I am Canadian; I just happen to be a different shade.
My parents are from India and I am, therefore, a little more than tanned all year round.
I never thought of my ethnic background as more than just a reason to double my holiday schedule to include Canadian and Indian festivals. But when I got to university, learning about where I came from helped me figure out where I was going.
I had always heard about “multiculturalism” as a buzz term, but I never really stopped to think about what it meant or how it applied to me.
Multiculturalism technically refers to “the presence and persistence of diverse racial and ethnic minorities who define themselves as different and who wish to remain so.”
But what does that even mean?
What I learned, was that multiculturalism really applies to everyone, regardless of the colour of their skin or where they come from. It’s all about how people fit together.
The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. Everywhere I looked, I saw aspects of what I was reading about in class – from on-campus clubs to trips to Toronto, diversity was everywhere.
Soon, most of my electives were related to culture: how it was shown on TV, how it shaped society, the policies surrounding it and the Canada’s struggle to make it a reality.
When I realized that my course calendar and papers shared a common theme, I started to wonder if I could turn this interest into an interesting job. I approached one of my professors expressing curiosity about the research she did on South Asian media.
Having had me as a student, she was familiar with my academic background and, as we discussed her research topics, she could tell I was passionate about the subject. Three months later, she emailed me saying that she had a new project and grant money for a research assistant – a position that was open to me if I’d like it. I jumped at the chance.
I used to talk about diversity like it was my job and, for the first time, it actually was.
I was researching things that I had actually experienced growing up in Canada, like the fusion of Indian and Canadian music. The research questions came easy and the answers not only gave me a deeper understanding of Canadian multiculturalism, but they also helped me understand my experiences better.
Where I came from is a part of me and the more that I learn about it, the more it becomes part of what I do.
How have you integrated your background into your school or work? Share your stories in the comments section below!