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Through My Eyes: Uncovering my black experience in Toronto

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By Lidia Abraha 

Trying to uncover my black experience in Toronto has been somewhat difficult. Unlike what I’ve been told from family members that once lived in the city, it’s no safe haven. But it’s definitely different than my hometown in North Carolina, and I’m still trying to figure out if that’s for better or worse.
Being black in the “Bible Belt” really is something else. You’re bombarded with confederate flags, micro-aggressions, and worst of all, you actually become terrified of the world you live in.
We’re too scared to go to unknown parts of town, the paper bag rule is used as a term of entrance into frat parties, and people will call you the “n word” with no hesitation.
In North Carolina, I remember being pulled over at 11 p.m. My heart was racing as the white police officer approached my car. I wasn’t scared of getting a ticket, but because I thought it was going to turn into some #JusticeForLidia type shit.
Once, when another black girl hit me in the face, the police officer assumed that it was a family dispute and saw no urgency to arrest my assailant. When I explained that we weren’t related, the girl had gotten away.
When I found out I was moving to the city, I had somewhat high expectations. This was when I first became woke, and started lining myself with the black panther party, and I thought that what I really needed was to LEAVE AMERICA. I started to view my move to Toronto as a new chapter in my black experience, but so far, it hasn’t been as satisfying as I thought it’d be.
For one, I expected there to be a lot more black people. I can count the number of black students in my first year journalism program on one hand. I have no racialized professors, and I haven’t seen any diversity in the faculty.
Just the other day, my journalism professor (a white, blonde women), lectured the class on diversity in the field. Not only was the lecture dull, but I couldn’t take anything she said seriously.
How am I supposed to take advice from a woman who will never know the experience of racialized reporters?
One thing I had back home was a tight community of African Americans, where we can share the burden of our struggles and discuss the issues at hand. But here, the few black students I’ve met get uncomfortable with talking about black issues.
I’ve also noticed that the white Canadians also get uncomfortable, and they’re so quick to change the topic to anything other than black lives. Why is that? Why don’t black lives matter in Canada?
I’ve been doing my research and I found that black issues really aren’t talked about in this country. There’s nothing from Statistics Canada on how many times black people have been targeted, or how many of their lives have been taken from police.
At least in the U.S. people will say they hate you cause you’re black to your face. But here, people just keep it to themselves; implicitly creating this wall between the races.
Then again, it’s only been a few months since I became a resident of Toronto, and there’s still a lot of the city I have left to see. Hopefully, this place won’t let me down.

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