I am without a cultural home. In my head and my heart I identify as a black Canadian. Being made up of many cultures, I am neither black, nor Portuguese nor French. I am part of each culture but home to none.
The wine world is often seen as a realm of sophistication, passion, and cultural exploration. It is an industry that prides itself on its ability to bring people together and celebrate the diverse flavors and traditions of the world. However, behind the elegant façade, there exists an undercurrent of homogeneity that has historically overlooked the experiences and perspectives of BIPOC individuals, making it an exclusive club. It is the antithesis of what wine is supposed to be; an expression of place, culture and history.
Race is most often defined by the colour of your skin. This ‘colour requirement’ has always made me feel I need to prove my blackness. I often experience racism in interesting ways, being unincluded in the black community because I am not black enough.
Arriving at my front door as a child, I always got butterflies in my stomach. I would open the door, hold my breath and… “Your mom is black?!” Kids being devilish little creatures started calling me ‘half-breed’. I blame Cher for giving them language that caused me so much pain. My hair and body belonging to one culture, my nose and skin colour another, leaving me alone, neither parent a reflection of me.
In Canada, we tend to think we are above it all and racism doesn’t exist in this fairytale land. Recently, I did an interview with CBC radio for black history month about diversity in the wine world. For the most part it was well received. One impassioned stranger took it upon themselves to email me and tell me in as many expletives they could use, just how terrible I was for doing the interview. The first round of abuse was aimed at my need to feel sorry for the black down trodden. The second round, (once they realized I was ‘black’) was aimed at me being nothing more than a no good black victim and terrible human. I will say it made me chuckle, even racists had trouble nailing down the insults, being white, black, both and neither.
Life for me has been an interesting place. My uniqueness allowed me to do and be many things. I have learned to be a chameleon, presenting myself to the different worlds in ways that will meet their expectations. I have learnt a great deal and been privileged to have no limits. I would not change anything and my wisdom has allowed me to have a bit of fun with it along the way.