Coming To Terms with "Visible Minority"
BY GLENDA SIMMS
Recently I began to pay closer attention to the large numbers of - Canadians who, like myself, are opposed to being labeled "visible minorities." I now wonder if the problem of "self identification," which is reputedly preventing both government and private sector employers from adequately implementing employment equity programs, lies partially in the use of the label "visible minority" and partially in the lack of political will to address some of the most serious social and institutional barriers of the Canadian society. Those of us who have raised these concerns find the "visible minority" label demeaning, anonymous, and psychologically distressing.
As a black Canadian woman I object to the term on a number of grounds. Firstly, it denies my identity. I am not a "visible minority." I define myself as a black woman who was born in Jamaica and is now a proud first class citizen of Canada. Secondly, it undermines my ability to define myself and forces me to accept an externally imposed definition. This is psychologically unacceptable. It is an assault on my psyche, and is part of the historical process of denying my inherent human right to seek the essence of selfhood within my being and in the context of my personal history.
I have no idea of the genesis of the term "visible minority." I became aware of its acceptance at the official governmental level when the document Equality Now, the report of the Special Committee on Visible Minorities in Canadian Society, was released in March 1984. In this document the term "visible minority" was sanctioned as the appropriate label for 1,864,000 or 7% of the Canadian population. Included in this definition are Aboriginal peoples, and those with origins in Africa, China, India, Pakistan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, Latin American, the Pacific Islands, the West Indies, the Philippines, and the Arabic countries.