Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common.
Celebrate it every day. – Anonymous
We’re meeting for after work drinks. She complains about her no-good co-worker and how she’s been neglecting all her tasks and pushing them onto her.
“What a c*!” she exclaims.
I react with shock. They both turn to me and one asks, “What’s the big deal?”
I explain that it’s derogatory against women. She says, “So what? I say the n* word all the time.”
I look at her with bewilderment. “Well, that’s really not any better!”
One accuses me of being a feminist. I snap back, “What’s wrong with that?”
We all take a sip from our drinks, avoiding eye contact.
We had heard a lot of good things about Kit Kat, an upscale Italian restaurant in the downtown core. My friends and I are excited to give it a try so we make a reservation for her birthday.
I arrive, running late as usual, and go directly to the host.
Before I can say a word, he takes one look at me and says, “Oh, I know which table you’re at.”
He leads me straight to a table with my friends, who happen to be the only other asians in the restaurant.
We scheduled our business meeting at a coffee shop since we wanted to keep the climate casual.
I arrive early, set up my laptop and order myself a cup of coffee. I see him from afar in jeans and a button down shirt. He’s fairly young, in his late 20’s and wearing glasses.
I extend my hand in greeting. He clasps his hands together and bows, “Ni hao.”
I’m stunned. “Ehrr.. nice to meet you. I actually don’t speak Chinese.” The words stumble out.
He looks flustered and apologizes. I ask if he speaks Chinese. He says no, but he’s always wanted to learn.
He looks up from his textbook at the rest of the class. We had just gone through a reading in French about a Muslim girl struggling to integrate in Canada.
“I wonder – what do you think is better?” he asks in French. “A melting pot or a mosaic?”
Everyone simultaneously says, “A mosaic.” He asks, “Pourquoi?” Why?
One student explains how people should be allowed to maintain their customs and traditions. That’s what makes Canada so great. We don’t expect you to give up who you are.
Our professor considers this. He is an older gentleman who has come from France to Canada a year ago. He talks to us about how he hasn’t been able to find any employment except this one, teaching French at the school. It’s a variation of a story we’ve all heard before.
Everyone is silent.
We’re invited to be speakers at NextDayBetter Toronto, a speaker and food series aimed at empowering youth and the filipino diaspora community. We do our part and chow down on modern twists of pulutan (Filipino finger foods).
The night wraps up with a panel discussion featuring business owners and executives of various corporations around Toronto. The theme is “Your vision of Toronto in 2030.”
One woman who has successfully launched two of her own businesses admits to growing up and feeling like she didn’t belong in either the mainstream filipino culture or Canadian culture. She admits to feeling like an outsider to both.
Another man who is a VP of something in a big multinational based in Toronto admits that even though he is in a senior position, seeing another filipino at the office fills him with so much comfort. It feels like someone else can understand.
The room fills with sounds of agreement.
The group of us are chatting over wine. Somehow the conversation turns toward growing up in Toronto.
I make a bold statement, “To be honest, despite the diversity in this city, I still feel people are hugely ignorant of each other’s cultures.”
He looks at me for a second, considering my response. Finally, he nods.
“I know exactly what you mean. In a way, Toronto is so diverse that it’s easy to stick with what you know. That’s why we have grandmothers living in Chinatown who’ve lived here for 30 years and haven’t learned a word of English.”
“Or white people who grew up in Toronto and only have white friends,” someone offers.
We all agree.
On the way home, I take the streetcar and pick up bits and pieces of conversation. Someone is confiding to her friend in Spanish about the man she’s dating. Two guys complain about their boss in Tagalog. A couple of French tourists try to figure out how to get home. Another language I don’t know but could be Portuguese.
Everyone turns when the Frenchman asks which stop is coming up. A woman responds and they get off at the next light.
This is a post inspired from Day 13 of course Writing 101: Compose a Series of Vignettes through Blogging U