I never fully understood how much of a social construct race was until I moved from Canada to the States. Growing up in Canada, race did not seem to be a social construct that was the basis for how people of color were treated differently from white people. From what I remember about growing up as a black girl in Canada is that I had predominantly white friends who did not treat me differently because of my race. Many of my friends, including myself were also of mixed-race, which is very common in Canada, so I think because of how much of racial melting pot Canada was, most people were treated equally. It was not until I moved to America that I realized that white people would treat you differently for being black.
When I moved to the states, I realized that other black students treated me differently. I later found out they treated me differently because I was from Canada, and technically “not black” or African American as I think they meant to say. I did not quite understand at the time what they meant by saying that I was technically “not black” just because I was from Canada since Canada had a large black community, primarily from the Caribbean, and I had always identified as black. I felt isolated from other black students at school, and felt even more isolated when I befriended the white students. I did not purposefully choose to be friends with the white students over the black students, but the black kids felt that I did. Living in Canada, I had never picked friends because of their race, and I did not see what the problem was when I befriended the white kids.
I realize now why many black students felt that I was “not black”. I believe it is because my family and I did not have a shared history of living in the states and being discriminated against on the basis of our skin color. I think many of the students felt that I had not experienced racism, and in order to be considered black you needed to have a shared experience of racism, something you could bond over. It was then I became more aware of my race, and what it meant to be black and living in America.
I find it fascinating that because racism is so embedded into the American social system, that race has become the first thing people notice about you. Living in the states has made me more aware of my race, and how my white friends treat me differently for being black. The racial contrast between the two countries is quite different probably in part to Canada’s large population of mixed-race people, however I’m not so sure now how differently the two countries compare since I have been living in the states for quite some time, and with the Black Lives Matter movement in the states, i’m sure it has spread to Canada, making black Canadians more aware of racial discrimination.