Source: Wikimedia Commons

I’m surrounded by intelligent and compassionate white people. They are woke and ambitious to make the world a better place.

See where I’m going with this? Okay, slow your roll and let me set the scene.

It’s my friend’s birthday, and we’re at brunch on the patio of a local diner, playfully relating the week’s domestic horror stories, as the middle-aged do. In attendance: the woman of the hour, her teenager, her older sister, our mutual friend, and me. They’re all white, and I’m all beige.

As the server delivers greasy delights and refills mugs, we bounce between the usual…

City street in daytime with a treelined streets and a car in the distance.
Source: K. Eslah

Three years after my family of origin immigrated to Canada, we moved to Flemingdon Park in east-end Toronto. Today, it seems like an unlikely move for my parents, knowing their aspirations for wealth and status. Back in the 90s, Flemingdon Park was profiled as a ghetto, and only mentioned in news stories about daytime shootings.

While my parents remained unimpressed during our five-year residence, I thought it was the most wonderful neighbourhood I had ever lived in. It was the first time since moving to Canada that I didn’t feel othered. It was the first time that I attended school…

Woman in orange t-shirt looking at lush grassy field and blue sky.
Source: K.Eslah

I courted romantic love very early on. It was the time before the Internet and there was one TV channel. Having relationships was a form of entertainment, particularly for young women whose parents were preoccupied with themselves.

The thrill of flirting was better than any Harlequin novel I’d ever poured over, and I dressed with more intention than I ever would. For hours, I daydreamed about running into my crush in an empty school hallway. Behind my closed bedroom door, I practiced alluring lines, coquettish smiles, and kissing my own hand. …

My family of three was out for an evening walk, taking in some fresh air before we plant ourselves on the couch for videos games. We live an easy life: our house belongs to us and it’s a safe space, the fridge is filled with fresh foods, and our greatest health concern is plaque buildup. While we’re invested in the social justice issues, which stream in via public radio broadcasts, our direct experiences with discrimination and prejudice are few and far between.

Our walks take us through our blended community of haves and have-nots. It’s residential and nestled up to…

Blurred shot of leaves on the ground.
Source: K.Eslah

I’m biased, towards everything and everyone. Skin colour, accents, professions, clothing choices, grocery cart contents, front lawn landscaping, you name it. My mind supplies me with a steady stream of judgements, and I waste a fortune in time filtering through its bigotry and prejudice. It’s a cumbersome process but it keeps me from believing the irrational stories I conjure to explain things I don’t like or I don’t understand. Also, it helps me hold conversations without committing hate crimes.

Keeping my dimwitted ideas to myself, about why bad things happen to some people and not others, is a full time…

Snowy driveway between houses with footprints leading to the road.
Source: K.Eslah

I think I could get in touch with my feelings better if someone stabbed me.

A psych experiment — that didn’t end in murder — so I could test my theory.

Ever since starting meds, which have (graciously) stopped my desire to die,

My range of emotions is contained by a dam, and I can’t enjoy a good cry.

A stabbing is jarring, it’s violent — an event that might flood the dam.

With blood gushing from me, surely I wouldn’t dully compare it to jam.

This sounds petulant, I know. Me whining, “Boo-hoo me, I can’t feel down.”


Photo of blue sky, light post and one bird circling.
Source: K.Eslah

You know me for being rigid. It’s not news. I struggle with generating new ideas and I struggle harder with accepting new ideas. Why fix what’s not broken? Why not duct tape what is broken? Why not learn to live without the broken thing (so it doesn’t break your heart again — I’m talking to you, ramen-place-that-won-me-over-and-then-closed)?

When you fawn over a new gadget or technique to manage your love life, children, closets, career, attic full of racoons, I nod politely while inside I’m rolling my eyes so hard it’d win me a Teen Choice award. …

Frozen lake with mist and trees in background.
Source: K. Eslah

I miss my mother. I heard birdsong, I missed her. I watched a film, I missed her. I spotted a yellow rose and I missed her.

Mothering isn’t akin to breathing, and I wish it were. I have always wanted to be essential to my mother’s existence. Why is my absence bearable? How could she go on living without me?

My father took my place, or my father had always held that place. His need for mothering subverted mine. There had been no place for us, born to a woman consumed with mothering her husband.

Maman told me I was…

Car interior, looking out onto a bridge and cityscape
Source: Kimia Eslah, 2005

The library is racist,
and Quick Becky asked how I know it.

Like the police and the hospital, it’s systemic.
Probably, the numbers would show it.

Kind Becky was incredulous,
“Were they racist to you?”

Were they racist to me?
Curious Becky’s question isn’t anything new.

She’s asking for facts, irrefutable.
She wants evidence, indisputable.

She loves the library,
“It’s a safe space.”

I love(d) the library
but I enter with a brave face.

No one’s burned a cross in effigy.
No one’s refused to serve “my kind.”

No one’s hurled a slur at me. …

Photo of blue sky, light post and one bird circling.
Source: K. Eslah

Do you know what it’s like to feel anxious each time you utter your name?

Like when you introduce yourself to a prospective boss? Or give your name, along with your order, at a coffee counter? Or, at a club, when you whisper-shout your name into the ear of a hottie?

I don’t share a name with Karla Homolka. My surname isn’t Hitler. It doesn’t rhyme with any body parts.

My anxiety’s rooted in one of those B-list racisms that don’t make headlines or Human Rights tribunals. It’s the effect of suffering repeated microaggressions — acts of discrimination that are…

Kimia Eslah

Brown mother. Third Wave feminist. Trauma survivor. Author of The Daughter Who Walked Away. Find solace in our shared experiences at

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