My Magic Coat

Historically – there are so many memorable and iconic coats. Joseph, from the Bible, was known for his coat. Dolly Parton’s mom made her a special coat. I have a magic coat also.

Like most of my items, I purchased it online. It immediately caught my eye, because it is a patchwork design similar to those seen on many Gujarati fabrics. It is colourful, with different patterns, and it has a distinctive South Asian feel. I had never seen a coat like it before. I specifically curate a look with South Asian touches. I love the fabrics, colours and textiles from the South Asian subcontinent and I always feel my best, when I have a South Asian feel.

And as is the case with most on line purchases, you are taking a risk, but when the coat arrived, it totally delivered. It is super warm, fits well and has all of the colours and designs, as shown online! I loved it and that was all that mattered to me. I purchased it at the beginning of the pandemic and it was a little bit of whimsy and style, during an otherwise bleak time.

I would wear it on walks with the kids and when I would get groceries. So many people, while I was grocery shopping, would compliment me on the coat and said that they loved its brightness! That would add some brightness to me, when grocery shopping, during an unsettling time. I have also been asked where I purchased the coat, and I am always one of those people who shares the information.

So much joy from my coat. But the ultimate happened this past week-end. We have a South Asian grocery store close to us, where I purchase certain South Asian foods on occasion. It was super quiet Saturday morning, for some reason, because typically, there is a line up to get inside the store. While I was walking in the aisles, the owner saw my coat and I saw her motion to another employee at the store, to check out my coat. I had grown accustomed to this now, given that it was coming on a year that I had bought this coat. Typically, my exchanges with the owner are quite perfunctory. But on Saturday, she completed my check out and she was nothing but friendly. It was if the coat had broken through a barrier between us and we pleasantly chatted throughout my checkout. The coat had worked its magic, yet again!

Now – I know that material items should not cause joy or happiness, but I think that in this case, the coat is magical. In a time full of dark and bleakness, this coat offers brightness and colour. In a time where people are being harassed for their ethnic background, this coat, is unequivocally South Asian and welcomes compliments from everyone. In a time where people are struggling through the Ground Hog day mentality, this coat, gives me an opportunity to cloak myself in joy, and feel like I am finding some light!

During a time when things have become even more bleak than before, especially in Ontario, it is nice to know that we all have something outside of our family and friends, that can provide a ray of light. My magic coat, provides that joy to me and those who are around it. I hope that you have your own version of a magic coat, to get through these days. This too shall pass.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

What’s in a name?

Recently, Thandiwe Newton, long overdue, was featured with the cover and cover story in British Vogue magazine. Within the article, she stated that her name had been altered to Thandie, and given the system in place within film making, she just went with it, but was now re-claiming her name. A name of royalty.

At the end of March 2021, in the Globe and Mail, there was an article regarding a South Asian lawyer, and her challenges, in having her name and identity accepted on Bay Street. Suggestions made to take on her husband’s last name, as it was easier to pronounce and other such nuggets of “wisdom”.

This has been an ongoing fight for a long time. In a previous blog, I advised that my mom, due to Colonial pressure in Trinidad, changed her name to an English name, so as to be accepted at school. My father anglicized his name to Sam, when he was working as an Engineer, in Ontario.

Now my name has always caused a lot of angst. Its origins are from Sanskrit. The spelling in Bengali makes perfect sense – সুদেবী. However, giving it English letters to spell the name was a little more challenging. The first 2 letters in my name – Su – have historically been pronounced by all non South Asians, as Sue – like you sue someone in law. However, when you look at the word – Sugar, “Su” is also pronounced Shoe – which is the correct pronunciation of my name.

So, when I started daycare, it was a running battle, for me to explain how to pronounce the first two letters of my name, to my teachers and my classmates and the “sugar” example was not met with any “AHA” moments. This leaves a lasting impression on the identity of a child. And therefore, Sue became the accepted way to pre-fix for my name, especially for a child who was taught to respect her elders. Do not even have me start on pronouncing the rest of my name.

My kids get a kick when people adopt a Southern US version of pronouncing my name, as that apparently, is much more palatable for many.

As an adult, when I provide the proper pronunciation to anyone non South Asian, it is typically met with disbelief and then, quickly reverting back to the anglicized pronunciation of my name. Or making it sound like it comes out of the incantation from an episode of Star Trek.

