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  • Jeremy Gaudaur

Invisible Minorities and Experiences with Discrimination



 

It’s hard to understand what you can’t see. 

 

There are many racialized people in this country regardless of their racial visibility – that is to say, the colour of their skin. One can’t read another person’s experience of racism or any other discrimination on their body. We have to accept each other’s experiences regardless of their differences to our own, and listen to each other in a safe environment such as the one we strive to make in TDSB school groups. Here we should be learning from and validating everybody’s experiences of any ism and homophobia. We and POC have the experience of “otherness” in common.

 

I  had to write this due to conversations with my students, one of whom  repeated Whoopi Goldberg's ignorant comments about race (If I can't see  it, it's not race) and the Holocaust (it was white vs white violence)   They didn't accept that as a Semite, I do not identify as white.

 

Context: I grew up in a small town. We were the only Jewish family there. News that Jews were moving into town was the buzz. I don’t know how they knew. An older couple who lived across the street came ringing the doorbell the first night we were there. We all ran to open the door. These neighbours just stood there staring at us. My father extended his hand and introduced us. There was no handshake. The lady asked, “If you’re Jews, where are your horns?”

 

I had plans with Maria in the first grade, to come over after school and have dinner with us. My mom came into the school the day before our date with Latkes for the students to taste for Hanukah. The next morning, Maria told me that she wasn’t ever allowed to come over to my house because I had killed Christ.

 

In the fourth grade, a boy who had just moved to Ontario from Calgary asked why I had been absent the day before. I said, for a Jewish holiday. He kicked me in the head with his boot and I fell off the steps to the portable.  Nobody did anything.  That year, my teacher hit me in the face with a math book because she was frustrated with me. She had slapped a Jewish student in the face before. She got moved out of the classroom and got a raise.

 

In seventh grade, when I was still the only Jew in the class, a boy came in and filled the blackboard with swastikas. When I complained to the teacher about him, she spat, “It’s not my problem.” She swept the eraser across the board but you could still see all the swastikas. She wrote the day’s lesson on top of them. In the eighth grade, two boys made blow darts out of pens and shot all of the minority students. I wasn’t a POC, but I was struck.

 

In high school, for the first time, I wasn’t the only one. This didn’t stop swastikas from being drawn on my possessions and on school property, and the school’s skinhead from telling everyone she was going to kill me after school.

 

When I had my own baby, I thought that the world had finally moved on. In My dad’s day, there were signs on the Toronto beaches that said, “No dogs. No Jews.” We were past that! My child, both Metis and Jewish, and Queer, would never experience what I had, I decided.

 

One day we were walking the dogs and I looked up at the school playground. It had been vandalized with KKK and swastikas and crossed out Jewish stars. This is a block from our home. People in my own neighbourhood want to hurt or kill us. I didn’t have to be a person of colour to understand the implications of this on my family. The two white men who did the crime were not arrested though they were caught on camera.

 

I married into a half- Metis family. Many Metis people look white but are not. I have Muslim Arab and Persian friends and co-workers who “pass as white,” but are not. Invisibility allows the majority to feel comfortable expressing racist ideas in our presence. I was once told that customers at a flea market tried to Jew down the proprietors. Nobody knows who we are – like many Queer people, Jews are largely an invisible minority. We hear it all.  It's a vulnerable position to be in.

 

According to Statistics Canada, Jewish people make up less than 1% of the Canadian demographic, yet receive over 20% of hate crimes here.

 

We must move forward as allies and there is no reason to question or be offended by another human being’s racial or minority status. Learn by listening. React with support. To question somebody’s identity tends to revictimize that individual. We don’t know any person’s identity by just looking. Dig deeper, and do so with respect and not suspicion.

-A non white.  Really.

 

Jenn Covent, 2022 FEB 23

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