You think you know what race Renee Sylvestre-Williams is, but look closer and you’ll realize her cheekbones are wrong. Tales of when complete strangers know you better than yourself, inspired by a random jerk on the Danforth:
By Renée Sylvestre-Williams
Canada is made up of immigrants, some here earlier than others. It’s become a bit of a game to see who’s from here – as in their family has lived in Canada for a few generations – and who may not be from here as often experienced by Canadians of colour despite being born and raised in the country.
It tends to follow a pattern. You’re talking to someone when the Question comes up, “Where are you from?”
“No, where are you really from?”
And so on.
So we did a quick and non-scientific straw poll to find the best answers to the Question. Here are our top ten:
1. “My mother’s tummy”
2. “From a galaxy far, far away”
4. “King and Bathurst”
5. Me: “India.” Commuter: “No way! I thought you were from Guyana!” Me: “And where do you think they came from?”
6. “Toronto. No, seriously I was born in Toronto.”
7. “I was created the night my parents were murdered in an alley. I was eight. It was that night I vowed revenge.”
8. “Yonge and Eglinton”
“But where are you really from?”
“Toronto” (I do this until they’re flustered and stop asking. Usually I only have to get to the province before they give up.)
9. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you it’s rude to ask such personal questions?”
10. “I never answer that question. I know who I am and where I’m from. I don’t care if other people don’t.”
Top 10 lists: easy to read, easy to write, and yet informative, when done right.
Anupa Mistry breaks down the Top 10 Brown Bands.
Denise Balkissoon lists Top 10 Things About Ethnic Names (Mostly Hers).
Renée Sylvestre-Williams gives the Top 10 Answers to the Question “Where Are You From?”
and Simon Yau shares the Top 10 Assumptions He Makes Because He’s From Hong Kong.
By Chantal Braganza
It’s been a while since I’ve seen an elementary school classroom. Do they still have those paper people chains across the tops of chalkboards, each one a costume for a country?
In the first grade, we were once paired up with an eighth-grade student each to make flags of where our parents were from. It was a simple assignment. Get some books, look up the flag, the Big Kid drew it and the Little Kid coloured. For the eighth graders this likely seemed like a waste of time—especially the cool ones, which my partner was, and I know this because he was wearing a No Fear sweatshirt, chewed gum in the school library and stuck the pieces in the axles of where those wiry rotating bookshelves would turn.
He also couldn’t have been thrilled to have been partnered with a kid who would force him to draw four flags instead of one, because she was too indecisive to pick. Mexico was easy enough. My mom was born there, lived there till she moved here, and it’s technically the country in which I first started talking.
For my dad we drew three. One for Kenya, ’cause that’s where he was born & raised; one for Goa, because the community he was raised in was historically expatriate; and one for India, because as of 1987 that’s where Goa is. (But honestly? Few expat Goans will tell you that upfront. We were colonized by the Portuguese first, goddamnit, and apparently there’s a difference.)