Calvin is a thirteen-year-old boy in Grade 8, whose parents were born in different countries. One parent is black and was born in Jamaica, while the other parent is white and was born in England. His Jamaican-born parent has made a significant effort to develop Calvin’s sense of connection to his Jamaican heritage. On Sundays, Calvin goes to church with a religious group comprised mainly of other people who were born in Jamaica. He looks forward to going there: spending time with his parent, hanging out with the other kids and eating Jamaican food. He feels accepted, comfortable and safe when he is there.
During the week, Calvin goes to school in a predominantly white, Anglo-Saxon neighbourhood. There are very few students or school staff members who are visibly different than the majority, which is white. When Calvin is at school, it feels like the whole world is white, except him. The boy is very aware of his difference and tries to downplay his Jamaican-Canadian heritage and emphasize his Anglo-Canadian heritage. For example, he frequently refers to his family’s travels to England to visit their relatives there. He remains silent about his travels to Jamaica to visit family. When asked about his family, Calvin only talks about his white parent who was born in England. He tries his best to fit in and be like the others.
The other students have noticed that his skin is darker than theirs. They are curious about his background and ask him many questions. Calvin grows quiet under their scrutiny and withdraws to be alone. His geography teacher notices that he is upset and, in order to communicate her acceptance of his origins, and increase the students’ awareness of diversity, she initiates a project about different countries and their cultures. She assigns Calvin to do his project about Jamaica. Calvin is embarrassed about this, but he doesn’t wish to disobey his teacher who he really likes, so he says nothing and begins to work on the project.
His teacher notices his reluctance and asks him about it. He shrugs his shoulders and finds it difficult to put his feelings into words. He repeats that he doesn’t want to do his project on Jamaica. His teacher isn’t sure she understands but decides she needs to respect his feelings and encourages him to choose another country.