Growing up in a multicultural society such as that found in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, and then attending studies at the University to study Math, I was never really made to feel like a minority. It wasn't until I started working full-time in an office that I did. I still remember the event that did it. It was a birthday party; one of my associates had invited me to her birthday party.
The party was to begin at a bar where the attendees were to get wasted before finishing off the night at a club. I showed up alone. I didn't know anyone besides the co-worker that invited me. I was and still am in the habit of attending such functions on my own.
To start off the evening, I navigated the area and introduced myself to the other guests. I hadn't yet quite put my finger on what it was about each person that I disliked, but I was certain that I was not enjoying myself. It wasn't until someone said the following that I figured it out.
"Does it feel strange being the only guest who isn't white?"
I looked at the group and I realized that I indeed was the only person who wasn't white. I not only failed to notice, but failed to be bothered ... up until that point.
"You know, I have a cousin who lives in a small town near England who has never seen a black person in real life before. Can you imagine?"
I looked at her bewildered that such an ignorant creature could exist. She was an elementary school teacher in the city, and she talked about how terrible it was that so many of her students had absentee parents who were too busy both working, and how she could not imagine not being able to afford family vacations to Disneyland.
"You know, I have a cousin in the Philippines who lives in a small town far from the main cities who has never seen anyone besides Filipinos."
She smiled and nodded in a show of agreement that our cousins were unfortunate. It saddened me that the message I was trying to send had just gone over her head.
I was disappointed, but whenever I retell this story, I laugh. I laugh so hard ... until I cry.