I remembered the day I was told I was a woman of colour, I remembered how it happened. It was in a white featureless classroom, and while I’m not sure about the weather, I would dare to say that it was grey and cold. I’m entirely sure it happened at some point in late September or maybe early October. It happened while I was part of class that most classmates seemed or pretended to enjoy, but I hated it!
And there we were, learning about research and interviews. We were supposed to explore the interview roles: interviewer and interviewee (being interviewee one of the easiest words I learned during my first term at my Women’s and Gender Studies classes). We were assigned random partners and I was incredibly happy that my teammate was someone I actually like (I dislike some classmates in a way I find hard to describe with words). The topic of our interview was education, yes, that broad and limitless topic. So I wrote my questions, and reviewed them many times to make sure there were grammatically correct –I was still very new at writing English at a university level-.
I started talking to my partner and once again, I was so happy she was my teammate. She was nice, friendly, and at that stage, I wasn’t familiar with kindness and friendliness –that actually seem honest and not fake-from my classmates at all. She made me felt understood; she was not very fond in feminists herself, though she enjoyed the classes. She said she didn’t feel part of that close feminist group in our Department and I was so relieved to hear that: it is not me I thought, they are these strange people around me. And this is when she said, Because we, as women of colour…
I stopped listening, although I pretended that I was still taking notes. We, as women of colour.
Once home, I told my Muñequito. I’m not a woman of colour, I’m Mexican, I’m mestiza, I’m not a woman of colour. I was not offended, I just completely disagreed with the statement. I wasn’t sure what it meant, I didn’t understand its political and social implications.
But eventually I gave in; after how long? A few months. Why? I don’t know, maybe because I realized it was true. In Mexico I never questioned my racial identity. I always saw myself as a mestiza, and I saw my classmates from the northern hills of Puebla and my blue-eyed friend as mestizos too. I never thought of my mum as a white woman or my grandma as a woman of colour. My mum, grandma and I were born in Mexico, therefore we were all Mexican mestizas and that’s it.
But here in Canada, there is not such a thing as mestizos, there are white people, like all my new extended family, and the rest. And that rest, is formed from a huge diversity of people. There are indigenous people, like the Musquem people which two blocks away from my house are trying to claim a piece of land has always belonged to them. There are lots of Chinese people, East Indians, Iranians and pretty much people from all around the world. And all of us, all that non-white group, we’re sometimes called visible minorities. And the women, we are women of colour.
I won’t go into all these feminist theories, concepts and ideas I’ve learned about women of colour –how we’re so clearly different from white women, how we’ve been ignored by first and second wave feminism, the importance of post-colonial theory etc.-. I’ll just say that I remembered when I was told I was a woman of colour. Now I know that my original struggle with the concept was rooted in my lack of understanding and unfamiliarity with the term. Nowadays, time and experience in this country had made me realized how proud I am to be a woman of colour.
Another time I’ll write about those experiences…