How does being black in Canada differ from being black in the US?

I kept thinking, “what is this new world that I have entered”? Where I no longer have to carry my black armor on?

By Genette Tylerson

I don’t live in Canada. I live in the U.S. However, I have got to say that the very first time I visited Canada was very eye opening. From the moment I stepped out of the Toronto Airport and throughout my entire visit, I felt different. On Yonge Street, I sat down at a small four seat table to have lunch at a mall. Two nice looking White women and an Asian woman, in the crowded food court, came and plopped right down at my table without hesitation, without asking or giving any strange looks. They introduced themselves and we had a nice lunch conversation.

—Unless you know the person, that does not easily happen to me in the U.S.

I entered a store and started browsing around. The cashier said, “welcome and let me know if you need anything” and started handling his business at the register. I looked back several times and he was not following with his eyes, or physical presence. I thought, “wow”.

While touring around, a young woman (white-about college age), asked if I was lost. I told her my intended destination and she walked me half way there while having conversation.

In another restaurant, a white gentleman had a toddler and a kid about 5 years old. The kid wanted something from the counter. His father called over to me and asked if I would mind taking him over to the counter and picking him up so he could reach what he wanted.

What? By the time of this event and others like it, I was in shock and ready to pass out!

I kept thinking, “what is this new world that I have entered”? Where I no longer have to carry my black armor on? Where white people initiate conversation and talk to me just like they talk to each other. No immediate suspicion, no longer having to prove that I’m harmless, no longer getting that ‘look’.

For the first time I did not feel ‘black’. I did not need to have my defenses up, or have to make quick comeback remarks. I didn’t have to turn around while some retailer followed me in his store. When receiving change from a cashier it was put in my ‘hand’ (not on the counter, which has happened to me).

It was liberating, well, until I landed back in the U.S. Then I remembered……..I’m black.

In Singapore, Seoul, Amsterdam, Japan, Tahiti, England….I did not feel the pressure of being black, either!

In France and Australia, I felt a little bit of bias, but they overrode it to accept my tourist dollars. So I was good!

Fairly, the majority of interactions with White Americans are benign.

But when there is active prejudice here, it is serious. Read the news. Police being called when a lost kid knocks on a door, or enters a swimming pool, or cuts a neighbors’ lawn, or tries to sell water for a trip to Disney World. Subliminal things like a white female walking across the other side of the street, so you are not passed. Or clutching their purse in an elevator.

In these foreign places, usually as one of the few blacks around, of course, I was noticed. But just as quickly, I was forgotten.

One commenter said, they are just nicer in those countries. Duh, yes, that is the point. They treated me just like they treated themselves. Nicely, not suspiciously!

The story was originally published as one of many answers to a question on Quora.


> According to the 2006 Census by Statistics Canada, 783,795 Canadians identified as black, constituting 2.5% of the entire Canadian population. Of the black population, 11% identified as mixed-race of "white and black".

And a video from the Canadian perspective: