TSNs-Gurdeep-Ahluwalia-and-Nabil-Karim-Twitter

It has taken me a bit to think about the recent kafuffle over the Sportscentre show on TSN last Tuesday (19 February 2013) (thanks for the edit AP).  If you aren’t aware, the show was hosted by Gurdeep Ahluwalia and Nabil Karim. A couple of homeys from Toronto.

Now in the ethnic mosaic that is Toronto, running into people named Gurdeep or Sanjay, or Xul Li, or Dieter or Jorge or Ahmad or Olympia or Ndongo or any number of fantastic names found across the globe, is pretty high. It is the beauty of our country, the mosaic versus the melting pot.

Two Canadian of Indo-ancestry hosting our national sports desk…we have made the big time. I hope it will soon become a non-issue like two women hosting the show, or a Canadian of Chinese ancestry as the news anchor on the National…can’t wait for other “firsts” to become non-issues too! There were a lot of positive comments about the “breaking story”, but…

You would think that after over a century and a half of immigration, we would come to realise that our diversity makes us strong and makes us better.  Well, you’d hope.  And most of us do. But evidently not. Take a peek…

2013 Spray Paint 12013 Spray Paint 2

2013 Spray Paint 4

Reading those tweets, I had a throwback to my youth, growing up around Danforth and Greenwood Avenues in Toronto in the early 70s.  At that time the “Asian Wave” was hitting Toronto. (Mind you the first “Asian wave” hit British Columbia in the 19th century during the Canadian National railway construction – flow interrupted by the Continuous Journey Regulation of 1908 that effectively managed any immigration from China, Japan and India until officially struck from the books in 1947!)

When I was young, the tormentors were the more established Greek and Italian kids, whose families had arrived a decade or two earlier. Historically I guess they had their initiation back then too, probably at the hands of the Scots, the Irish and the English!

Looking back, the taunts and events were comical in some regards. I remember one of my many fights involving a remarkably dense duo of eleven year-olds (I was 10), spray-painting a wall in the alley way we called Craven Avenue. Their message, a deeply imaginative “Packie Go Home!”.  I, a stereotypical Indian kid – good at spelling and math – could not take the insult and stupidity in silence. Indignantly I thought, at least if you are going to insult us, get it right…it’s P-A-K-I as in Pakistan.  Not P-A-C-K-I-E for packing something!! (BTW wiktionary defines  “packie” as a package store in Massachusetts) .  I proceeded to correct their spelling in a rather

at least they spelled it right...

at least they spelled it right…

excited and agitated way, following with my own taunt of,  “What, are you ignorant or somethin’?”  I think the question was rhetorical, but I didn’t really know what that meant in Grade 4. Anyway, the beating ensued, and I wish I could say I won – but I didn’t. I was just a nerdy Indian kid who went home crying and bleeding.  No worries, it wasn’t something a samosa and a glass of chai while watching an episode of Batman couldn’t fix!

Why were they like that? I remember my Dad teaching us to show respect to everyone. Colour, shape, abilities or disabilities meant nothing – we are all human and deserve common respect. I also remember my Dad telling me to turn the other cheek – not a bad use of a Christian adage by a Sikh chappie. But I also remember my Dad, as a young father – younger than I am now – chasing some asshole teenagers who had insulted his family in the park with racial taunts. I can only imagine how unfair he felt it was. He was just a fellow looking to set up a better life, in a better place, for his family. What did colour have to do with it?  He was working hard, he contributed to society, he paid taxes, he liked hockey and maple syrup; he wore a toque and shovelled the snow from his driveway like all other Canadians. He drank Red Cap and Black Label. Why was he any less of a Canadian, with any less of a right to be there, simply because he had more melanin or came from another culture?

Why don’t they just fit in and adapt to our culture?

Holy shit are you kidding me?  How much more can Gurdeep and Nabil fit in than hosting Sportscentre and talking about jams and flushes and biscuits and all that other jargon the sports guys throw about.

Now I can be a joker at times and I like to crack what I think are the occasional witticisms.And yes,  I have from time to time made an off-colour joke that has gone deep into “non-politically correct” territory – always followed by an immediate apology. So I get it  – once in a while we get it wrong. And no matter how educated and enlightened we are, we always have baggage. Maybe we are intolerant of the ridiculously liberal, the hard right, the deeply religious, the creationist, the evolutionists, the gun lobby, the oil people, the granolas…or whatever cause or ideology that causes us angst.  And I am sure we have had a not so kind thought to ourselves – but I am sure that we had our say using our “inner voice” only.

But I can’t understand these guys – the 2013 equivalent of my Grade 4 spray-painting buddies. What were they you thinking?   Twitter?  Yeah, that won’t go viral. And once you have put yourself out there, I don’t care what you say or what you think – you are forever known as The Racist.  Apologise if you want – you ain’t getting that spray paint off the wall.

So, whether it was a joke or not, the words were tweeted; the sentiment was expressed for millions to see. Their close-mindedness about what makes a Canadian, and what being a Canadian is all about, was evidently clear. These will be the same kind of guys who complain that the immigrants are stealing their jobs, the janitorial ones or taxi ones or fast food – you know, the ones that they are just lining up to apply for (not) – or that the immigrants smell like ethnic food…I have heard it all  before.

“Why don’t they just go home?”…followed by “just kidding”.

I am hoping that we have moved on from 1970s Toronto. But you know what, in the end it doesn’t matter. Because, when all is said and done, the immigrants will suck it up and carry on. They have done it for a century or a half,  whether they were British or French or ex-Black Slaves or Ukrainians or Slavs or Scandinavians or Australians or Asians or Arabs or Africans or South Americans or Central Americans…and on and on and on.

And perhaps they will, like I did, enjoy a wry bit of irony later. My Dad told me he ran into one of my childhood tormentors a couple of years ago – life as a late night parking attendant was suiting him fine. Maybe he should have learned how to spell…

Later,

ASF

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