POINT OF VIEW — Self-love and being half Black. What I’d tell my younger self
It’s OK to be upset by racism
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mairin Paterson, 15, is from London, Ontario. In 2020, she was the face of the Thames Valley District School Board's iPledge anti-bullying campaign. CBC Kids News asked her to share some advice for Black kids, based on her own experiences.
Growing up, I always felt a little out of place.
Even growing up in one of the most diverse areas in Canada (Mississauga, Ontario), I still felt long stares from white people in restaurants, and no one ever seemed to be able to believe that I was half Black.
I’ve always felt like a Black person, and the people close to me agreed, but some people looked at me and saw someone different.
At school, the way I acted was considered “too white,” introducing me to the stereotypes of how Black people were “supposed” to act.
As I got older, my experiences became less subtle and more hostile and I found myself unprepared for a lot of the experiences that would follow.
Now, at age 15, I have gained knowledge that would have made my experience as a younger person less of a struggle.
Mairin Patterson’s mom, pictured here, is white and her dad is Black. (Image submitted by Mairin Patterson)
Here are four things I wish I knew when I was younger.
1/ What I was feeling was valid
As a kid, I didn’t really have a word to put to the discrimination I was facing, and the emotions I was feeling because of that.
It was really confusing, especially with everything going on in my life growing up.
No one really told me that racism was a thing, and especially not a thing that I could (and would) experience.
2/ It’s OK to get upset
Once I figured out that I was experiencing racism, and why, I was upset.
It was a lot to process.
It was even harder to deal with how I felt when I actively experienced discrimination.
For example, in Grade 8, some of my classmates openly expressed their hatred for me for being outspoken about being Black.
When people said things I disagreed with, I spoke out against it, saying it was wrong, and for that I was bullied.
They made me feel like I was overreacting, or that my experiences were unimportant, but they were wrong.
Mairin and her friend Liz are seen attending the Western Fair, an outdoor carnival in London, Ontario, in 2019. (Image submitted by Mairin Patterson)
Racism and how you deal with it is your own, and you are allowed to get upset or be angry.
To help shine some light on how to deal with those feelings, I reached out to other Black people in my family and my community
I talked with them about my experiences.
It also made me feel less alone, knowing that I wasn’t the only one who felt upset and attacked when I was discriminated against.
3/ I needed to advocate for myself
I learned pretty quickly that no one was going to speak up for me when it came to issues of racism, and that I would need to do it for myself.
Unfortunately, it took me a long time to develop the confidence to do so.
Those feelings of self-doubt and “over-reaction” came back every time I tried to say something.
Mairin and her mom, when Mairin was about seven years old. (Image submitted by Mairin Patterson)
Knowing that my experiences were real and my feelings were valid led to me gaining confidence to be able to say something when I needed to.
The fact that other Black people and people of colour felt the same way helped me fight the fear and doubt I felt when talking about the discrimination I was facing.
4/ Being Black is a beautiful thing
I’ve always lived mainly with my mom, who is white, and I had been disconnected from my dad’s family for a few years after we moved from Mississauga, Ontario, to London, Ontario.
In that time, I had developed insecurities about my identity.
Reconnecting with my family and seeing the wider Black community reflected on social media made me realize that being Black is and always has been a beautiful thing, no matter what other people say.
I am proud to be Black.
The racism I’ve dealt with and continue to face in my life has caused me a lot of pain, but I know that being Black is something beautiful that no discrimination could ever make me ashamed of.
It’s a part of who I am and who I will always be, and there is nothing I would change it for.
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Submitted by Mairin Patterson