And like Thandwie, it was a fight that I gave up on, sadly. I kept my name – YEAH!, but I allowed it to be pronounced in an easier way to the prevailing culture here in Canada. And therefore – there are 2 pronunciations of my name – the correct way and the anglicized way.

I love when South Asian people say my name correctly – because it honours the name that represents a part of my heritage and culture. It is a distinctive name and unique, all things that I like. I have written previously on my challenges to keep my full name as my identity and reading Thandwie’s comments and the Globe and Mail article, made me feel like I had made some progress, but had not emerged fully victorious.

And it is an ongoing battle that my children fight. They too have distinctive South Asian names, but are much more common and known. Even with that, the kids are constantly telling us anecdotes about how the pronunciation of their name was butchered or misspelled and I know that this will be an ongoing battle for them.

And the irony is – I find pronouncing certain anglicized names more challenging than South Asian names. Lloyd, Buchanan, Jacqueline – there is a great Key and Peele sketch – documenting this – How on point was this?

But I have figured the names out and I pronounce them properly.

One wonders why the same care has not been given to names from other backgrounds?

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Fighting back

I am appalled but not surprised by the increase in hate crimes as against Asians. It has been percolating throughout the pandemic with racist terminology from many leaders and persons who are heard- we cannot point the finger to just one. The rationalization of why the shooter in Georgia did on March 17th, 2021, what he did, only pours hot burning vinegar on a festering wound.

And watching the attacked, injured and elderly Asian grandmother in San Francisco fight off and injure her attacker, just added to the despair.

But watching that attacked, injured and elderly grandmother stand there confused and unattended, while her attacker was receiving medical attention, again, caused a feeling of disbelief and anger.

That could have been any of our immigrant moms. It had been my mom.

It was 2005. I was at work in downtown Toronto and my mom called me on my office line from her home in Mississauga. She had locked herself in her bathroom. She explained that she had answered the door and a confused guy was swearing and cursing. Although her storm door was locked, he ripped it open and pushed in the main door before my mother could close it, injuring my mother. The guy was high on crystal meth, believing that he was in his house.

He was in his late teens while my mom was in her 60’s. High on drugs, his strength and lack of pain, was on another level.

My mom had rushed to the bathroom and locked it, and called the police. When she called me, I kept my mom on the line, and I called the police again. The feeling of helplessness that I felt was scream worthy.

I rushed to get home and ensure that my mother was safe. But my mother, like the Asian woman attacked in San Francisco, was a fighter. When she heard that the guy was leaving, she was concerned that he would get away before the police could apprehend him and that he would hurt someone else.

And so my 60 something mother grabbed an axe, rightly or wrongly, and chased after him. She was angry. And that’s how the police found her and the guy. With her chasing after him, yelling at him, to draw the attention of neighbours and the police. The guy was apprehended.

And my mother – she was cautioned about walking around with an axe.

By the time that I arrived at the house, the police were gone. No ambulance was sent to check on my mother and we were left with a door hanging off its hinges and left to deal with the clean up and the fall out, on our own. As strong as my mom was, the incident left my mother feeling very vulnerable and scared. My brother arrived shortly afterwards and we took care of my mom and the situation.

And this attack on the grandmother in San Francisco, really brought up this memory of my mother. There was no follow up regarding my mother and how she was doing after the incident. The concern was more about ensuring that the guy on crystal meth, received the help he needed and it was explained to my mom that he had no control over his actions, because he was on crystal meth.

Sound familiar – this rationalization? All of a sudden, my mother lost her role as victim and was casually tossed aside. And if race was not the factor for this different treatment, then I do not know what was.

My West Indian mother, was dismissed. Her white attacker was not.

It left a bad taste in our mouths. And so we were forced to move on. We installed a security system at my mother’s house. We checked on my mom, even more frequently. Because, we realized we were on our own. The system, was not going to assist us.

The incident was treated as if this were an everyday event and apparently, it is:

A white man high on crystal meth, broke into my West Indian mother’s house and hurt her.

An Asian grandmother in San Francisco was attacked on the streets, and her white attacker was treated, while she stood untreated on the street.

A white man shoots 8 women in Atlanta, all but one were women, the majority of Asian descent.

We need to do better. We need to be better.

People’s actions need to be held accountable and not excused.

We are tired of forgiving, or accepting the rationalizations, when the truth is obvious.

And if the truth is obvious, why is it only seen by us?


