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Immigration Taught Me Racism

By Judith Obatusa

Racism is the first word that comes to my mind when am asked what I do not like about my immigration experience.

Before migrating to Canada, racism was a word I had read about or heard used in discussions describing the experience of the Blacks in the United States of America and the Blacks in South Africa during apartheid. It was not a word associated with Canada at all. Reading and hearing the word is not the same as experiencing it, and though it was not a word associated with Canada before my migration, it is a word that permeates every system my children and I have interacted with since arriving here.

Visiting a country as a tourist is not the same thing as living there as an immigrant. As a tourist, you see through curious eyes enjoying the sights, sounds and shopping of the place. You do not stay long enough to notice when you’re treated differently, especially in a country like Canada with the culture of politeness. In contrast, migration exposes the hidden nuances in a country because you now have more time to spend there. You also desire and maybe expect to be part of the group where you and your children live, work and play. As an immigrant, you want to find your place, you want to belong. So, you no longer see through curious eyes but through expectant eyes, expecting to be accepted and welcomed into the group.

As a Black woman who migrated with children, I now know about racism, systemic racism, anti-Black racism, and the attendant injustices that remind you that you are the “Other” every day. This has also taught me that if the group won’t make space for me, I will create space for myself by always showing up as myself.

Judith Obatusa co-authored “The Warrior Women Project: A Sisterhood of Immigrant Women”. Listen to Judith Obatusa and Pat Backley talk on the" Carpooling with The RV "-