On the topic of race

I’m sure many of you have heard me make a comment about me being brown. It’s practically my tag line. I’m of the mind that I would rather embrace our differences than mute them or brush them under the rug. But back home, my offhand comments are often shocking. While traveling, however, race is something that is ever prevalent and must be acknowledged in order to understand how you’re being perceived.

Where do you come from? A question even us Vancouverites ask when we meet tourists. My answer is always Canada. But no one ever believes me.

Where do you really come from?

No really. I come from Canada. In fact, in Morocco, the immigration agent wouldn’t stamp my passport with my exit visa until I told him where my father was born! The perception of North America is that everyone is white. If you’re of colour, you are an immigrant regardless of the fact that immigration is beyond its first generation.

For myself, I’ve come to terms with this commentary. It’s no longer unusual. In the end it’s about perceptions. And also, it can be about taking advantages. I am traveling with two white girls and in Cambodia both, one more than the other, received quite a bit of unwanted attention. But I barely got a second glance. In fact, in Battambang, we were at the market for our cooking class and a whole gaggle of older women started pointing at me and talking to each other. I asked our instructor what they were saying and he said they think I look part Cambodian, part European, and part Indian. At least they got one part right.

In Morocco I was quite popular mainly because Bollywood is huge there. In Thailand I again get overlooked and in Tanzania there are so many gujaratis, there was no fascination in me. If anything, my race has been a blessing when traveling because it allows me to go by unnoticed. I can explore without being harassed too much and I don’t feel like I need to cover up further or alter my behaviour. For a change, I’m the majority and it’s kind of nice!

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