How demographics influence choices people make

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Pradip Rodrigues

Over a decade ago, I met a white parent who told me her daughter was transferring from Sheridan College, Brampton to the Sheridan campus in Oakville because she felt like a fish out of water.

or the first time in her life, she was among a handful of whites on campus and the only blonde in her class, so the next year she fled to Sheridan, Oakville because there were fewer brown people. At that time, a good number of the students there were second-generation South Asians, many of whom were born and raised in Canada.

Last week I spoke with a Brampton parent who said that his own children as well as their friends would never consider attending Humber College or Sheridan College despite being very brown because those campuses were dominated by brown international students, mostly from India. There is a growing divide happening between South Asian students who were born and raised in Canada and international students who share the same cultural heritage but socially are poles apart.

Second-gen students off the record find the term international students to be a bit misleading because these students often come from rural or small-town Punjab and have matching mindsets that set them apart from the students who’ve grown up here. South Asian Canadian students feel that these fake students are only here to work and spend more time working than in class.

About 18 years ago, I met a white Brampton resident who was moving to Caledon because she was looking for a bigger house. At least that is the story she put out there, but on a bit of probing, she admitted that she was moving out because her neighbourhood had suddenly turned completely brown. Turns out that when she had bought into the new sub-division, it was very multicultural, but over time it changed. She assured me she had nothing against brown people but would like her children to grow up in a diverse neighbourhood.

I am sure many South Asians reading this may conclude that any white who moves out of a brown-dominated sub-division is racist and perhaps they do have a few racist bones in their bodies, but what about many South Asians, especially the more urbane and sophisticated individuals who turn up their noses at neighbourhoods and cities that are filled with immigrants of colour? And what would you call the second-generation South Asian brown kids who would never consider going to Sheridan college, Brampton because of its ‘international’ students?

How are South Asian politicians perceived by non-South Asian voters?

I met a person who is volunteering for a political party and trying to get the word out to people in his Peel Region riding to vote. I asked him about some of his more memorable experiences.

He spoke to a white voter who asked him to pronounce the name of the South Asian candidate twice and spell it once. Then he asked the volunteer if the candidate was Canadian. The volunteer assured him that his citizenship was legit, but then came the next question about whether the candidate would go on to advance the causes of his own community or would he also consider those belonging to other communities in the riding? The poor volunteer was at pains to explain. Other non-South Asians would vote for the candidate only because they wanted one particular party to win, not necessarily the candidate running. Many senior white Canadians peppered the volunteer with questions about the candidate and how deep was his involvement in the riding.

When the volunteer spoke to some of the South Asian women, it was apparent that they would only vote for the candidate of their husbands’ choice. Many South Asian women had no interest in Canadian politics, and it was sad that even if they did, many of them would follow their husbands’ directive. Some white residents on the other hand told this volunteer that his wife supported one party while he supported the other and they were fine with it. So much so there were signs of two parties on their front lawn. -CINEWS

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