Rekindling: The Other

I guess this is a short memoir of sorts — more, my way of making sense of the world that I navigate every day. A reflection of myself, an investigation into me (and of course the world around me). In a way I don’t fully know what I want to write; I have no prescribed direction for where I want to head, just a blaring white screen staring back at me.

It seems that every time you interact with new people, it is expected that you have a full introduction prepared and polished for such an occasion. In university, it’s your major and year, a fun fact perhaps — the obvious question of “who are you?” In conversation this flows easily, no extra thought aside from the nerves of a job interviewer asking, “Tell me about yourself.” The truth is that most people ask out of their robotic and cyclical nature, rather than from a point of interest. Though when a professor asks (and there’s a grade mark attached to how you respond) there’s a much more verbatim quality to the way you must present yourself.

In today’s world of changing social acceptability and ‘PC’ demands, it seems most appropriate that I start these introductions with my name and pronouns: I’ll do the same below.

My name is Julianna Yue. I was born and raised in “Vancouver” on the unceded, ancestral and traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and Sel̓íl̓witulh Nations. I am Chinese from Taishan, Guangdong, and Métis-Cree with roots in the Lubicon Lake Cree from Treaty 8 territory (Alberta).

This is supposed to define me, or at least situate myself in a world full of people — where I am the other. Those seemingly simple two sentences validate my existence and belonging: something that, as a mixed-race baby, is hard to find. In a way, it allows me to lay everything out right then and there, no waiting for the oh-so-predictable “So, what are you” and “You look so exotic” commentary. However, this then leaves room for the, “Oh, I wouldn’t have guessed that” and “But you don’t look like you’re _____.”

Growing up mixed has been complicated — it’s a neverendingly long time of being too little and too much. On one hand you never feel like you're enough of one race to fit in there; on the other you become too different to fit into one sole category.

As I’ve gotten older it has become all the more apparent. I can’t speak Cantonese or Michif, and I don’t know half of my own cultural practices. I feel disconnected, making that lack of fitting in even stronger. Whereas some people feel so sure of themselves, there’s always been a sense of longing left deep within me. For what? I’m not entirely sure, maybe just certainty, a concrete identity.

With a long-standing history of racism, blood quantum and the value of ‘purity’ I am not surprised at the ignorance applied to those of mixed-race descent. It’s almost as if it’s a taboo that exists solely behind lips pressed tightly. I was surprised to see an argument online of a woman referring to her child as mixed (as opposed to just her child) and having various personas on the internet attack her for this choice. This attitude really only showed the dismissal and supposed ‘wrongness’ of being mixed.

While I myself am still learning about myself and what it means for me to fit in, I would and will never hide the fact that I am mixed. While I have my own questions and qualms on what it means for me to navigate through society as the other, I know that my heritage and culture has shaped me into the person I am today. From my grandfather’s experience in immigrating from China during Canada's head tax, and my kokum and her siblings being stolen from their home, I feel a deep sense of gratitude in learning from them and listening to their stories.

Not only have they provided insight into where and who I’ve come from, they share stories of resilience and the power to resist.