not taught to see a persons skin colour but their heart, in front of me. Their worth. Their value. Those could not be found in how much pigment their skin held. Those could not be found in the weight or their height, the size of their bank account or house, where they went to school or where they worked. 

My parents believed in a persons heart and soul. My brother and I were told to not judge based on skin or hair, eyes or mouth. The God they pray to. The partner they lay with. We were taught the most basic of religious preaching. To love. To love your neighbour. Even if he has AIDS. Even if she’s gay. Even if they’re black chinese muslim first nations. 

When I moved to Toronto I was shocked by the number of times I was asked, but what ARE you? What the fuck does that even mean? I’m a woman. Are you blind? No, what are you? 

What are you? 

What are you so I can judge you and classify you and put you in a labelled box because I can’t live in a multicultural international metropolis without putting every person I meet into an ethnic category. I need ethnic order and you need a label so I can understand where you stand on the hierarchy that exists only in my mind. 

And I responded with Human and they didn’t know how to process it. They didn’t understand when I responded, again to their What are you? with Canadian. They didn’t understand why I didn’t live in a white neighbourhood with all the other whites. They didn’t understand why I refused to put myself into their classification, why I refused to accept their ready made labels to stick on my forehead: straight, woman, white – irish, scottish, First Nations.

They couldn’t understand why I didn’t step into their ethnic little box and why I didn’t answer their question. They didn’t understand why I refused to let them label me.  

Because I didn’t see their imaginary labels.

(Originally written in 2015)

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