“Are you their nanny?” A simple question from another mom on a playground in Toronto — Canada’s most diverse city.
At the time — and the many other times this happened when my biracial children were young — I didn’t think of it as a racism, and I wouldn’t have called the person who asked it a racist. Nannies play a vital role in many families. What bothered me was an assumption made based on the fact that I am of Asian decent.
I was made to feel “othered” and, decades later, as we see an alarming rise in anti-Asian hate and racism, I’m looking at these interactions from my past differently.
This is how racism starts: “othering,” or making assumptions based on how someone looks or their accent. It grows because of fear and hate, and ultimately becomes more overt forms of racism.
It took me a week to write this article. Like many people of Asian descent, I needed time to process, feel frustrated and angry, and most importantly to identify the steps and actions I was going to take — and encourage others to take with me.