Dear Victoria, one white person to all the rest of ’em

I have a friend who’s been in Victoria for about two years. She is lovely, honestly the sweetest, friendliest girl you could ever meet. She’s also the most laughably Canadian person I’ve met in my life. She loves hockey, has like six Canucks tattoos (Raincouver native!), says ‘eh’ all the time (who does that, eh?), adores Michael Bublé and Bryan Adams, drinks Timmies like it’s air, and she happens to be of Indian heritage.

She came to Victoria, and naturally made a load of friends (God, how does she do it??). However, none of them can pronounce her name. It’s not even that hard. Her name is Sukhjit, pronounced “Sook (like book)-jeet.” But none of her “friends” can apparently be bothered to try. They call her S.J.

She initially said this doesn’t bother her, but after a while confessed that it’s actually really annoying. And of course it is! The people she hangs out with, she gets coffee with, she studies with, she learns about and cares about won’t even try to pronounce her two-syllable name, apparently because it’s not Jessica, or Sarah, or Karen, or something.

As her friend, this frustrates me, too. It hurts to think that the people she’s surrounded by don’t even respect her enough to call her by her name. She was listening to Bollywood music one day and a friend from her program asked her what on earth she was listening to, and why she was listening to such weird music. As if he’d never heard of it before, as if an Indian girl listening to Indian music was somehow offensive or bizarre to him.

My friend shouldn’t have to let parts of her be erased so her white friends can be comfortable around her and not have to poke a tiny hole in their rice-cracker worldview. Everyone (white people included – wow!) could pronounce Sukhjit’s name in our high school. It’s just not that hard.

Victoria is beautiful, and so far I do really love it here. But, I think especially since I come from Vancouver, it’s actually a little weird to see so many white people around. Which shouldn’t necessarily be a good or bad thing, but it definitely is when a person feels looked down upon or feels like they need to hide parts of themselves to be “acceptable” to their white classmates and friends.

Obviously my voice is not the one that should be announcing this, but I feel that it’s a hundred times better to stand up for my friend and to say something than to be someone who condones this kind of environment through silence. Yes, there are worse things that can happen to a person than not getting called their name, but I believe this sort of thing is a surface layer symptom of something that can go much deeper, and needs to be addressed.

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