Sunday, April 23, 2017

Visible Minority Report

Neither Black Nor White - 2017
"Are you a member of a visible minority?" The first time I was asked this question, it left me perplexed and curious. It was a very new term for me, and raised a very pertinent question as a new immigrant – who am I in the official definitions of visibility and vulnerability.

Google has all the answers, although they often raise even more questions. 

"A visible minority is defined by the Canadian government as "persons, other than Aboriginal people, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour". (Source: Wikipedia)

As a South Asian woman, I could never really figure out the colour of my skin. In Pakistan, I was considered an acceptable level of 'fair'. Fair enough to get a sufficient number of arranged marriage proposals.

It was a briefly refreshing change in issues to move from my gender to race when I arrived here. Race is something I had never really thought about in the context of my own life. In our country, we hate (and sometimes kill) people based on their religious sects, and/or religious expressions. Race is primarily a cause of intellectual discrimination based on our origins. Skin colour is not associated with race, but often with beauty. It is ironic to know that 'white' is considered the epitome of beauty.

In Canada, race is relevant. And the most popular and common identity of race is colour, or in some cases visual features - causing even more confusion for me. I am neither black nor white. I don't have a history of marginalization, or notions of supremacy based on the colour of my skin. I don't have powerful voices fighting for my colour kind and making the world listen. And I don't have the privilege of belonging to the majority that can naively claim that 'all lives matter'. My eyes are very ordinary and do not offer any visible identification. I don't think I am even brown, a race colour I am supposed to identify with. 

It was only in recent times that my kind was categorically associated with terrorism and orthodox life views – but that too has more to do with your garb, language or lifestyle. With my short short hair, multiple facial piercings, Western clothes, and non-peculiar English accent that cannot be easily placed, I am a visible enigma, for people and frankly sometimes for my own self. 

There is no one fighting for the rights of my race of colour. There is no slogan that defines my history or struggle. I cannot even rightfully claim 'Islamophobia' because I occasionally suffer from it myself.

So I continue to wonder: 

What is my colour?

Does my life and lives of my kind matter?

Does my colour make me visible?

Or am I an invisible minority in Canada? 

When will we create a world where all that becomes inconsequential?