But that’s just one Diva’s view.

11 years ago….my recollection of the earthquake in Haiti

Actually, this story starts 13 years ago.  My husband and I were newly weds.  While we were engaged, he had completed a military deployment in Sudan, and returned back for the wedding.   It was challenging, but we made it work.  A lot of satellite calls, and Skype chats, when there was an internet connection.  I sent care packages, consisting of food and supplies, while planning a wedding.

We had been married a few months, when my husband indicated that he was interested in deploying to Afghanistan.  Sudan was one thing, but Afghanistan scared me…..a lot.  We had a lot of discussions about this.  I knew that he wanted to deploy, but couldn’t he go somewhere safer to serve?

Learning the art of compromise, my husband proposed Haiti.  It was a lot closer than Afghanistan and in my mind, a lot safer.   You have to appreciate that in 2009, we kept hearing about fallen soldiers serving in Afghanistan, and although my husband assured me that he would be safe, it was hard to reconcile him being safe with all of the losses we were bombarded with on the news.  And so, Haiti was the chosen destination.

It all sounded positive.  He was on a peacekeeping mission.  He was working in the UN Headquarters in Port-Au-Prince.  We were in the same time zone and communicating with each other, was a lot easier.  During his leave in the Fall of 2009, we met up in Miami and had a wonderful few days together.  His deployment allowed me to focus on work and news that I had made partner at my law firm.  Things were good.  He remained in Haiti during the Christmas holidays and New Year’s, which I spent with friends and family.

January 12th, 2010 – I was at work when my friend Rina texted me to advise that her father was watching CNN and there had been a massive earthquake in Haiti.  She wanted to know if my husband was alright.  I immediately called the contact number I had for him and kept getting a busy signal.

I frantically did a search on the internet and the information was limited.  At our condo, my husband had given me an Emergency Contact number for the United Nations and had instructed me that in case of an emergency, that this was the number to call.  This was an emergency and I had to get to this number and call it.  This was my mission.  I packed up my belongings in a state of shock with my cell phone steadily redialing my husband frantically.

I remember getting  down to the building lobby and seeing another lawyer from my firm, looking at me in concern.   I explained to him what had happened and he gave me some words of encouragement which I barely heard, as I was so focused on dialing my husband and establishing some connection and confirmation that he was alright.  It was a blur.

And as I drove back to our condo, speaking to my brother, who offered to come over, listening to the news and dialing re-dial, my focus was getting home and getting answers from the UN.  I cannot recall if I spoke to my mom or my in-laws; I know I must have….but I was just focused on getting home.

When I got home, the number for the UN was on the side of the fridge and I called it, without taking off my jacket or putting down my bags.  I had to know if my husband was alright.  Imagine my surprise when the person who answered the Emergency Number did not even know that there had been an earthquake in Haiti and that I was educating her with my call.  I was so frustrated and the hope that I had been holding onto was tested with this call.

But my mom had taught me never to give up and never accept anything but the right answer.  Keep going!

And so I started calling my husband’s military family, to see if they could assist or direct me to someone who could help.  When you are married to someone in the military, you join their military family and that family delivered so much support that night, it was unbelievable.  Calls started being made, and offers to keep me company were made, but I needed to be on my own otherwise I would have gone into hostess mode and focused on others and I needed to keep my focus.  I did not want to be distracted from the news, redialing my husband and keeping the house line open for my husband to call.

During moments like this, you turn inwards.  I am a spiritual person, and I believe in trusting one’s instincts and feelings.  I knew that if something had happened to my husband, I would know.  I would feel it.  My instincts were telling me that he was alive.  I knew his daily schedule and typically, during the time that I was advised about the earthquake, he would have been on his way home, with the other Officers, and I imagined that he may be stranded on a roadway somewhere, but that he was safe…..I felt that he was safe.  That kept me going.

I found out about the earthquake at around 5pm.  And for 5 hours, I tried every means I could, to find out if my husband was alright.  Friends and family provided a lot of support and comfort.

Let him be alright, please let him be alright, was my mantra.  The news had started trickling in and the more I heard, the more I became scared.  Scared, but still full of hope.  I prayed a lot that night.  I definitely found strength through my spirituality.

And then a call…… husband called.  It was a very brief call – I’m alright.  I’m safe.  I love you.  He had limited time to speak but that was all that I needed.

