One day, my daughter came home and asked me the question, dad, why do some of the students in my school call me ‘Paki’. My reply was ‘it is not a polite word’ and I will have a visit with your school principal. Both my wife and I were born in Uganda but of Indian origin, we were discriminated in Uganda by the dictator Idi Amin, who drove us out of the country and we became refugees overnight. This unpleasant experience in her school was a sensitive issue with both my wife and me. It was an opportunity to stand by her and explain to our daughter that what happened to us in Uganda and the reason for immigrating to Canada.
After meeting with the principal, nothing came out constructively from our initial discussion; hence I approached the director of the board of education. Who after my insistence that something should be done to address the situation else I will still go the higher authority. He sent me back to the principal. I volunteered to do a unit on Africa with the support of the geography teacher. He was very supportive.
I could hear the giggling and rumbling as the anticipation was high amongst the students especially seeing a person of ‘visible minority’ is going to speak. When I introduced myself that I was born and brought up in Uganda. Immediately the question was “how come you are not black?” My answer was just like in Canada, Africa has many different races.
My first slide showed entrance at an airport in South Africa during apartheid days and it read, “Whites only, Colored only and Blacks only”. Students were totally confused to read such a sign and immediately hands went up to ask the question. “But why such a sign?” Discussion commenced and all agreed that we all are equal and we should not be calling fellow “students of visible minority or any physical challenges” with names or use slangs.
My presentation was well received and had positive impact on students. I was invited for two consecutive years. My involvement with this subject helped my daughter gain tremendous self-confidence as students stopped calling names or bullying her or other students from visible minorities.
Today, she is a professional in her career and attributes her success in life due to the fact that she overcame discrimination at an early age. As visible minorities, parents have the obligation to pass on such experiences to the next generation. As adults, we have a role to play to educate those who lack broader vision and explain that the contributions made by different societies, races, etc. are assets to the future of Canada.