Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Thoughts on Multiculturalism, and Cake

By K. Taylor, Aurora ON. Thoughts on multiculturalism, and cake. Have you ever gotten to the party, after the cake was served? You knew they had cake, but you didn’t get to eat it.

I feel a bit like that right now. As drops of cold rain patter on the pavement outside, and a glum sky presses heavily down, I sadly sip my tea.

“There are fears around multi-culturalism, but almost all, I think, are the fear of one culture overtaking the rest.”

Apparently the town held a multi-cultural festival, a short walk from my home; and I missed it. Missed the whole thing. I tootled through that day in complete oblivion. I no doubt flipped through the local paper in the weeks before, completely skipping over any advertisements for it. I no doubt drove past signs, large and black at the side of the road, promising that it was coming; and I motored away into la-la land. I don’t know for a fact that these things were there, because the whole event seems to have passed me by; but I suspect they were. And I suspect I missed them all. Perhaps it isn’t quite as bad as missing out on cake (what is?) but I’m still feeling oh-so very sorry about the whole thing.

To be fair, I’m not a very observant person. The other day I had to explain to my mother-in-law that as I pulled out of the driveway and drove right past her I was not ignoring her, I just didn’t see her. Try explaining that to your mother in law.

“Well I hope you’d have seen me if I was crossing the street!” She gasped.

“Yes,” I assured her. I’m not that clueless. I just didn’t happen to notice her car parked there. Or perhaps I just didn’t notice that the car parked there happened to be hers.

So I have no one to blame but myself that I missed the festival, and I sip lukewarm tea and watch the cold rain and feel sorry for myself.

I’m not usually one for festivals and events, but I do love the spirit of multiculturalism and whole heartedly embrace it as it slowly (or perhaps quite quickly) seeps into the fabric of our town. It’s a comfort thing for me. When we moved to Canada from England back in the days of polyester and disco moustaches we found ourselves in an up and coming Toronto neighbourhood, though at the time it hadn’t upped or come yet.

“I do love the spirit of multiculturalism and whole heartedly embrace it as it slowly seeps into the fabric of our town.”

Our small pre-war semi which I still recall so fondly, sat nestled on a quiet street that was home to both chic renos and run down dumps, as well as a wild assortment of eccentric characters. There was Mrs. Moore who’s garden tree was festooned with plastic lemons, and there was the lady down the street who wore her bathrobe. All day. Every day. There was the house on the corner without a blade of grass, just hard packed dirt; there was the Red Setter who lived across the street and howled non stop; and of course the kid who lived in the corner shop. When it was time for his haircut his mom would just start snipping away at the store’s counter, selling Mojo‘s and rainbow gumballs while he sat there with a white towel around his shoulders and stray hairs in his lap.

It all feels a bit Penny Lane now, with the lovely blur of nostalgia and hindsight that really is the best way to look at the past. But some things I do remember clearly. I remember that -to very roughly paraphrase Donald Trump Jr, (which I never thought I’d do) – we really were like a big ol’ bowl of Skittles. My classmates were from China, Korea and Greece. They were Italian and Jewish and African-American. A couple were even white.

Much, oh so very much is said about the upsides and the pitfalls of multi-cultural society (multiculturalism), but there’s one thing I feel is rarely mentioned; so I’ll bring it up here. Growing up in that jumble of faces and skin tones and economic situations; everyone was different, so nobody was.

It didn’t matter if your dress wasn’t stylish, because we all dressed slightly differently. It didn’t matter if you weren’t the typical blue-eyed blonde beauty, because I can honestly say I do not recall even one blue-eyed blonde in my whole school career. It didn’t matter if you had an accent or your food smelled funny or your customs weren’t the same as others because that was the norm.

There are fears around multiculturalism, but almost all, I think, are the fear of one culture overtaking the rest. We worry when we do not see our own faces mirrored back to us. A brief uproar that the Italian community was not represented at the local festival for example, seems to me to be a fear that the influx of new cultures and customs will wash away those that came before. And we rightly don’t want to be washed away in the cold rain.

But as I look back on an old class photo, dusty and creased and miraculously still with me, I can honestly say that wasn’t my experience at all. My parents raised me with their British values. My Chinese friends were raised with their Chinese customs and the Greeks in the neighbourhood, well let’s just say that when they celebrated their Easter, there wasn’t a mouth in the neighbourhood that wasn’t watering. None of that got lost.

I hear there will be another festival next year and I look forward to going. I look forward to enjoying the many, so many, varied cultures that come to our town and love it as their own. Because when you come to the party you get to have your cake, and eat it too.

K. Taylor
Aurora, ON


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