I spoke to his parents and we rejoiced in the news that he was safe.  He had called them also and they too, were relieved beyond joy.

The next few days were focused on my husband.  I learned that as much as he downplayed things, he was actually within the UN building when it collapsed and was buried alive in debris, with concrete blocks falling on top of him.  He clawed his way out and was eventually air lifted to the Dominican Republic, where he was hospitalized for his injuries.  It was a lot to process.

We were fortunate that there was a student doctor at the hospital, from the States, and this doctor would email me photos and videos of my husband and provide me with updates on what was going on.  He instantly became a friend and knowing that after his long shifts, he would ensure that he was providing me with news, was above and beyond!

Eventually, the decision was made for my husband to be sent back to Canada, for further tests and I was beyond happy, because I had been strongly exploring going to the DR to check on my husband.  When he arrived in Toronto, it is all a blur.  I just remember he looked pretty banged up, but I was happy to have him home.

And then he told me – he had to go back, once he was cleared.  That the devastation that he had seen needed him to go back and help.

And so we put together supplies for him to take that might be in low supply and he left to go back to help.  He especially wanted to go back to check on the orphanage that he volunteered at every Sunday.  Every Sunday, which was my husband’s day off, he would cook pasta and pack bread and bananas and would spend the day at an orphanage in Haiti.  He would take toys and supplies to them.  He had become close with the kids.  He needed to make sure that they were alright.  And when he returned to Haiti, he learned that thankfully – they were.

Before the earthquake, my husband and I had started collecting food, clothes and other donations to send to Haiti.  Our friends, family and colleagues really came through and we had put together a storage locker full of supplies, which eventually, through the assistance of ONExONE and WestJet, was taken to Haiti after the earthquake.

The entire experience taught me so much.  I really learned through the experience, the power of your community and the support that you receive when you need it.  I also learned that for me, my faith and belief, really sustained me that night.

And so on January 13th, 2010, the day after the earthquake, I drove from our condo in Toronto, to our mandir in Burlington, after work, to do a prayer and give thanks to God, for protecting my husband.  And when I arrived at the Mandir, the Pundit provided such support and comfort, and again, I was reminded, that we are never alone.

We are all connected and you just have to be open to receive it all…..good and bad….

And I am just so thankful that my husband’s life was spared.  And that 11 years later, we have our family and that we are grateful….truly grateful for our blessings.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Hey Kiddo

I am sure that most people have read the Wall Street Journal Op Ed piece entitled, “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” The main focus of the Op Ed is to ridicule the incoming First Lady about using the title of Dr. in her name, after receiving her PhD in Education. I think that the critiquing articles eviscerating the writer of this Op Ed speak for themselves and I will not reiterate their arguments. What struck me when reading this Op Ed, was the opening:

Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name?

The writer dared to refer to the incoming First Lady as kiddo! And this struck a nerve, because it is a condescending term – one which I hear from a colleague at work all of the time.

Now my colleague is a work friend also and we are both partners, but in the last few months, he has been calling me kiddo and it has been leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Kiddo is a term used to describe someone younger.

Collins Dictionary states that ” You can call someone kiddo, especially someone who is younger than you, as a sign of affection.”

Well, I am definitely not younger than my colleague!

Fortune states:

But kiddo can also be patronizing and condescending, and while the person using the term may think of it as an expression of benign affection, it doesn’t always come across that way. For a young woman who is trying her best to be taken seriously, ‘kiddo‘ can very quickly wipe all that away.

And my discomfort with the term lies somewhere in between. I like working in a work environment where people work well together and really work in a team environment. That they are comfortable with one another. And so in that vein, perhaps the term is an acknowledgement of that comradery?

Listen – I am really trying.

I guess ultimately, I find the term disrespectful because it is a term used to acknowledge a difference in ….status. By calling me kiddo, the same way that the author of the Op Ed used it, it is used to be patriarchal and condescending. As if the person using it is wiser and is higher in status.

Or am I overthinking this? Am I making a bigger deal over a term that is probably used just as a familiar term. But in this day and age, maybe that term is not appropriate and needs to be eliminated from the work place language. Because whether we like it or not, the work place is a professional place and your image and how you are perceived make a big difference in your success and failure.

And we need to evolve. We need to acknowledge that language and definitions matter. That the way we speak to others, represents our biases and our feelings about others. And especially in the work place, terms like Kiddo, Missy and other such terms are just not needed.

