I have spent a lot of time over the past week reflecting. I moved to Canada in 1997, straight into grade eight. My school was very multicultural. Making friends was hard for me, only due to my introverted nature, which at the time was amplified thanks to the language barrier.
We moved from a country that for the most part was not multicultural. My interactions, from what I recall, were only with people born and raised in Iran. So I cannot for the life of me remember how I integrated into a multicultural community. I don’t know if I had questions, or if my parents had given us lessons about equality before we got here. I do remember I chose to write an essay about racism that year, yet I can’t remember what would have provoked that. I do remember being genuinely confused by the concept though. How can you possibly judge someone based on the color of their skin?
My friends welcomed me with open arms. I got along with everyone and within my group of friends, there was no discrimination. We were so young. Acceptance came naturally. It was pure and beautiful.
Reflection, especially on things like this, often raises a lot of questions that we don’t always have answers to. So I had to ask my mother, “Did you teach us not to judge others based on race?” She was initially confused by my question, concerned that I thought she had reservations about my group of friends. After some clarification, she finally said, “I taught you about people’s rights, no matter their race. I taught you not to judge, and to appreciate humanity”. I can look back at my life and see that this makes sense, and yet, I don’t remember these lessons.
We have a lot of work to do. Myself included. And despite educating ourselves to the best of our abilities, we will never understand. But I do hope that all along, we also take the time and explore the source of our thoughts, the root of our beliefs, and triggers for our actions. Whatever those might be, I hope we actually take the time to discover them, and adjust them so we behave from a place of compassion. I hope we recognize that we are all connected. That, as Desmond Tutu says, our humanity is caught up , is inextricably bound up, in others. And, maybe most importantly, I hope we ask of each other “how can I do better”.
Our words, our thoughts and actions, are rooted in something. A seed that was planted in the pure garden of our minds long ago, either flourishes into beautiful flowers or spreads like weeds. I hope you water those flowers daily and pull those weeds out from the roots.