Racism and Preference

The origin of the post is kind of interesting. As many of my childhood friends have grown up, it has been interesting to see everyone growing up, getting job, moving into new homes. It's an interesting time to reflect.I was a BBQ with a friend and he commented
I would never raise my kids in Brampton. It's too wild and Desi now.


Brampton is I spent my high school years. It's a place that went through a large transformation. When we (of South Asian descent) moved in, it was largely a white suburb. As more people of South Asian descent moved it, various areas became dominated by South Asians. There was a perception that white people were leaving as South Asians moved in. There's actually be an article written about it.

 I found an interesting article from Macleans that talks about London from a similar perspective.

Now some South Asian people at the time would assume White people were racist as they didn't want to be around the incoming South Asians. Definitely a possibility. Yet, the part I want to explore is how most of my friends (South Asian) from Brampton now wouldn't want to stay there or raise there kids there because of the people there... and the people they are talking about are predominantly the South Asian immigrants that they once were.

At the highest level, my friends don't think it is good to reside next to the people in Brampton. A perfectly valid preference as far as life goes. The question that must be asked of course is to what level did the old White residenys have the same kind of thinking. They didn't hate anybody's skin color. It simply didn't suite their lifestyle and preference.

I think you have to dig a bit deeper to figure out what people mean. Every conversation is both a speaker and a listener. The perception or reality of racism is also a product of both a speaker and a listener.
http://yaminb.blogspot.ca/2015/10/racism-sexism-every-ism-is-schism.html  is along a similar thread.

If I prod my friends what they don't like about Brampton today and prod for non-racial reasons, they would say things like:
  • It's not safe anymore
  • Too many drugs/gangs
  • Too much religion/cultural traditions pushing themselves on people
  • Too much traffic; too many families living in one home
  • ...
See, those reasons are perfectly valid reasons that impact your quality of life. Depending on the person, they will 'group' those reasons under the umbrella... Brampton is too Desi or something like that.

I'd venture that if you probed a white people who left Brampton, you'd get similar reasonable sounding reasons
  • schools overcrowding
  • kids don't feel safe due to South Asian gangs
  • Can't communicate with the neighbors well... they don't speak English
  • ...
None of this is in any way tied to your brown skin. But it can be the grouping of various concepts under a racial term. It could come out as Brampton is too Indian.

I Don't Date Indian Guys

You can do this with a lot of complex concepts. Indian girls will often say things like they don't date Indian guys. Now again, most aren't actually talking about the color of a guy's skin or his heritage. They are talking about a bunch of behaviors that have seen in common with Indian guys they know that they don't like. The typical complaints I've heard would resemble as follows:
  • Mamas boys
  • Demand women stick to traditional roles
  • Drink and party too much
  • Closed minded
  • Honor culture
  • Restrictive
  • Don't woo the girl
  • Are not civilized or sophisticated
  • ...
None of this is inherent to anyone's skin color and plenty of South Asian guys deviate from all these behaviors. Yet, those are definitely common enough traits that you can see that an Indian girl may not want. That put it under the blanket term 'Indian Guys'.

I Don't Date Indian Girls

 As a guy of South Asian heritage, I too had my list of I don't date Indian Girls. Again, it wasn't based on the skin color, but on a common enough trait. I try and be more careful with my language these days, but it is these qualities that I generally tried to avoid of 'Indian Girls'
  • High maintenance
  • Spoiled
  • They want to be 'Indian' to their parents, but 'western feminist' with their husband. 
    • Respected and obeyed elders to a high degree, but would not do the same for their man; So the parents have more sway than the husband over the wife
  • Too social/reputation oriented and Indian communities are too large that they pull you into a lot of events
  • Generally two-faced. One face for family and one face for the rest of their lives.
  • They lie too well
    • They are used to it due to community restrictions and living double lives

I would group this under the term 'Indian Girl,' even though the traits are very specific. No doubt there were Indian girls who did not fit this mold.

Speak Correctly and Hear Correctly

As in the other blog spot, I think both speakers and listeners can improve the situation. Speakers can try to be specific on the traits they don't like. And listeners can choose to her those traits instead of jumping to an immediate racial conclusion.

Group Exposure

The other interesting path my mind went down is in terms of what part of a group you are exposed to. Depending on where you live, you can actually come away with different stereotypes based on the members of the group you are exposed to.

I'll use my own example here. I am a South African of Indian heritage. Now, I never thought it about it much, but apparently in the GTA, South Africans have a 'well off' reputation. I'd say the same stereotype given to people from Hong Kong. Well educated, well off, westernized...

It struck me when I heard comments like
  • South Africans are rich
  • They own their own factors
  • ...
Obviously if you grew up in South Africa or have family there, you have as much diversity in class, wealth, education... as anywhere else. However, if you live in Canada; Toronto let's say; then you are only meeting a small subset of South African Indians. Generally those educated, skilled, or rich enough to have immigrated to Canada. I suspect the same is true of the people from Hong Kong who have gained that reputation in Canada. There are probably very poor people from Hong Kong but at a certain time, the subset of people from Hong Kong who immigrated to Canada were probably well-off professionals.

It extends into other areas as well. I was talking to a Ukranian guy and he was saying how he avoid Russian parties because of the excess liquor, fights, and machismo. I mentioned, that Indians have that same issue. I grew up in Brampton with Punjabis and that is a similar situation. He was taken aback, assuming Indians were 'well-behaved spirtual people'. Perhaps the subset of Indians he was exposed to was like that.

You really have to take all this in context when having a discussion about race and preferences and what people actually mean when they generalize.

The shorthand people use to associate a bunch of traits with a racial/ethnic background is a pattern that person has observed. It is perhaps valid for their own experience. I've come to advocate being specific about traits and not generalizing people, because the groups are too large and the people too diverse. If the traits you speak of, happen to cover a large segment of a certain group, so be it.


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