Saturday, November 07, 2009

Go back home

I am filling up at a gas station in a city just outside Toronto, but to the north. It's around 11 at night, and I am eager to get home. An older white lady is also standing nearby, filling up her pickup truck. She's the only other customer outside.

"Why don't you go back home?"

Huh? All of a sudden, I hear this. I can't believe my ears, so I turn to her.

"Excuse me?"

"Why don't you go back home?" She repeats in a louder voice.

I look around, and then reply, "Er, Toronto?"

"No, go back where you CAME FROM!"

"Um, Toronto?" I reply again. I am sort of enjoying this.

"No." She was now furious. "Go back where to your lot is!"

"Uh-huh, that would be Toronto."

She is now quite livid, and near shouting. "Why do you come to my home, and take MY job, and ... do you know after you guys came, where ALL the jobs went?"

I would have replied "Toronto" but then she had entered the truck, slammed her door and off she went.

It was my proper first brush with racism in Canada. I mean, I have heard it exists, and there are times when I have attributed behaviour to racism, but this was in your face. I was kind of glad I dealt with it in good humour and sarcasm. Perhaps the fact she was an old lady tempered it a bit. But then, why are older, rural folks more racist? I don't know.

For now, I was heading back to where I came from. Good ol' Toronto.


iMuslim said...

I think you should have followed her in your car, and at the first set of red traffic lights, park along side her, and press up a note against your window with "Toronto" written in large caps. :D

Old biddies are funny.

Organica said...

It happens. But has she visited to Toronto, seriously?


She will be outnumbered and everyone would shout back "Go back where you came from, old pig!"

Achelois said...

Old people, especially old women, are so racist and stupid no body wants to hire them!

nadia said...

She must be having a lot of Toronto-related dreams now :)

Anonymous said...

LOL! Good one Mezba!! I would have said the same thing. And yes, most of the racists do exist out of our home, Toronto!! I had someone once say "they keep on running away from us but will are coming after them!"

mezba said...

@iMuslim: lol :-D

Yea, I think a lot of older folks grew up with no one different and like any old folk they resent change. Well, their time is soon up anyways!

I look at the new generation in schools and all, every where in Canada, and they know diversity is good, multiculturalism is good.

Of course there will always be some debate about it - and I agree immigration and multiculturalism has to be controlled, but over all, diversity is good.

@Organica: lol... now it's not restricted to Toronto. It's in Vancouver, Montreal, Brampton, Mississuaga, Pickering, Richmond Hill, Markham, Burnaby, Calgary, Edmonton .... LOL

In Markham, they are even making an effort to have an environmentally friendly way to disperse ashes in the river!

@Achelois: Well, they will soon find out when they need an MRI and most of the doctors are from as diverse places as Croatia to Zimbabwe!

@Nadia, hahaha I hope so!

One thing really good about Canada is that the diversity is so ... diverse... and people are really from EVERY where.. that's why there's no one dominant minority group (hello Hispanics of USA) so there's no clash as such. It's changing though - South Asians are really big in Canada.

@Anon: lol.. eventually we will even be in Nunavut.

shaz said...

i run into it more frequently now, especially on the subway. last week some old man kept staring at me, and i started to devise a plan of action for ppl who stare. like walk up to them and say something like "i notice you were staring, is it because i seem familiar or do you have a question?"... ok, i haven;t worked it out in detail yet, but i think if i call them out on it, the next time, they'll think twice. reverse the stereotypes - only "we" can do that... just a matter of figuring out the best way. a lot of times, i've seen ppl change their tone, facial expressions, and i am sure rethink their stereotypes while i talk to them. i like that you answered in that way, i don't think it serves us well to either ignore or get angry.

Muslim Girl said...

Haha glad to hear you dealt it with humour. I think she would have liked it if you went all mad, but you kept your cool which is probably what made it worse (for her, at least).

Good one!

Farah said...

Could it be anything to do with Ford Hood, I wonder?

أبو سنان said...

You have more patience than I do. I am much more "in your face" for better or worse.

Funny when she mentioned jobs. The difference between the majority of Canadian/American Muslim immigrants and their 2nd/3rd generation and their counter parts in Europe is that they tend to be MORE educated than the rest of the people in the country and they came BECAUSE there were NOT enough people to do the jobs.

Sounds to me like any Muslim immigrant or their children, doctors, scientists, engineers, wouldnt have been taking this lady's high paying job at Walmart!

'liya said...

I agree with Muslim Girl, it's good you dealt with it with humour and sarcasm, she would have been too satisfied if she had been able to make you angry.