But that does not mean that this erodes the team dynamic and takes away the familiarity – it just means that we are moving past antiquated phrases and ways of thinking and creating environments where people are appreciated for what they bring to the table and are not diminished into gender, racial or other such terms.

And so no more Kiddo for me. And if that affects our workplace dynamic, so be it. Hopefully, it will improve it for the better.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Agreement Sense

Happy 2021! Hopefully, we will start to see a bit of a return to normal this year. But it will definitely take time.

I, like many, have been doing a lot of reflection on happiness, inner peace and success. It has caused me to really think about moments when I have truly been happy. Such as when I was pregnant…. both times; a story left for a different day.

The other times I have been really happy is being a part of or working with a great team. I have been lucky to have that occur a couple of times during the course of my career but in fact the team dynamic that provided me with the most fulfillment was being part of a choir.

As you can tell from reading my blog, music has always been an important part of my life. There is a beauty in creating music that fills my soul. When I was younger, I did not necessarily understand the team work required to be in a choir. I was a singer and I loved to sing, so when I was in elementary school, singing with the choir, I sang loudly and did not try to blend my voice with the rest of the group. For me, the joy was simply singing.

But as I grew older and especially in high school, I was very blessed to have amazing music teachers and choir instructors, who introduced me to great music and harmonies.

The definition of harmony actually encapsulates what I love about being part of a choir:

1 : the playing of musical tones together in chords.

2 : a pleasing arrangement of parts a harmony of colors.

3 : agreement sense.

My favourite choirs were the Madrigal Choir and the Jazz Choir.

What is a madrigal?

A madrigal is a part-song for several voices, especially one of the Renaissance period, typically arranged in elaborate counterpoint and without instrumental accompaniment.

Whatever madrigals were, they were gorgeous. But for the beauty of those songs to come forth, the choir really had to listen to one another and sing and harmonize together. And when that happened, it was just awesome.

In Jazz Choir, again, the chords and melodies were more intricate and for the harmonies to work between the instruments and voices, again, everyone had to ensure they were listening and working together to create a great sound. That joy, when the music works, is indescribable. It really is holy.

So when I went to university and law school, the first thing I explored, even though I was not in the music program, was joining the University Choir. It was a lot of work, because you were singing with students who were full time music students but I have to say, those experiences really increased my skills and were very joyful.

In undergraduate, our concert choir performed Mozart’s Requiem. The entire piece, takes an hour to perform. It is a mass for the dead. The music is haunting and the harmonies and movements are just magnificent. I invited my parents and my brother to our performance because I honestly was so proud to be a part of this performance. I had no solo – I did not stand out in any way, but I was a part of the creation of the performance and it honestly felt amazing!

In reflecting on happiness and what makes my soul happy, I realize that once the pandemic is flattened, I would like to find another choir to join. Again, simply to be part of a group dynamic that creates beauty. There is nothing like it.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Feeling of Despair

I was listening this morning to the Breakfast Club on Flow 93.5 where callers were talking about the Breonna Taylor grand jury decision, the lack of police charges and the feeling of despair being felt by black women. One black female caller said it best – where and when have I ever had the opportunity to feel “safe”? That saddened me beyond belief.

The quote that has been resurrected at this time is by Malcolm X, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” How ironic that a quote from 1962 is as on point today as it was then!

We have been speaking about this case at home and have not shied away from discussing it with our young children. And to see the look of disbelief on their faces that someone could be shot, while sleeping in their bed, without any probable cause, is heartbreaking. And for the longest time, we have shielded our children from the realities of the outside world, so that they could have a “childhood” but being in a pandemic and the changes going on in the world; the bubble has burst.

It has been an especially sad week here in Ontario, to learn that a little 3 year old girl died because of lack of proper medical attention. She died of a strep infection that could have been treated with antibiotics, but every health practitioner she was seen by, or facility she was taken to, was too busy to see her or only did a cursory examination and no one took what the parents said seriously. Again, this really hit home, because I have young children and parents know their kids best and know when there is something more serious going on. To have that ignored and end up with such a tragedy, is heartbreaking.

And to top off this week, our COVID numbers are creeping back up to levels last seen in May, during the height. And knowing that we are going back into a lock down, really does cause more concern and fear. To hear the rhetoric of Trump on a daily basis. To explain to colleagues, why as a South Asian family, we will not be travelling to the US, in its current state……It all got to be too much!

