I think it was a life skill to be very adaptable. In high school, I was very adaptable to different social situations. I remember having an ex-boyfriend call me a chameleon because I just kept changing in the different situations, and he was right. Like I could see people that I dated, they were different individuals, but I was very much like, whatever they liked, I will find a way to be interested in their passion. And it wasn’t until I went to university that I slowly kind of started to define my own identity. And what that meant, including what it was to be Chinese.
I decided I was going to choose geology as a major, which was a departure from wanting to be a doctor, or something of a prestigious career choice. Choosing that was also interesting because little did I know, going into mining, meant being in a community of white, male, older males, usually. The mining industry is all about colonialism and patriarchy. Very specific sexism happens in there, and also racism within Canada, and the way they make choices when working with the indigenous communities. The narrative that comes through is often stereotyping. “The so-and-so that we have to employ meets a certain percentage of what is required of us to do (for our projects),” and, “Don’t expect them to show up for the job, because that’s just how they are, they’re unreliable.” And very dehumanizing comments that I inherited from a lot of the mining male folks on what to expect when working with First Nations. I didn’t really recognize the stereotypes as such until probably the last five years. I really immersed myself into books and education, and talking to people.
Also realizing, I think, as a parent, that there’s this perspective and this kind of responsibility I have to teach my children so they are aware. Because I had no one telling me that was wrong, that was not the kind of way we should be treating other human beings because they look different. So, it’s both sides – I experienced racism, but I also perpetuated it in the work that I do, or the things I was taught or not taught. So, it’s finding my way through that, giving my children I guess, the opportunity for open communication.
…Chinese. Born in Malaysia. Immigrant to Canada. Even saying that is uncomfortable for me because Canada is a colonial name. The First Nations refer to it as Turtle Island. Jaynie tells me I’m awesome, best mom ever. ::giggle:: I’m a work in progress. And an empath. And I’m sensitive…. and still evolving.
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‘Indivisible’ is an ongoing portrait and interview project, sharing the stories of racism and identity formation.
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