In my journey through blogging so far, I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty — it’s hard to find bloggers who are genuinely nice people, not coming at every interaction with some ulterior motive, ready to take advantage at the slightest whiff of an opening.
Natalie Preddie is one of those people.
In perhaps one of the most open entries to Tales from the 2.9 so far, Natty shows us what life is like as a Zebra Baby — mixed race kids making up only 0.5% of Canada’s population and a reality that my children will face in an all-too-near future.
Take this one in, everyone — this Tales submission is a great one, and I think we can all learn something from it.
Contributes to Toronto Star, Star Touch, PAX Magazine and Cityline. Manages a travel blog with video and editorial from all over the globe. My husband thinks I’m funny… but looks aren’t everything.
1) When you think of Black History Month, what are some of the stories and images that come to mind?
Being mixed race, I’m proud that I am part of a people that have overcome so much adversity and injustice to get to where we are now. I think of the underground railroad to Canada, escaping slavery and the continuing fight for equality. In such a short amount of time, Blacks have impacted the world culturally, socially, artistically…The world is a richer place with a decent beat.
At the same time, I am also frustrated by the stereotypes that Black people are both tainted with but at times, perpetuate. We still have a ways to go.
Don’t get me started on the number of Black men in prison in the States and the social limitations and the fact that there is STILL segregation in some US schools. The racial situation down there makes me so angry and I can talk about it for ages.
2) The Black Experience we’re largely exposed to in the media is that of our southern neighbours and the struggles they’ve faced. What’s your experience been as a Black person in Canada, and what have you learned from it?
My Dad grew up a Black teenager in Toronto and he had a lot of difficulty with racism and prejudice. From friends, teachers, mentors, his expectations of what he could accomplish as a Black man were low. I have always been aware of his issues with authority fuelled by his experiences.
I am, however, very lucky. My parents always told me that I was simply Natalie: I wasn’t a colour, I was a person made from love.
Regardless of where you are in the world, one will encounter ignorance and I have run into those people on many occasions here in Canada since I was a kid. Even in jest, ‘Steal that bike for me, Natalie,’ or ‘Where can I buy some crack, Natalie?’ My sister and I actually encountered some social media harassment recently for ‘further diluting our race’ by marrying white guys. He told us my Dad had done something disgusting by marrying a white woman and we were a disgrace. Unfortunately, you are going to run into that everywhere.
But saying that, perhaps because of my upbringing, I find that my ‘Blackness’ is celebrated rather than highlighted in a negative way.
My first truly awful experience with racism was actually in a Pizza Hut in the States and I was blown away at the way I was treated. I am so happy I live in Canada and am proud of our overall acceptance and tolerance in this country.
3) In sharing your voice with the world, what impression do you hope to leave on the world with everything you do?
I want to be a good global citizen. I want to know that I helped celebrate the beauty and diversity in the world, connecting people, place, cultures and ideas. I want be part of creating a world with more acceptance and less judgement. I want to help people feel good about themselves, their abilities, their worth and know their significance on this Earth. I want everyone to feel loved.
I’m not unrealistic: I know I’m not going to change the world into one happy, hugging place but even if it is just my kids to whom I successfully pass on the notion of love and acceptance, and they pass it on to someone else, then I did something.
4) We all benefit from good mentors who guide us along the way to make sure we reach our potential in life. Who was your mentor to teach you from a cultural standpoint, and what’s the greatest lesson you learned from them?
My parents. They are pretty awesome. They fought a great deal of prejudice to be together. A white woman and a Black man were not socially acceptable when they started out but they were never deterred…even when the conflict came from within their families.
As a principal and a lawyer, they have always fought for justice, always championing the underdog, even to their own detriment. My parents always took in people who needed shelter, food, education and even social support. They taught us (me and my siblings) to do the same. Everyone deserves a chance regardless of where they came from.
They also taught me that love, kindness and tolerance make the world go round and to practice them daily.
They told me I was beautiful, strong and capable, and I could accomplish anything that I wanted to.
“Look at Halle Berry, Obama, Bob Marley, Langston Hughes! They’re all mixed and look what they did! YOU can do anything!”
5) If you could say just one thing to the rest of the 2.9%, what would it be?
You are beautiful. You are loveable and capable. You can do anything.
Tales from the 2.9 is an ongoing series on CaseyPalmer.com showcasing Black Canadian content creators and the experiences they’ve had growing up Black in Canada!