The difference between ethnic and White neighborhoods

Pradip Rodrigues

As more neighborhoods across the GTA transform into heavily ethnic enclaves,sikh 1 many ethnic residents who’ve ‘arrived’ feel compelled to move into Whiter neighborhoods which are perceived to be more prestigious.
I was recently invited to the home of a South Asian acquaintance I knew over a decade ago but lost touch.I had visited his old home in Brampton, but now he told me he had broken out of the hood. In the new neighborhood most of his neighbors were all gora, he said this to me with obvious pride. I am sure he would be very disappointed if another brown person moved into the neighborhood, he had atleast one thing in common with the rest of his neighbors. Now Al (name changed) and his wife are social animals who’d sink into depression if they weekend fix of socializing, schmoozing and entertaining, so I enquired if he socialized with his ‘gora’ neighbors like he did back in his Brampton neighborhood. He’s moved three years ago, but that has yet to happen, he is still hopeful to have atleast his immediate neighbors over for a drink or dinner, and no, he has never seen the inside of any of their homes. Ofcourse they all wave at him enthusiastically as they pass him by, occasionally stopping to talk about the lawn, the weather or both. Despite changing their address geographically, he only seems to share a great deal of chemistry with his good old loyal South Asian friend circle most of whom live in Mississauga and Brampton neighborhoods which are the opposite of his- full of desis.
Back when Al was living in his modest Brampton home I recall him telling me just how much he loved the neighborhood. His retired Sikh neighbor kept an eye on his home and reported if any strange person came by. There were two other neighbors who also kept a close eye on his home, it was like having a free security service. His children were young and he had half a dozen neighbors with whom he could leave his children when they had to deal with something urgent, they would feed and even put them to sleep, they treated their children like family . One time his wife had a medical emergency and all the desi neighbors on the street offered to help out in cooking, watching the children and taking and dropping them off to school.
As Al sat in his palatial home in a neighborhood filled with attractive Caucasian men and women sauntering or jogging past every now and again, I wondered if he missed his old neighborhood. Sure having Caucasian neighbors is like so much eye candy, but somehow I just felt he was out of place. I could not imagine his neighbors ever offering to babysit his children even in an emergency, they wouldn’t want to be held liable for anything. I am doubtful if he could ever have scheduled a same day one-hour play date for his kids when they were younger.
Having known and lived in exclusively Caucasian neighborhoods as a visitor in the US and once as a homeowner in Canada, the one thing that strikes you is that Caucasians will guard their privacy at all costs. As long as you talk about the weather, dogs, gardening or something really general, most Caucasians are fine, but try to get to know them better, ask them questions about their lives and invariably they will grow aloof and keep their distance, unless one forgets to take her meds and has a total emotional meltdown and then you’d be wishing she’d respect your privacy.
I know a desi who once saw the ambulance stop at his neighbors and take the husband to the hospital, after it left, he rushed over to offer any help and enquire what had happened. The wife gave him such a hostile look, told him it was nothing serious and thanked him for asking before shutting the door. He has since learnt his lesson and keeps to himself.
While privacy is a big thing for Caucasians and many other Canadians, it is also a convenient cover for covert racism. In the old days many visible minorities endured racial slurs and epithets, times have now changed and I do believe that racism has gone underground. You can see it everywhere if you know what to look for, for example, in the workplace or neighborhood, you may see Caucasian associates or neighbors hang out, talk for hours and show real warmth. But when confronted with a visible minority, they will politely smile, say hello and offer little else. They don’t want to get to know you. Many visible minorities choose to believe that these co-workers or neighbors are ‘quiet’, ‘shy’ or ‘very private’, but the truth is often something that is harder to accept.

Pradip Rodrigues started out as a journalist at Society magazine, part of the Magna Group in Mumbai. He wrote extensively on a variety of subjects. He later moved to the Times of India where he was instrumental in starting the now defunct E-times, a television magazine. He conceptualized Bombay Times and became its first assistant editor where he handled features and page three. Since coming to Canada in 2000, he has freelanced for newspapers and magazines in India and written autobiographies for seniors.

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