Brown isn’t more or less. It just is.

He dragged himself up the streetcar steps. With a droopy head he drops his transit ticket. Looks for a seat and stares at me. With anger and sadness, he screamed.

Less than 15 years old, this little boy clearly indicates he hates being Filipino.

I knew why he screamed. I knew why he screamed directly at me. He had a fresh bruise on his face. The streetcar didn’t close his doors yet because he was concerned for the kid. Three kids yelled from the side walk, various races, shouted

“Your mom cleans my toilets.”

The kid stared at me. I’m fuming.

A passenger yelled “Get the fuck home you fuckin brats”

I didn’t know what to do. I took the kids hand and he cried some more as he shook me away. I placed my hand on his shoulder and said “I know how you feel”.

“nooo you don’t.” with his droopy face

“Look at me,” This time with an accent “those kids will never know how it feels to be you because they will never be you and you will never be them because you are better.”


“It’s true. Do you know what makes people brave? Overcoming fear. Don’t be scared or ashamed about being Filipino. What does your nanay do for work?”

with smite he says “she cleans their houses.”

“No. She’s taking care of you the best way she can, right now. Just because you, me and your mom are Filipino doesn’t mean that we are just here in Canada to clean. We are here because we  want something better for ourselves and our loved ones.”


I have to go now. But stop crying because of who you are, okay? Thank your mom for working hard and taking care of you.”


 I step-off the streetcar. I see an older lady try and talk to the boy.

I cried as I walked home. I felt his pain. It was the same pain I had when I first came here to Canada and I attended a school where most of the kids had a Filipino nanny. My mother wasn’t a nanny, she became a factory worker just like any educated immigrant.

I was in grade four, I was scared. I didn’t see anyone that looked like me. I wore my best school clothes. A yellow dress with black shoes, I also had braided pigtails. The yellow dress was my birthday dress from the year before. I chose to wear it because I wanted to be accepted.

Needless to say, I wasn’t. The little girls pulled at my pigtails and asked me if I spoke English but before I could reply they took off with my yellow ribbons. I tried to play tag with the boys and they laughed but they let me play and the other girls joined too. After a few minutes no one was chasing me. So I stood still and watched them run. I just walked away. The recess bell rang. Of course everyone hurried inside. I was used to lining up in front of the classroom door before going inside, so I stood there. After most of them had gone in this boy Danny G. looked at down at me and asked

“Your mom knows how to clean right? My nanny does. I’m sure she can take care of this…”

My face and the sound that came out of my mouth showed that I was confused.

But that’s the first time I learned about mud pie. It was on my dress.

My mom will attest that I had anger issues when I was a kid. I had it before I came to Canada, my last day at my school, prior to moving to Canada, she picked me up from school because it was raining and we had sent our Ya-ya (maid/caregiver) to my grandmothers because we were moving.

She saw me fighting a two boys and according to her, well….I called my mom to get the details, (read this with a Filipino accent) this is what she said:

“You put your knee on the other boy while he was on the ground crying then you had a bag in your other hand and you hit the other boy on his stomach and he fell. You stood up screaming at them. I tried to run faster while I was yelling at you, you weren’t listening. The one boy crying pulled your hair and you turned around and punched him the face. Do you know how hard it was raining that day? I was all wet and you were fighting and not listening to me. I was so angry at you. DO you remember when you finally saw me? You said they were making fun of you because you were going to try and be puti (white). Hay do you remember your first day of school here? Your yellow dress! and the Boy! He was so big! Big Italian boy, crying because you punched him on his big nose. I remember, we cleaned your dress. Why were you so angry at him?”

I told the story about the boy on the streetcar, then what I realized during my time at grade school.

“Karyl, being Filipino means that you strong and like wood, you know like you can handle things good or bad”


“yes… yes! You should have told him. That boy.”

“I just felt sad, ma”

“Ay, Karyl he will be stronger when grows up. He has a mother that works hard, he will see that. If he grows good, he will be happy that his mother worked hard”

Then my mom added: Hay, if these people know how to clean, they will also know how to take care of a kid. Too bad nalang they have to have someone clean their house and take care of the children. Too bad money doesn’t have manners… maybe people wouldn’t be so hard up.


One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Thesis/Antithesis and commented:
    So accurate. I’ve seen too many white people around my neighbourhood whose children would act just like this. This is privilege and its consequences, written with a resounding voice. Thanks Karyl.

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