I remember going to a “Quebecois” school in Quebec where I first learned about racial discrimination when I was younger. The difference between a “Canadian” school and a Quebecois school in Quebec is the Quebecois school generally had separatist influences, they are relatively less diverse than the Canadian schools, there is no trace of anything distinctly Canadian, and there is no assistance to students who do not speak French as a native language.
Canadian schools, on the other hand, had a diverse student body, had some programmes for non-French speaking students, and put down racism in their school by promoting multiculturalism. My early experiences were both at a Canadian (St. Lawrence School) and Quebecois school (Ecole Samuel-De Champlain) where I spent 2 years in each school when I was young.
The first instance of racism I experienced at a Quebec school called Ecole Samuel-De Champlain, was when I was entering the school in the morning. While I was walking to class, some French kid kept making “Ching-Chang-Chong” noises while looking at me while a few kids called me a “Chin-tok (Chink in French)”. The kids that were around me simply ignored it as if it was normal while a handful laughed. At another instance, some French kids beat me up, trashed the things in my bookbag, and told me to “Go back to China” in French because they felt immigrants were taking his parents’ jobs or diluting the Quebecois spirit.
Then there was that second grade teacher named Sylvie L, who still teaches in the school as a grade 1 teacher. At that time she was in her late thirties, and I learned later that her husband was unemployed. I knew when I was younger I was a bit of a troublemaker, but I always thought it was strange how she would only give stern warnings to the White kids in the class while throwing me out of her class for the entire day when I did something wrong. This was strange because I did similar things to the other kids, but I got a harsher punishment and she never called me back to class once she threw me out.
I think these things were related to immigration and that’s why I get disgusted when people opposed to immigration rabidly deny that the issue has a racist element to it. I can definitely say, it has a racist element since I had the luxury of experiencing it first-hand in Quebec, Canada.
I really don’t like talking about this part of my life but it is a crude reminder of who I am. It’s also a reason why I unlearned the French language, abandoned my Catholic faith, and one of the reasons why it took several years to come to terms with myself.
My experiences in America are much better than Quebec. Although there is more ignorance than rampant racism here compared to Quebec, I want to do what I can to eliminate negative racial stereotypes and explore what it means to be Asian-American.