And so, while I was driving to work today, the despair of this week, was too much and the sadness was too great to contain and the tears started falling down my face. And as I tried to wipe them away, I knew that the tears would be the only relief I would have in that moment, from everything I was feeling. So I stopped trying to wipe them away and let them be.

It is sad, in its truest sense of the word, that we are in this state of the world.

And I pray that things will get better. I pray that we will learn from these experiences. I pray that we will come out on the other side, in a better place, in a better mindset.

I think that’s all I can do today.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Deliberately not listening….

The preface for this is that I was running out of a prescription. I called my pharmacy and they advised that they had not heard back from the prescribing doctor and perhaps I should contact the doctor, to move forward the refill. And so I called….

The receptionist, at the doctor’s office, that answered, advised that indeed, their facsimile machine and emails were giving issues and that requests were not coming forward and so if I provided my information, she could move the request forward.

From speaking to the receptionist on the phone, the voice sounded like she was someone in her late 50’s, 60’s, Caucasian and was a pleasant and friendly person, who liked to engage with people.

And so when I provided her my first name, she complimented me on it and said that it was lovely, to which I responded thank you.

And then I provided her my obviously South Asian last name, to which she responded, “that’s just awful”……….

(pause – how to react? Think this through…)

If I ask her what she meant by that comment, do I jeopardize getting my prescription filled, which I need? Do I just let it slide? How can I comment back in a polite way that will make her understand how WRONG her comment was, on many levels? Will she understand the point that I am making? Will me pointing out the ignorance of her comment cause her to change….will it make a difference?

This is the thought process and problem solving analysis that is undertaken everyday by non-white people. And yes…even in 2020, even with all of social media and news media trying to get people to account for diversity and inclusion – with a lot of people, it is just noise. And apparently, I was speaking to someone who was just not listening to the change in the world around her and adapting. Probably – because she does not have to. At the clinic where she works, the majority of doctors are Caucasian. And others like me, who have encountered her special type of racism, have probably just brushed her comments aside, so that they could book an appointment, get a refill etc….

And I wish I could say that I challenged her. I wish I could say that she heard me, apologized and I still got my prescription filled. But after I did my analysis, I decided that getting my refill and moving this process forward, was more of a priority for me and that I did not have time that day, to educate.

I often do take the time to educate or address uncomfortable moments and comments, but that was not my day. Trust me – it gets tiring…..”are you Hindi and do you speak Hindu” type comments occur frequently and most days, I have the fight. But every so often, you don’t and she happened to come across me on one of those days.

And she is not alone. There are many more “people” like her, that populate the space around me, Canada and especially, our neighbours to the South in the United States of America.

And so when we wonder why the margin is so close leading up to the US election, know that a lot of the Trump supporters are a lot like this “person” I dealt with and they are not changing their ways. They know what they know, consider themselves “good people” and do not mean to be racist but just are. And they continue to occupy spaces that affect others, and so people toe the line, so as not to “move to the back of the line” in the process, that is controlled by this person.

And no surprise…I was notified by the pharmacy the next day, that my prescription was ready. And so I reached my end goal. And for this woman, she continues through her life, believing that she helps people and that she is a good person because she helped me get my prescription filled. But she is also a racist person and that too is a reality. The two are not mutually exclusive.

But I hope that some day, someone or something causes her to question how she operates in this realm of her life and …….the rest is up to her. I hope that she starts “listening”. Because there is plenty to hear!

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

The long and the short of it

I have long hair. My girls have long hair. And as you can imagine, when cleaning, there are a lot of long hairs, throughout the house. But cleaning long hair, in my estimation, is fairly easy to deal with it. If it is a strand, it can be picked up and put in the garbage. Multiple strains; either swept or vacuumed up.

However, short hair is a different kettle of fish. It is much more plentiful, harder to detect and not easy to pick up. Many times, sweeping and vacuuming, still result in uncaught little pieces of hair. It is frustrating, because all of your efforts can be for naught, especially when cleaning, as little hairs, can always be found.

And so for my analogy. Overt racism is much like long hair. You see it for what it is, and you can either ignore it or you can dispose of it. Either way, it is apparent.

Short hair – much like microaggressions, are challenging to deal with. You can spend a lot of time trying to address them, feel like you are making progress and then, there are always a few, hiding or challenging to dislodge.

