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Multiculturalism in Canada

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I lived in Ajax, Ontario for a year and attended the biggest school in the Durham Region. I was originally from Bowmanville, Ontario, a small town only about a 30 minute drive away from Ajax on the 401. When I first attended J.Clarke, I was under a complete culture shock. Bowmanville is a mainly white community, the odd African-American and/or Asian being present. Living in Bowmanville I had been, for my entire childhood, a majority. I knew barely anything about other cultures other than what you learn in school as a child.

For my Grade 11 year of high school I was placed in a foster home, my foster parents were Jamaican. I continuously would come home and see them taking out their weaves, doing cornrows, and china buns etc. As a child I only knew a few black girls but never questioned how they did their hair. My foster mom laughed at my reaction to seeing her taking out her weave. I never knew the dynamics previously as to what black females under go to stylize their hair. My roommate was also black and she would spend hours taking out her braids to reveal her short afro. The next day she would miss the entire day of school because her hair appointment to get her hair braided again would take several hours. This amazed me, I had only ever experienced going to the hair dresser down the street and getting a 20 minute haircut.

Going to school in Ajax, I for the first time in my life became a minority. I am a Caucasian-female and almost everyone else I knew as a child was of the same race. In grade 11 I had bleach blond hair and this made me one of the only two girls at my school that was white with blonde hair. For the first time the roles had switched, people would stare at me in the hallways at school like I had five heads because I was so rare in the culture. My friends were of all different nationalities. I was introduced to the idea of the hijab and what the different extremes of it meant. Many of my friends were engaged to guys their parents had arranged for them to marry. A lot of the girls after they had got married would wear the burka. At first I was really freaked out by this, I would avoid them in the halls because this was new to me.

The slang of the African-Americans at school really confused me. They would have a full discussion and I would only be able to catch a few of the words they have said. This was not because of ignorance; I just couldn’t understand their heavy African-American accents and slang. This one guy I really liked but a lot of the time I had no idea what he was saying to me, even when we texted. The gang culture was also very high among the African-Americans at my school. I was constantly hearing things like rape and people being jumped. The people around me reacted to this news as it was normal but for me it was terrifiing.

A memory that really strikes me of culture shock is one day when I was working in the cafe. There were two black females next in line and I was about to ask them what they would like to order. They whispered very loudly to each other about how light skinned I was. I felt discriminated against but I couldn’t say anything because I was just as bad as they were. Back home in Bowmanville, seeing a very dark person I would remark about how dark they are. This was the very same thing, the roles were just switched. This really opened my eyes for me and I became to accept the rainbow of cultures around me. Sure I felt out of place, but I imagine a lot of these people had too at a point in their life because of white people like me. I was now an outsider looking in and it was truly beautiful.

I attended a multicultural assembly. On the screen they would put up a flag and if the flag was for the country of your background you would told to cheer. The amount of flags that were shown and the constant cheering for each and every flag was astonishing. We were all just in a sea of colours; we together made our culture as a whole. At the end of the assembly they put up the Canadian flag and the entire additorium cheered. It was truly amazing to see how proud everyone was to be Canadian. Canada truly is a “salad bowl” and I am proud to live here.



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