If you live in Canada, it has been impossible to escape the national angst that resulted over the phrase “you people” used on Hockey Night in Canada on November 10th. Those two words have led to the end of a very long broadcasting career, and has created another crack in a seemingly fractured nation.

I do not want to add fuel to the fire by focusing on the individual, or what is being called unchecked political correctness, or an inappropriate expression of an older generation.

What I want to do is try to explain why I think “It” – the term “you people” – struck such a painful chord.

Though I am brown skinned, I am not thin skinned. I can take as good as I can give.

But I have spent a lot of my life bracing for the use of the phrase “you people”. It has been a constant reminder that at any time, anyone could judge me, categorize me, and group me simply based on my physical appearance, my ancestry, my background, or my actions.

It has not happened very often, but It has happened enough. It has been tossed about carelessly in conversations I am in; It has been thrown at me deliberately to score a point. There is no difference – both ways hurt just as much.

It has been used by anyone who has seen me as different – whether it has been my race, my nation, my profession, my experiences.

Sometimes It has come with a qualifier: paki, raghead, babykiller, warmonger, fatty, boomer, liberal, capitalist. The qualifier is irrelevant. It is not the classification that hurts, it is the dehumanization.

When it hear It, I am limited by whatever box the speaker has shoved me into. The speaker does not care about what I am doing, what I have achieved, what I aspire to. The speaker grants no consideration of me as an individual. Everyone who fits into the “you people” box they have created in their mind all have the same motives and shortcomings.

Some say It is a product of a different generation – one that is meant innocently to differentiate one from another.

I disagree.

It has been hurled at me by young adults, by middle-aged people, and elders. It has been chucked at me when I have been in uniform and in jeans. It has been used whenever anyone wanted to make sure I knew I was not like them.

Regardless of the intended use, “You people” is never received with joy. To those who are shoved into its box, it is rife with meaning, full of implications, and it comes from a platform of ignorance. It reeks of division, of separation, of non-acceptance. It disqualifies any attempt to understand who I am as a person.

It is the clear expression that I will never be part of “us” no matter what I do, or how I behave, or what I achieve.

I know I am different. I am a Sikh. I am a veteran. I am now a senior citizen.

I have been a minority where the culture, religion, politics, ethos, and values are not the same as mine. I have struggled with the afflictions that come from a life lived hard.

But all these things have shaped me and make me who I am.

Every group has bad apples. But that doesn’t justify the classification of the whole as “you people”.

I share an ancestry with others of my heritage, but we are not “you people” . We are sons and daughters, or mothers and fathers, all who are trying our very best to take care of our families.

We are all individuals who share from a common array of frailties, who confront similar but unique challenges, and who experience a shared range of joys.

None of us should ever be referred to as “you people”. It is at its best dismissive; it is at its worst dehumanizing.