However, microaggressions make you paranoid and constantly parsing, to determine if what you are experiencing, is just in your mind, or is actually occurring. And they are draining and insidious. And so what do you do? Do you ignore them, confront each one – what is the solution?

The one thing that I have learned, is that people can only make change or learn something new, if that desire is within. And what causes that change? My conclusion -that in order to stay with the times, you have to adapt – out of necessity. For example switching from paying for items with cash, to using a debit card. Probably not ideal for someone not trusting in technology. But as a result of ease, most stores having this technology and especially during the height of COVID, most stores not accepting cash, then change has to be adapted. It is a necessity.

And the same for racist ideology and microaggressions – once there is a change in society, where this type of behaviour is not rewarded, but instead, results in open reprimand for the actions (Amy Cooper from Central Park), only then, will change foster and develop. Because the necessity will be to discard this type of behaviour. Calling out racism in your restaurant, so as not to lose a large majority of your customers – again an economic necessity is driving this change.

Racism is a kaleidoscope. It is always changing and moving and having different permutations. It is only now that we are staring to address and right some of the wrongs transpiring. For instance language – realtors will no longer use the word Master Bedroom, but primary bedroom, given its roots in slavery. How does one describe racist language, which has just been incorporated into normal parlance and only now, is being analysed and being addressed as wrong? Blacklist is another example.

It is such an interesting time to see the move for change. The generation pushing for this change is making such a difference and I thank them for their courage, their voice and their need to make sure that long standing, institutional wrongs, are being addressed and removed or changed. In a year, where our hope has been challenged, it is nice to see hope blooming!

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Apathy and Acceptance

Apathy – lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

Acceptance – 1.the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered. 2. the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.

I am ashamed to admit that there have been times, where my apathy has been to benefit my acceptance. For this, I apologise. This has been bothering me for some time. With our society currently in a discussion and dissection of systemic racism, I know that there have been moments, where, in order to maintain my position in an organization, I did nothing or was apathetic. And that was to ensure that I was viewed as a part of the organization and not as an outsider.

As I am a woman of South Asian/West Indian descent, feeling like an outsider, throughout my career, has been constant and never ending.

To date, I have never had a superior that was non white, and very few women in the role. As a member of partnerships, I have for many years, been the “only”.

And there have been times, when I have been subject to subtle and overt racism, and sexism, and have said nothing. That’s my burden to bear. However, when I have been silent when watching it occur to peers, that is what I apologize for.

A friend of mine and I worked together for a brief period of time. He is Black. While we worked together, our superior constantly forgot his last name and referred to his last name, as Brown. Get it – because that was the colour of his skin! I forever would correct the superior, but in a polite manner, even though his use of this last name, was not being done politely. It was rude and racist. And even though I was correcting him, and chastising him, I knew that I had to be careful, because if I was too overt about calling this out to be racist, given that he was my superior, that could be the end of my career at the firm. But it has always bothered me, because it was just wrong.

Or when another friend of mine and myself, who was also Black, had to be subjected to this same superior retelling a skit he had seen on the Dave Chappelle show about the N$*#) Family. And this superior took great glee in recounting this skit, word for word, enjoying his use of the N word. I remember again thinking, this is just wrong. Our superior could tell we were both uncomfortable, because he was perceptive, but that fed into the moment of racial superiority and impunity for disgusting behaviour. And again, I was apathetic. I said nothing.

And ultimately, I did not want to be in the presence of this racist behaviour or be associated with it, and I left.

But what makes me so happy about the movement, the changes and the accountability that is going on, is that no one is seeking acceptance to fit in. Apathy is viewed as being complicit and so, you are either for the change and supportive of it, or you are not.

And people are having to rethink on their past (blackface photos, racist posts and language) and having to account for this behaviour.

Because actions from 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago –

people knew right from wrong,

racist from non racist,

sexist from non sexist,

homophobic from non-homophobic… the list goes on.

If I knew and felt at that time, that the behaviour was racist or sexist, then the deliverer of these remarks, also knew. They just knew that they could, because of their place in the hierarchy of power. And now this power structure is being attacked and dissected and being held accountable.

And this is not a bad thing. And because now, I am in a position to hold people accountable, I do. And I will never allow the need for acceptance to result in my apathy. I don’t need to be accepted. I know what I bring to the table. My value speaks for itself.

In the words of Sam Cooke, A Change is gonna come.

But that’s one Diva’s view.