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Khayatt on Non-White Women’s Problems in Canada Essay

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Updated: Aug 18th, 2021

Introduction

Khayatt mentions that some of the new Canadians cannot feel like Canadians in the initial period, and that continues till they have lived here for long time, getting well versed with the language, or mingled with the local people, becoming one of them by all respects. She starts with her disappointment for being labeled as an ‘immigrant woman’ in her institution, referring to her Egyptian background, when the concerned professor is also an ‘immigrant man’ from the United Kingdom. While referring to other writers on racial and color discrimination, she states that the use of terms such as ‘immigrant’, ‘visible minority’ or ‘refugee’ potentially differentiate some people from the mainstream society, confining them to a separate category.

Referring a non-white woman bluntly as a ‘woman of color’ may not help her in getting own and deserved identity. While referring to the use of such labels by ‘anti-racism’ campaigners, Khayatt feels that they help in highlighting the problems of non-white women such as prejudice, scanty opportunities and other problems of double discrimination. However, she argues that such labeling fails in comprehensive reflection of various and diverse problems of non-white women from different backgrounds. Such labeling hinders the expression of self-identity and interests of these women.

Main text

Khayatt says that though labels such as ‘woman of color’ stresses the need for extra consideration for such women, they bind all non-white women under one category irrespective of their individual achievements. In this context, even a top nuclear physicist should be treated as a woman requiring special consideration due to her aborigine background. Hence, this kind of labeling is not an acceptable method of focusing on the differences among and varying experiences of people in a broader aspect. The fact that different people suffer from various kinds and levels of oppression implies that such people should not be given a broad label, owing to its limitations (p. 81).

For, this labeling may make people perceive others in a way that they are not actually. Each individual has unique character with a blend of positive and negative points and that needs to be considered first (p. 82). Khayatt feels that labeling does not help in recognizing individual human nature.

She attributes the kind of racist treatment she received in a northern Ontario town to the deep roots of racism among ordinary Ontarians. In the subsequent section, she explains her reception as an experience of racist jokes and prejudice from the Ontarians (p. 83).

She mentions, though the comments were very absurd, they did not affect her badly. With a high profile Egyptian origin, Khayatt feels that she did not receive any serious humiliating type of racist treatment that is often being said to be suffered by non-white women. She further mentions that she had access to desired higher studies and could speak the two official languages of Canada when she arrived here. Many problems that are encountered by stereotyped non-white women to succeed in their careers have not caused any obstruction to Khayatt.

She makes her point more clear that broad labels used to focus on the problems of people from certain categories should not be used in assessing individuals. She effectively explains her argument backed by the awareness of her success in relation to other women of non-Canadian origin and of sociologic interpretation of ‘situational ethnicity’. She tries to explain how a person can be perceived or misjudged based on ethnicity without knowing the individual’s attitude and/or social position.

Furthermore, she stresses that labels that are acceptable in political sense may not be appealing in reality, as they are more generalizing than recognizing a person as a separate individual with self-identity. Assuming all non-white women as disadvantaged is just similar to assuming all Canadian women as well advantaged irrespective of real-life situations.

Considering the fact that immigrants in Canada have different ethnic and social backgrounds, it should be noted that generalized labels do not represent all of them. It can be further explained by the fact that not every woman necessarily receives similar oppression.

The advantages, disadvantages and experiences vary among persons. So, one should be aware of the kind of misconception that can be potentially conveyed by broad labels. Khayatt stresses that an individual should be assessed based on individual merits and demerits but not on categorized perceptions. While explaining the difference between and implications for a woman and woman of color, she feels that she might get a chance to raise her voice about certain issues due to the present positive trend for ‘women of color’, which might have not been possible for a ‘just’ woman (p. 89). In the last section, by saying ‘the voice is not mine, but belongs to the people suffering daily oppression,’ she implies the ambiguous situations of non-white women (p. 89).

Summary

All in all, Khayatt effectively focuses on the potential distraction from reality that can be caused by assumptions from generalized labeling. Though they are advantages with labels, people need to exercise caution in assessing individuals, and give attention to one’s character but not prejudiced assumptions.

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