Follow The Discreet Traveler by e-mail!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The eleventh tip

Thanks to reader M. for pointing out an additional tip for The Discreet Traveler. If you are a person of color, or your name or origin suggests "global south," I am sure this is not news to you:

11. Racial profiling is very, very real. It does not matter what passport you hold or who you're traveling with. If you look or have a name that might belong to a certain nationality or region of the world, expect to be marked for searches wherever you go.

Sad, but true.

Through no merit of my own, I have the privilege of not experiencing this sort of profiling, but on a much lower level, I can sympathize. I have often run up against a disbelief in, even contempt for, acquired nationality. Today, for instance, yet another British person told me "You're not really Canadian," meaning I was born and grew up somewhere else.

I am not quite sure why it is so important to some people to pigeonhole me as one nationality or the other, the way people need to know if a baby is a boy or a girl. Does this person deny the Canadianness of the woman upstairs, who was born in Romania and still sounds Romanian? But this woman and I have Toronto and Canada Day in common, even both took classes from George Brown College.

I said, Well I was Canadian when I moved to the United Kingdom and registered to vote. Commonwealth citizens who live in the UK can vote in elections here; Americans cannot. And I was Canadian when I exchanged my Ontario driver's license for a UK one, something I couldn't have done with a U. S. license.

I was even Canadian during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, when, like other Torontonians from all over the world, I cheered Canada's hockey teams (women's and men's) to gold medal victories. I wasn't a citizen yet. I didn't have a Canadian passport. But I had pride in a country that I had chosen, and the only country that has ever chosen me.

So yes, some people will question who or what you are, no matter how hard you have worked to achieve it. I guess they don't realize that someone who has gone through a lot to become American or Canadian--maybe even British--may value their new country more than many do who just happen to have been born some place.

Whether you are African-American, Syrian-Canadian, or Pakistani-British, the Discreet Traveler is sorry that the world is this way. Tip: Let's make it better.

No comments: