Men with dark curly hair and heavy black eyebrows may complain that they experience racism: someone hawks and spits at their feet, or the bus driver insists on seeing their muffled faces. But as for me, I have seen nothing but courtesy, respect, and once they are assured I don’t bite, polite insistence curiosity from the native Canadians I encounter in my daily adventures. (so your kids… which daycare… and your husband… and your parents… and how do you… in Tehran… in Toronto… but your accent… in Britain… Oh I see…)
They race to hold doors open for me, especially if I am with the kids, in which case they practically sprint as if running for the Olympics 100 metres. They show me mysterious addresses in great detail, and explain complicated bus routes with patience, if not with clarity. They provide change for the laundry with smiling faces, and they do not complain when my kids race screaming down the corridors.
At least, 99.99 percent of them display this nice, comfortable behaviour, so different from growly, surly paranoid Tehraners! But then, this makes the behaviour of the remaining 0.01 percent stand out even more oddly.
So there is someone I cross paths with say once a week, in an office environment. At first I put down its general abruptness of speech to personal mannerism. Then I noticed it was actually quite friendly with other people in that office. Then it replied a question of mine with somewhat startling -for a Canadian- brusqueness. Recently, it does not even return my cheery `hi`s. Thankfully, none of my stuff is in the hands of this person.
In my home country, I would obviously write off such behaviour -alas, all too common- as general nastiness, and think no more of it. But as an insecure, nervy immigrant newcomer, it begins to bug me. Is this person anti-immigrant, I wonder? But look at this person now, laughing with that Chinese guy… maybe it is anti-Middle-easterner – if there is such a thing. Is this person a Racist? Despite all the efforts of the State to promote the image of a multi-cultural love fest in Canada, there are still nooks and crannies where racism does rear its ugly head, as various news items testify. Why should this person look over me with cold eyes and unsmiling lips, obviously despising me, in a place where everybody almost always smiles and jokes and asks `how are you today`in kind cheery tones? The shape of my nose? I freely admit that I myself have often been annoyed by the shape of my nose. The colour of my hair, or perhaps its relentless frizz? Maybe my British accent grates on its soul- in fact, a couple of Canadians have told me, jokingly, that they find my accent `off-putting`.
Whatever. I no longer greet this person when I see it, and return the blank stares with even blanker ones of my own. The loss, I believe, is yours.