Racism – My Story

Shanta-with-braces

This is what I looked at in Grade 7. Taken the day I got my braces.

Thanks to Dan Levy for his post on racism the other day. I’m reminded of my story from 20 years ago and though I should tell it. It’s a shame that we have such stories, but how do we know unless we speak up and educate?

I am of mixed race; half East Indian and half British, resulting in an olive complexion making me look more Italian or Spanish.  We lived in a predominantly white neighbourhood, though it has changed quite a bit since then. I’d never experienced any sort of racism until this.

When I was in Grade 7, my locker was located across the hall from a class of Grade 8 students. One day, a boy from across the hall, for no apparent reason, decided to call me a “Paki”. I didn’t know what it meant. I’m not Pakistani (which is the proper term), so I didn’t think anything of it.

No idea why, but I told my father one day in conversation. He looked mortified and then gave me the best advice: go to the Principal’s office. So, I did.

Mr. MacGillivray was amazing. I told him everything and he was not going to tolerate it. He explained that he would call the boy to his office and explain that this behaviour would not be tolerated. If he did it again, he would be suspended for a minimum of 2 days.  Once this was explained, I would be called down to the office and he would have to apologize. It played out exactly as he described it within a couple of days and he never did it again…but others did.

Over the two years I was at this school, a total of eight boys all pulled the same stunt, but never twice. I did tell my close friends, but never announced it to the world that this was going on, but obviously word was getting around. I was able to keep it under wraps pretty well, until one of the last ones, a boy in my class. He was called down to the principal’s office and I was called shortly thereafter. The rest of the kids in my class put two and two together and realized that we were there for the same reason. I came under fire for the very things I suspected I would be attacked with:

  1. “It’s nothing!”
  2. “You’re not even Pakistani, so why do you care?”
  3. “Do you have to be such a tattle tale?”

The answers were simple:

  1. Yes, it is something.
  2. Yes, I do care.
  3. Yes, I do have to say something.

The fact that they never did it again, tells me that they are cowards and that’s what bullies are: COWARDS.

They all did to not because they believed in what they were saying, but figured I would keep quite about it and I have to believe that they really didn’t understand the full weight of what they were doing. I think they were young and just trying to look cool. If they truly believed in what they said, it wouldn’t have stopped at name calling…once.

In closing: Don’t keep quiet. Speak to someone you trust, whether at school or at work. Don’t let it fester and don’t let bullies get away with it. If you feel like you are being discriminated against, regardless of whether it is for the colour of your skin, sexual preference, religion, gender or any other possible reason. Don’t think it’s small, they are the ones with small minds.

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Disgusting – Comment on Asperger’s Story

University of Toronto professor Thomas Reynolds, middle, and his sons Chris, left, and Evan, right have applied to become permanent residents. But Chris, who has Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, is deemed medically inadmissible

University of Toronto professor Thomas Reynolds, middle, and his sons Chris, left, and Evan, right have applied to become permanent residents. But Chris, who has Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, is deemed medically inadmissible. Photo by: VINCE TALOTTA/TORONTO STAR

I read this article in the Toronto Star yesterday: Family ripped apart, immigration says son with Asperger’s ‘inadmissible’. I was floored.

How do they come up with $7,000 per year? If his father is taking care of his expenses, then how do they figure that it’s going to cost $7,000 per year. And let’s face it, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to most. I know that someday, he won’t have his father around to cover it but who knows when that will be?

People with Asperger’s Syndrome can be productive members of society. My brother is a high-functioning Autistic Savant (which is said to be more severe than Asperger’s), has Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD and Epilepsy. He can hold down a job, even if only part time. So why couldn’t this young man? None that I can see. He’s even said as much.

What is the difference between granting somone with no formal education and someone with a disability of this nature into the country. He might be a little behind in his learning, similar to my brother, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be productive members of society. Let him stay and stop discriminating against people with disabilities!

As for the post a day, how fitting that the topic to be: What would cause you to protest or riot for something? I know that this was directed around the riots in Vancouver, but THIS is something for which I would protest.

Commentary: TheStar Freeze on Toronto’s ‘Welcome Policy’ means low-income families missing out

I read this article this morning in the Toronto Star: TheStar Freeze on Toronto’s ‘Welcome Policy’ means low-income families missing out.

They say that they don’t have enough money to support the Welcome Policy that was introduced in the 1990’s. I remember when fees were introduced and it was a mess. I worked for the City of Toronto in the Parks and Recreation Department. There was never an issue whether or not someone in this city made enough money, they had access to recreation. I’m sure the justification of this is to recoupterate some of the costs of running the programs. Now, I don’t know the numbers, but just humour me for a moment.

When the City decides to make people start paying for the services in recreation, it’s not just that simple. You have to put into place payment systems, train the staff into using them and the time involved with dealing with the payments is taken away from the time they use actually providing the service. Alternatively, they are paid more time to take the money so that the net time for the program is not affected.

Then you have to take into effect the drop in attendance. The original estimates were that there would be about an average of a 30% drop across the board. Boy were they wrong. At the centre I worked at, they had a drop of 67%. The centre wasn’t making nearly enough to cover even their staffing costs. There were a couple of reasons for the drop, from what I know:

  • They couldn’t afford it or began to budget what they could attend; and
  • People looked at alternatives to paying the Recreation Centre to privately operated services, such as art classes and family gyms based on not only cost, but on quality of service.

People didn’t enroll in classes, less staff is needed, so many of us lost hours or had so few that we had to leave and find other work. Many people had spent two years in the Recreation Program at Centennial which was designed to be the recruiting ground for working as a Recreationist in the City of Toronto. When the fees came in, they all went scrambling looking for other work. Those that did get taken into the City, ended up becoming sales people to the public for permits selling the insurance packages and pushing paper, rather than doing what they were trained to do: programming and running recreation.

So what you’re left with is a very expensive payment system, a barebones recreation program, a lot of qualified people that went to do something else and a very large population, the most of which cannot afford the system. Those that can afford it, most likely go to a private gym anyway.