Hey ‘Diversity Activists,’ Stop Shaming Those Who Integrate!

And I mean it!  These activists come in all shapes and colours, but all seem to have one goal – keep people SEPARATE!  As I said in my Canada Day post, we live in a country which prides itself on diversity and multiculturalism, and I believe in this.  However, this comes at a cost.  Many people like to criticize and even SHAME those of us who seem to be “less attached” to our ancestral heritage.  Really?

This comes both from relatives and strangers.  When I got married, my mother asked me why we signed up for a registry when cash is typically the gift of choice on both sides.  We did because we’re “from here,” and because our friends are going to ask where we registered.  We are going to do the same if we ever have children (my mom already suggested that we don’t register because we’ll be getting cash from family.  Ummm, so what about FRIENDS???!!!  What’s funny is that I always thought my parents were better integrated than many other immigrants, partly because they worked outside of the community).  Then there was what I call the “ladies’ locker room incident.”  A 60-ish woman told me she was going to a baby shower for a mom-to-be who from her husband’s office.  She said she was “surprised” that the mom-to-be okay with a shower because “Asian cultures, like Jewish cultures, believe showers are bad luck.”  I told her that it sounds like the mom-to-be grew up in Canada (at least in part), and is integrated into Anglo culture.  She just rolled her eyes, as if it was “wrong” and that it shouldn’t happen.  I wonder if SHE has kids and if THOSE kids are being thrown (or were thrown) baby showers.  Another experience was what I call “the campaign office incident.”  A guy with a Caribbean-sounding accent came up to me and told me that he’s “glad to see” someone like me (i.e. Asian) help out with a Conservative candidate (this occurred more than 10 years ago).  Whaaaa?  Does it even matter?  #justsayin

I actually feel sorry for those who don’t integrate well – it seems so isolating.  My maternal grandmother was one of those people.  She never really learned to speak English – she spoke JUST ENOUGH to pass her citizenship, yet never really figured out why Canadians “do” certain things.  She kept on telling me how not to be like those “bad Canadian (read: white) girls” who go to school dances and on dates before finishing high school (note:  I was so nervous about becoming a “bad girl” that I didn’t go to my first school dance until Grade 10).  As we lived in the suburbs and my grandmother never learned to drive, life was fairly isolating (unless it was somewhere she could walk to) until my grandfather retired and was able to take her to see friends or run errands.  However, not everyone is lucky like that.  And if you live in an area without good public transportation, you are pretty much housebound.  At least Cantonese language TV shows were available by the 1980s (for those who speak/understand the language, yet didn’t have the privilege like my grandmother).  However, watching TV all day is no fun and why I think at least LEARNING one of our official languages (or at least TRYING to do so) is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.  And what if such services aren’t available in your language?  Imagine how THAT would be.  I suppose some activists don’t understand either.  Instead, they feel that “integrating” = “losing touch” with one’s culture.  They don’t seem to realize that integrating can be about survival, not to mention one’s mental health.

Survival, of course, isn’t the only issue.  Not learning the language and customs (which one doesn’t necessarily have to follow) leads to ignorance and misunderstanding – on the part of the newer person and those of us who have been here longer/born/raised here.  The inability to communicate and explain these differences – and how/why things are done – might lead to more discussion and the opening of people’s minds, for both parties (not to mention decreasing stress levels of children/grandchildren of immigrants).  We need more of that these days.

Image credit: karen roach/ShutterStock

Cynthia Cheng Mintz

Cynthia Cheng Mintz, previously known for her sites, DelectablyChic! (still "live" and still active on social media) and Shorty Stories, was born and raised in Toronto. In addition to writing, Cynthia enjoys cooking and is an avid supporter of the Canadian fashion industry. She is involved with various philanthropic projects, including music, arts, culture and mental health awareness.