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Subtle stereotypes and stubborn racism

 Edmonton Street News (Canada) 28 February 2019

In today's urban white, multi - cultural societies, there are issues that exist in my district and the urban downtown core of Calgary. I'm faced with subtle racism and negative stereotypes when I leave my home on an almost daily basis. I want to tell you what happened as recently as January 2011. (886 Words) - By Andie W.L.

In January I was about a half a block from the bus stop and I saw a middle-eastern woman in the distance peering out from the bus shelter. She saw me approaching and as I got closer made eye contact with me.  Before I could say anything like, "Hi there", or even make small talk, I saw fear on her face. She made a rude, scowling frown and suddenly turned away from me, grabbed her bag in her arms, and ran back to the previous bus stop.
I knew then I had just faced another example of racism from someone in the district where I live. I could almost sense what she was thinking. It was obvious I was red flagged in her eyes as a street person; panhandler, perhaps violent, a drug and alcohol addicted person and not to be trusted.
Then, late one evening, also in January, I was on the Transit heading to the Northwest part of the city. I got on in the core and eventually there was a stop at the Motel Village area by McMahon Stadium close to the University.  I was the only one sitting at the front area. A group of mixed race people got on. They attempted to sit down beside me and in the next seats.  Some of them suddenly looked at me and saw who I was and appeared to be disgusted. When the passenger beside me got up from his seat, they all abruptly stood back, looking me over once again. Their eyeballs were almost falling out of their sockets as they all ran to the back of the bus, grumbling. Some of them were intoxicated.
This incident had actually motivated me to write about this issue.  It has happened to me too many times before.
Late one evening I walked into a coffee shop in the core to a place I had once frequented, which had recently come under new owners. I walked up to the front counter and said, "Hi there," to the waiter.  He appeared to be of middle - eastern cultural background.   He stood there, stunned with anger at what he saw.  The look on his face almost put me on the run and I felt like going right out the front door. Again, the red flags came on much like with the woman at the bus stop.  When I asked if he was still serving coffee his attitude suddenly changed.  He got to the front counter and asked, "What you say, uh?"  I told him," I did say hi." He eventually just turned away from me.  I should have walked out but I had decided to buy a coffee and was trying to get out of the cold.  It was minus 28 outside.
When I have gone into some cafes and coffee shops, the workers have sometimes told me that they don't expect a tip when I have attempted to give one. Some are compassionate and know that I sell a street newspaper and they recognize I don't make an hourly wage.  I do leave some small change when I'm not too low on the day's money. There have been other cafes and coffee shops that I frequented that have given me an unwelcoming attitude at the till while I was paying my bill.  I know that this is because of my Aboriginal heritage. Some of the staff assume I don't tip and even if I do tip, it's not to their standard.
These are only the beginning of many stories that need to be told.
I know it is hard to believe, but this is what happens to me on a weekly basis. 
There is always some kind of subtle racism and negative stereotyping that happens both in urban districts and the downtown core.  The stereotypes will forever be around; they're not going away.   It's really about how I let them affect me. I decide whether it's a negative effect or can turn it into another positive learning experience. 
I also feel that if I was not alone and traveled with someone else, the negative attitudes and the times where I feel personally vulnerable would happen far less then they do now. I have been forced to become a stronger Aboriginal woman emotionally and mentally.
It has also helped me to become more aware and I know the bad experiences are about them and not me. I'm hoping that other urban Aboriginal women will read and write about this and can relate and understand that they are not alone.
I can also reverse how the subtle racism and negative stereotypes affect me by being a role - model for other Aboriginal woman who may have experienced similar situations where they live and in urban districts and the downtown core of Calgary. I think racism, from my point of view, is certainly deeply rooted.

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Originally published by Edmonton Street News  © www.streetnewsservice.org

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