Being Mixed-Race in Canada
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Interracial couples are still a small minority among couples, anywhere you live, wherever you go. It is true that their number has gradually increased in recent times, particularly in societies with multicultural population. Still, it remains a rare phenomenon. A 2011 survey estimated that 4.6 percent of all married and common-law couples in Canada were in mixed unions. For a country that had 22.3 percent of its population belonging to a visible minority group, 5 percent seems low.
Of course, this is not all too surprising when we look at history. I recently discovered, for instance, that interracial marriage was illegal in the United States until fifty years ago. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage during the now famous 1967 Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia. If the court showed a certain progressive stance at the time, it was not reflected among the population: 72 percent of Americans opposed the court’s decision.
Mentalities have changed. Societies have evolved. Developed countries, and particularly metropolitan cities, are becoming less homogeneous. Walk down the streets of London, for instance, and you will witness a wide array of skin tones and ethnicities. Familiarity then brings friendlier feelings. From there on, it is only a matter of time before younger generations start to mix.
I tend to be very aware of the people surrounding me. When I enter a room, I often scan who populates it. I want to know if I am going to stand out, or blend in. I want to know if I will be stared at, or if I am going to be another human among a sea of bodies.
That’s the problem with being mixed-race. You don’t have a race. You don’t belong. You stand out wherever you are. I might be black in this country, but I am white in another.
Naturally, I tend to look for people like me. Seeing other mixed-race people brings me comfort. In my head, it seems to signal that people around here must be tolerant, open-minded. That love truly has no color. Those thoughts are completely subjective, but it is definitely an important criterion for me to decide where I want to live.
Belgium is a pretty mixed country, I would say. More so than many developed countries I have visited. Well, I should be more specific here. If you ever get the chance to visit my beautiful country, you will most probably see Afro-European citizens. And their number is increasing. Mixed-race babies are popping up all over the country. Each time I see a mini-me, with fluffy hair, chocolat-au-lait skin and big brown eyes, my heart melts.
I kind of always assumed that other developed countries would have similar mixed population. I quickly realized, once I started travelling outside of Belgium and France, that it wasn’t actually the case. Interracial couples, and mixed-race children, were not as common of a sight. I discovered more segregated societies, particularly in North America and South Africa.
One can already notice it while watching American movies and TV shows. More often than not, the cast will be quite diverse. Producers are very sensitive to the politically correct, and will thus consistently include at least one person from a visible minority group in the picture. Representation is of course important, but attentive viewers will also realize that love interests and relationships will almost exclusively be between two people of the same race.
Of course, once I started thinking about it, the reasons why became clearer. Those societies had been segregated by law for a long time. People were literally forbidden to date people of another race. Of course it'd have repercussions still felt today, but not only. North America is a region filled with immigrants. Filled. People have come there in masses for centuries. Migrating to a new country is difficult. I am experiencing it first hand. We seek familiarity. We seek home. It thus seems normal that people would tend to stay with people that share the same culture, the same language, the same skin tone.
Those thoughts reflected what my boyfriend was telling me about his life in Toronto, Canada, when I myself was still in Belgium. He mentioned that although there was a significant percentage of visible minorities living in Toronto, communities were more segregated than in Belgium or England. People tended to stick together to the point that whole neighborhoods sometimes take the name after the dominant minority inhabiting the area. I am thinking of course of Chinatown, or Little Italy. Mixed-race couples were a rarer sight.
Once we moved to Ottawa, I paid extra attention to the diversity of the population. I wanted to know if the city was going to reflect my previous observations. I was happy to see people of color walking down the streets in downtown. But I couldn’t see me. I couldn’t see my boyfriend. Again.
I felt disappointed, and I raised the issue to him. He was quick to contradict me – one of his specialities. He made me realize that although multiracial couples and mixed-race children were less common than in Europe, it didn’t mean that it would always be the case – or that mentalities were not changing. It might be less common, but I wasn’t looking in the right places. It is once I started looking at a younger crowd that I saw it. I saw Black, Asian, Native and White children hanging out together. I saw multiracial couples too.
My partner told me to pay attention, and wait. Mixed-race children would come; we were just among the first.
Ottawa is a lovely city, which reflects the current state of the world. It is moving, evolving, opening itself to new ways of understanding multiculturalism; not as a multitude of distinct cultures, but rather as a mix-and-match of what everyone has to offer.
What a beautiful world we live in.