Being an implant in Montreal who came here with minimal French, I spent the first year of my time in "la ville aux cent clochers" learning the language at a language school in the Plateau. While there, I studied alongside many immigrants and refugees alike. We bonded over the difficulty and beauty of our newfound second (or, for some, third) language and discussed what it was like to now be Montrealers.
During my time studying at this school, I came to understand the phrase "pure-laine" - which translates literally to "pure wool" and is often translated as "dyed-in-the-wool" - a term that refers to people whose ancestry is purely French-Canadian.
While this term isn't inherently racist, it does imply a purity that seems to be tied to the Quebec identity. The fixation on this purity has left a Quebecoise woman living in Montreal feeling the need to highlight the ongoing racism she faces in this city that is often lauded for its diversity and multiculturalism.
TL;DR After a lifetime of dealing with people's racist comments and actions, a Montreal woman has started to recount her experiences on her Facebook page called, "I'm not racist, but..."
In response to the microaggressions that this woman has been facing her whole life, she has started a Facebook page, where she documents her encounters and the encounters of her family, who are of Korean ancestry.
In an interview with Le Journal de Montreal, Caroline Kim explains why she started this Facebook group and her experience growing up as a "visible minority" in Quebec.
As she is quoted at Le Journal, she "was adopted by Quebeckers and grew up in Gaspésie" until she was 15 years old. She is now 39 years old and has an 11-year-old son.
Kim has also, unfortunately, noticed her son has become the target of hurtful comments.
She makes a point of explaining that it is not meant to, "change the world, but to educate people." As she notices her son starting to face the brunt of insults she's faced her whole life she feels the need to "deconstruct racism."
To do this, she says, "we have to name it. If we do not name it, it does not exist. With this page, people can get into my shoes and understand more easily."
The posts on the Facebook page are compiled from about twenty notebooks where she chronicled the racist experiences she's encountered in her life, along with the experiences of her family.
She also makes a point of explaining, "This page is not for complaining or doing "Quebec Bashing". I experienced racism all over the world. My goal is really to educate and put words on problems."
In a pinned post on the page, she even takes into account the page's own place in a cycle of racism and online hate.
In the pinned post she says:
"I have never noted the origin of the people who insulted me in my posts. Some took it for granted that I was verbally assaulted only by white Quebecers, which is not the case. In addition, I do not think Quebeckers, in general, are racist. However, I believe that there is a denial and a soft consensus on the fact that there is, despite the tangible evidence such as La Meute, the Federation of native Quebecers, or even some radio and newspaper columnists who exacerbate the hate for a little money. And clearly all the horrible trolls of the internet. And I consider it very dangerous. I asked myself a lot about the relevance, scope and impact of this Facebook page. Not just for me, but in general, too. I have been accused of bashing Quebec, treating them as settlers and portraying them as a whole bunch of racists. To incite hatred. These serious charges are heavy to bear and worry me. I am still thinking about it and I will see what I will do because I do not want to participate in the feeding of the popular aggressiveness."
(Translation is my own.)
She also explains that her goal with this page is to "provide a concrete understanding of what racism, in all its nuances, is in Quebec."
"There is a gradation of racism: to be called Chinese is not like being spit on," she admits. "I have never felt physically endangered in Quebec. But I quite often verbally abused, and obviously, it was painful. I believe that when we understand what racism is, we are better equipped to prevent it and react."
"I also hope that my page will make people think about the notion of Quebec identity. And that it will diminish the insults, but also the positive stereotypes, like those that the Chinese would be good in math for example. You have to understand that you are not racist, you become it, "she said.