On the eve of the 10th annual month-long Tapestry, Celebrations of Diversity, I am looking around at my environment just before the launch of the region’s LGBTQ communities’ “Pride on King,” and asking what has changed in the 10 years since I created the event – or rather umbrella brand for a series of events each year – that recognizes diversity and inclusion. In an age where the media reports on the likes of Anders Breivik’s horrific actions, or the constant reminder of intolerance by the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, is there evidence of diversity as a social strength?
Here in Canada, in Waterloo Region – do we live in fear of our neighbors, or do we have a chip on our shoulder about the ‘others,’ a malfeasant colonial habit that creates homogenous stereotypes of those that are, well, different? Can I even perceive oppression as a white Canadian? Though one that was not born in this country, it didn’t take long at an early age to be assimilated into the white race of dominance in our culture, much more say than my father who has struggled with an accent that admittedly is different from the majority of Canadians.
It was easy for me; I had the language of the playground and North American television, and I grew up in a community where my high school graduation photo looks more like the UN General Assembly. We all had to get along from an early age back then in the North Mississauga neighbourhood. Moving to Kitchener and Waterloo twenty-odd years ago was more of a culture shift with its Bavarian influence and monoculture. That had changed by the early millennium. I remember pitching the idea for a series of diversity events one day 10 years ago and walking back to the office I was amazed that I did not see one white person on the short trip. I new the time was right for Tapestry.
Is Tapestry still relevant? I think so, if for the reason’s that racism and the unspoken edict that ‘whiteness is goodness’ still exists in our Canadian society. Just take a look at The Canadian Immigration Reform Blog and you will get a sense of the seething fear laced with stereotype and fallacy. It’s slightly contradictory but – my warning – it rings true unless you begin to deconstruct racism or the post colonial realities of continued oppression. In this context it’s unendearing bullshit. Hopefully most of you will see through it quickly enough that you will pass it off as falsehood, but the fact that this exists is provocative. The fact that this is in many respects close to a mainstream view – I say that because there are many more militant examples of paranoia out there – you can see people with this kind of thinking exist all around us.
I was in a bank several months ago when two gentlemen from, and I apologize for the assumption, an African country, greeted one another as they passed each other by. They were rather loud compared to the quietness in the bank, and I was impressed by the happiness they displayed with their greeting as if they were old or true friends. Did I say they were speaking in another language? That’s the important part; Important enough that as they paused, the white gentleman in front of me ‘huffed’ a bit. Then, he shifted his feet. I could tell he was annoyed for some reason and I could feel it coming. He spoke out loud enough that others in the bank could hear:”Why don’t you speak English!” Apparently the two Africans didn’t hear as they carried on their way smiling and laughing lightheartedly. The man with the annoyance turned to me and said, “Can you imagine that?” All I could say was, “What?” He huffed and turned back in line.