Raising Awareness Against Discrimination
Updated: Feb 14, 2021
I have recently been learning a lot about discrimination. I have personal experiences of injustice, but usually, I would stay quiet because it does not "really" affect me. But at some point, that "really" get piled up over time. The aforementioned is a classic pattern of what people call the "slight edge" or "compounding effect." Small things may be significant at first, but little things can pile up into something significant if not paid attention to overtime.
I learned from a friend who is also a business expert from New Zealand, Nick Macklin, that the compounding effect is too complex for many to understand. In my opinion, we may not eliminate discrimination. It may disappear for a short period, but it will keep persisting in the long term. I think it is part of human nature. But, it makes me ponder about why people discriminate and what we should do about it.
I have a Christian perspective on this, but I would like to discuss why I am raising awareness against discrimination and why I would like to communicate to the community using basic human logic. With this language, I would reach out to many people and various places in the world.
Alright, storytime. Once I met a guy to show a place he was renting. He tried to be friendly and asked me where I came from. I told him that I am from here, in Canmore. He responded, "that's nice, but you do not look like Canadian." I replied: "I am Canadian." He was still not convinced and asked me where I am actually from. I realized suddenly, he wanted to know my background but do not know how to ask me. For the sake of avoiding awkwardness, I gave him the answer he was looking for. "I am originally from the Philippines," I responded.
I guess, in a way, it was harmless. It is a tiny event, but since living in Canada in 2009, I have repeatedly experienced this pattern. It gets tiring. The compounding effect of it is becoming notable recently. I mean, I rarely ask Caucasians where they are from unless they tell me or if I genuinely want to know. I think it is now becoming a culture to ask immigrants where they are from, but the intention is not genuine. I think it is time now we step up and talk more about it.
Okay, if at this point, you still do not understand what I mean, thank you, but I do not want to waste your time as I have more complicated things to say. For those who are still reading up to this point, thank you for your continuous support.
Here's another story: I walked into the cashier at a gas station to pay. She was excited to see a fellow Filipino and asked me: "Pinoy ka?" (translation: Are you Filipino?). I responded: "Opo, kumusta?" (translation: Yes, how are you?). During our conversation, she asked me where is my workplace. I responded that I work at the Canmore Recreation Centre. She reacted: "Oh my, you must work so hard because that is a big building to clean!"
I just laughed because she assumed I am cleaner. Which in a way is true, cleaning is an essential skill. Also, I have nothing against cleaners because I have been a housekeeper for several years. It is a very respectable job, and I am proud to be a janitor. I am saying that assuming someone's employment based on their demographics can be dangerous over time. The Filipinos are labelling themselves as janitors, and the community are stereotyping us. But just like everyone else, we have plenty of skills and talents to share. For me, I have my fitness, music and arts to share with the community.
Since we discuss skills, let's distinguish the difference between having language barriers and poor communication skills. Both are obstacles to effective communication, but there is a contrast between the two. Not because someone has a language barrier means that person has poor communication skills. Sometimes, those who have poor English or strong accents may have more robust communication skills than native English speakers. Sometimes, those people with language barriers have more honest thoughts to say. We should never judge people without enough reason.
Usually, people who struggle with the language barrier would not understand an English speaker right away, especially recent immigrants. When they do not understand something, they may ask the English speaker to repeat what the other person said. Unfortunately, the English speaker will re-phrase what he said, which creates confusion with the English learner. Worse scenario, the English speaker will repeat what he or she told but louder. Immigrants may perceive it as raising their voice or rude, especially if they are new to the western culture. Sometimes it can result in an immigrant saying yes to everything even though they did not understand to avoid the risk of being "yelled at" again. I have been telling people that chances are you need to repeat exactly what you said slowly and respectfully so that we can understand you better. Have compassion and imagine yourself in our shoes. What is it like when nobody can understand you?
This incidence of miscommunication due language barrier can happen a lot with the housekeepers. A manager will ask a housekeeper to do a task, the cleaner did not understand, and the manager will be mad. I am specifying the hotel industry as an example since I had this first-hand experience. Also, I had many friends who experienced the same thing with hotels and restaurants.
Alright, trivia time! In Western culture, it is taught that good eye contact is a sign of effective communication, confidence, politeness, and honesty. We may also say that sometimes, there is inappropriate eye contact. But did you know that eye contact is not as valued the same way in the eastern culture? In fact, in Japanese culture, people are taught not to maintain eye contact because it can often be considered disrespectful. Here is my link as a reference to that fact statement.
