I spent over an hour wracking my brain for something interesting or poignant to write about the the multicultural identity of Toronto or about the extent to which this diversity is translated to real life. While it can’t be denied that Toronto has a diverse population, with people hailing from almost every strata of life, it is also true that there are some deeply intrinsic issues that must also be dealt with. This includes everything from the continued poor treatment of Indigenous people in Canada, to the stark disparity in the distribution of wealth in the city. (” – i.e. the demographic that has seen its income rise by 20% or more from 1970-2005 – is 82% white, but is spread across parts of downtown” as stated by Navneet Alang in this article for the Ethnic Aisle)
However, the only thing that my unyielding writer’s block is telling me, is to perhaps look at this issue from another angle.
All my life I have only had Indian friends.
Even in Singapore, I spent 9 years in an Indian school. At most I had one Pakistani and a Sri Lankan to add to my collection of nationally diverse friends. However, so much diversity exists within India itself, it always felt like even within our friend group we all represented individual cultural niches.
It is only after I came to Canada, where I had the opportunity to really interact with people with backgrounds and life experiences that were completely different to mine. It was fascinating to me, the extent to which simply a cultural difference to could completely change the way you experienced the world. However, with time I began to notice a pattern begin to emerge in my behavior. Most of my friends in university happen to be white. As time passed I started to slowly mentally separate myself from the group. I would consciously seek out interactions with other Indian students (to the point of even going to awkward formals and events thrown by various indian student societies). There was a disturbing increase to the number of times I exclaimed that something was “so white”. My usage of white stereotypes was also reaching the point of reverse racism and prejudice.
Perhaps this is the result of general homesickness, and a desire to once again connect with someone who shared similar life experiences (and who wouldn’t look completely perplexed by my Bollywood references or by the way I say “petrol pump” instead of “gas station”). But this behavior led to me consider the issue of the cultural segregation that takes place in cities like Toronto.
Some further points to consider. Many international Asian students live at Innis Residence, yet many of them keep mostly to themselves having formed their own connections, and choosing to interact amongst themselves. Almost all my Indian friends hail from Brampton, or as it is popularly dubbed “Brown-town”. The title is well deserved, Brampton seems to be occupied primarily by Indians (and assorted ‘brown’ folk of course). Is this because people choose to remain in communities where they all share the same cultural identity? Is such clique culture, working against the multicultural identity of this city? To what extent are we the reason for the creation of our own “Ethnic Aisle”?