Author: Maziar Ghaderi

Lessons From a Recovering Identity Warrior

In 1988, my family fled Iran to seek political asylum in Canada. I was 5 years old. When we arrived, we did what all desperate immigrants from war-torn countries do: We found our ethnic enclave and surrounded ourselves in it as much as possible to help ease the transition. During these years, I thought I was the default, the norm. That is to say, I thought I was white. Almost all of my friends were Iranian. We ate the same food, pronounced each other’s names correctly, and our parents spoke the same language at home. I never had to deal with any racial tensions at all. All of the other ethnic groups at school—the Tamils, Latinos and Jamaicans—did the same. Everything fit. My ethnic identity wasn’t something I thought much about. That was until we moved from the multicultural milieu of Scarborough (a suburb of Toronto) to Burnaby, British Columbia, when I was 11 years old. My new school featured only one other set of Iranian siblings amidst a sea of white and Chinese kids. …