Generally, most Asians will not maintain eye contact the way it is in western culture. So next, when you meet someone who is not maintaining eye contact with you, do not assume that person is dishonest. On top of the housekeeper's struggles with the language barrier, they also experience accusations because of their inferior status, lack of reputation, race, lack of eye contact, demographic discrimination or whatever combination there is. Some hotel guests are stressed out, and the way they release it is by forgetting their basic humanity since "they are on vacation." To feed their ego and make more money, the hotel will value the quote "the customer is always right." Unfortunately, hotel workers are prone to accusations of theft. Not just me but many other workers have experienced false allegations. When the accused is proven not guilty, the accuser will sometimes apologize and leave some money. But the damage is done to the accused.
A tourist town, such as Banff, has those temporary holiday visa workers from wealthy countries such as Australia, the UK, Germany, etc. Many of them are young and full of energy, be irresponsible, party, do drugs and leave a mess in our country since they won't get into trouble. A worse scenario for them, they can go back to their home countries. Unfortunately, the reputations of actual immigrants are affected by this. I had my challenge even though I am already a Canadian citizen in finding a hotel job because employers in Banff think I could be one of those temporary holiday visa holders.
It's a chaotic mix, and I do not know an immediate resolution to this, and many immigrants suffer from discrimination. I can only think of theoretical solutions such as the immigrants' empowerment, maybe re-assessing the work holiday visa program favouring the immigrants, etc. As I mentioned earlier, discrimination will not disappear completely, but perhaps we can start talking about it more. Last time, Canada raised awareness about mental health such as depression and anxiety using hashtag #letstalk. Maybe this time, we can also talk about how minimizing discrimination can help us defeat mental health issues in our community. I mean, it sucks to be discriminated against, but it also feels worse to be the one who has a prejudice toward others.
Historically, the world witnessed wars and plagues that started from unfair treatment of others. Our genes survived that, and our ancestors worked hard on finding a compromise with all our differences. We realize diversity is an asset in building a strong community. But we need to talk more again because discrimination is threatening our important asset - diversity.
In my experience, it has been difficult for someone experiencing discrimination to speak out, given their challenges. Some people are afraid to lose their jobs. Some are fearful that if they step up against racism, they might destroy their relationship with that person. Some want to live a peaceful and quiet life.
After emphasizing with fellow immigrants' experiences, I understood that they would not just step up, but they need to see role models who will. In my way, I can not step up to every discriminatory experience I will ever have. But I know that I can use some of my skills and talents to contribute to the community. In a way, this blog is just another reminder that we need to be more watchful of discrimination and protect diversity.
Discrimination will come in many forms since it won't just disappear. Who knows, maybe at some point, I may be the one who unjustly discriminates against others - I hope not. Life can bring plenty of surprises (such as Covid-19, for instance). My intention in this blog is to raise my campaign against discrimination in my humble ways. I will also use music and arts as a medium to convey my message to the community.
At the end of 2020, I created a virtual choir called "The Canmore Singers." The idea is to use technology to keep a choir group while the members are in the comfort of their homes while waiting to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic. I also think a choir group is a perfect example of diversity using different vocal ranges to blend into a piece of harmonious music. So far, I have met fascinating members mainly from Canmore and various places in the world. We currently have about 17 members. Our debut performance is on March 20, 2021.
Next in my project is supported by organizations such as the Bow Valley Immigration Partnership, ArtsPlace, Canmore Filipino Canadian Society, Mountain FM, Canmore Theatre and many more to help me with my advocacy. June 2021 will be the Annual Filipino Heritage Month in Canada, and I will be highly involved in teaching people about the Filipino culture and history and who we are now. We will host art shows to educate the community about the Philippines. We are also looking to have the Filipino presence in the parade for Canada Day on July 1.
Lastly, in July 2021, I will have an art show featuring the arts I created while travelling across Canada. I have been planning this show since 2015. It will be mainly landscapes of the places I have been to, starting from the Pacific Ocean coast to the Atlantic Ocean coast, tentatively hosted at the Canmore Recreation Centre.
Most of this will be promoted in social media, Mountain FM radio station and newspaper prints in Canmore. If you want to contact me for more information, you can hit the "Let's Chat!" button at the bottom left corner of this page. You may also lookup Jyn San Miguel on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Or you can use this link to contact me.
Canmore during Polar Vortex in Feb 2021
I am fundraising to help a good friend from the Philippines suffering from Stage 3 Liver Cancer. I am doing a daily 25 pushups for 365 days, and as of today, February 13, 2021, I am on day 320 with not a day missed. My pushup videos are uploaded on my Facebook page. A minimum of $5 donation will go a long way. Here is the GoFundMe link: gf.me/u/zhscn9
Thank you for your kind support!