Anonymous said...

Well not everyone can be like you,Mezba! Some can really get nasty retorting back.

It happens everywhere and mostly it's about jobs taken away by immigrants and not enough mixing bet both sets of groups.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you don't go out much if this is your first brush with racism. It's everywhere, all it takes is the right situation for people to speak what's on their mind. In your situation I would assume she thought u were vulnerable, out of place.

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Dear:

One time someone yelled at me from their car, "Hey, you're in America now; you don't have to wear that (hijab) thing anymore."


Rania said...

Funny thing is, most white people migrated to Canada from european countries, maybe a few years that's the only difference... so you could have told her to go back where she came from, too!

Surviving Hijabi said...

LOL well apart from the old lady being racist I wouldn't blame her for being angry i mean c'mon us desi's have taking over T.O.
That was wrong of her tho.
Old ladies are good entertainment :P

Abid said...


It got bad after 9/11 especially in the US, but I've never had it this bad in Toronto ever!

mezba said...

@shaz, really, on the subway? I never faced it before like this, and definitely almost never on the subway. Granted, I hardly take the subway to work...

I think we also need a plan of action to combat racism. As minorities become more visible and successful in the country, there will be some backlash from the Neo Nazis.

@Muslim Girl, thanks. I think such old ladies need to sit at home with a tasbih and that's it! :-P

@Farah, have no clue. Perhaps. I didn't think of it.

@Abu Sinan,

Sounds to me like any Muslim immigrant or their children, doctors, scientists, engineers, wouldn't have been taking this lady's high paying job at Walmart!

exactly! Most immigrants to this country are an educated lot and come here because there's a void for jobs. Especially Canada. Huge country, only 30 million people, ever wonder why we always need more people! Hell, we now even have a temp worker category!

@'liya, probably she was angry her own son wasn't filling up her truck and the daughter in law wasn't cooking her food so she tried to take it out on me!

@Lat, I think there may be time when I can be pretty nasty too in retorting back. And about jobs, it's not the situation here (perhaps unlike States) where there's low pay jobs being done by Mexicans. Canada doesn't have an illegal immigration problem to that extent at all, and most immigrants are legal, skilled, so there's often less of a problem in integration. It's a planned immigration.

If there's any one who SHOULD be angry, it should be immigrants, who come here to find their jobs are not as promised or their skills and experiences are not recognized.

@Anonymous, no, I do go out much, which is evident from my blog and the many travel posts. It's just that no one has been in your face like that. Don't think it got her any jollies though.

@Safiyyah, Sigh indeed. Their idea of liberation is to force their own ideology on others!

@Rania, lol. True! When I was in Quebec long time ago they were telling me to go back across the river to English Canada [story]! Racism takes many forms.

@Surviving Hijabi, oh one day we will take over Canada. I wonder what will happen to that lady then.

@Abid, it's usually not like that here.

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Mezba:

Another thing to consider is that people like her are ignorant because they are influenced by the media. This occurs in America, too. All of the ignorant people have the same media talking points. If you attempt to engage them in an intelligent discussion about a topic they see on TV, newspapers, radio, etc., they fall short.

These kinds of people are appaled that the media would lie to them or mislead them in any way.

mezba said...

@Safiyyah: True.. in other settings (such as work, if someone (a Conservative) blurts some talking points out I usually pursue it with superior knowledge (naturally - *modest blush*) and they usually shut up!

Isobel said...

Fantastic response! I'm not surprised to hear that kind of comment coming from someone older and rural. I grew up in a small...very white...Southwestern Ontario town and that kind of mentality, when I was there, was very common. I don't know about now but its probably still there just less so. I'm in Ottawa now where its much more multicultural and, one would hope, less bigoted. Then again...being white, unless one of my friends reports an incident...I don't hear much. If and when I do hear something, I am always shocked - kind of like someone just slapped me. Anyway, great post!! I look forward to reading more of your posts. (I came here from Abufares's blog)

mezba said...

@Isobel, welcome to my blog!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

LOL! This made me laugh :)

mezba said...

@CairoLA: as someone once told me, old ladies can be a source of entertainment!

mezba said...

I just found this post in my archives.

South Asians Most Visible In Canada

Perhaps that lady may have read this post ! lol

Sana A. said...

the funny thing is that this kind of attitude that you experienced has an effect on our parents -- the older immigrant generation. they view white people as so different. for instance, my dad will be surprised if a white person is polite to him.

mezba said...

@Sana A, so true. I think the older generation was treated badly by the people when they got here and they harbour bad feelings in return. The shame is when you see a new generation behaving the same.