I'm a white woman who has spent my life advocating for women's rights in Afghanistan. Unapologetic for my lack of shared ethnicity with those I have strived to defend, I've heard an array of logic-bending criticisms, from subtle critiques veiled in the buzzwords of post-modernism, like the suggestion that all development workers inherently occupy a 'hegemonic' position, to less creative and cruder name calling.
A term associated with dual and/or multiple expressions of identity alongside national identification, "hyphenated Canadian" identities are now an important part of our diverse ethnic landscape - and we owe it to the efforts of the very same individuals who regarded such multiple identities as a source of division.
What does it mean to be an Arab living in the West? Can I be part of two worlds and to what extent? Going through an identity crisis, results into an ongoing questioning. It is the process of reflecting on the shattered pieces of memory, an abandoned language and understanding of one's ancestors and history.
There are a range of reasons people have asked me about my background and reasons I'm curious about yours. Maybe I've traveled to your country of heritage and would like to share my experience; I'd like to visit one day and would welcome your insights. We shouldn't have to pretend not to see skin colour, hear accents, or recognize features. No, we're not all the same -- but why is that the goal?
Chantelle Brown-Young success as a model may come as a surprise since she is afflicted with vitiligo, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own pigment-producing cells. Yet her mass appeal invites reflection upon the concepts of health, impairment and disability vis-à-vis perceptions of beauty. Her international success notwithstanding, Brown-Young finds it imperative to help others appreciate beauty in its various forms. During her first appearance on America's Next Top Model, she imploringly asks "How can I show you the beauty in differences?"
I have thus alienated myself from the convention of associating a cultural, national identity to my name. I do not feel like a citizen of said country, but rather, a denizen of the world. I realize my situation is rare and privileged, but I am not insensitive to the many problems revolving national identity around the world.
Toronto is facing a political problem that it hasn't asked for. That problem has threatened both the trust Torontonians place in their government and how the world sees this city. We can strengthen our city. We can empower our immigrant communities, create jobs, and create a safe environment. But in order to do so, next year we have to stay focused on policy, not politics.