Growing up in a multicultural city like Toronto was a blessing, not because the city boasts a high quality of life, but it is possibly one of a very few cities (if not the only one) in the world where various ethnic groups can live together in cultural harmony. How has Toronto achieved this status among the world’s cosmopolitan cities? Being the most diverse city in the world, it is free of the tensions and conflicts that challenge other large ethnically complex cities. Year after year, Toronto consistently attracts new immigrants from across the world. Just how does Toronto do it?
It all begins with cultural understanding. This is not a superficial course offered by a university to promote campus tolerance. Cultural understanding is a body of knowledge that will grow as children spend time in the company of their classmates from different cultures. It starts in primary school and then becomes such an ingrained part of children’s awareness that in time, these different cultures become part of everyone’s understanding of how society works. There are many ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in Toronto with schools that reflect the ethnic diversity of the residents. Children naturally befriend their classmates regardless of ethnicity. Moreover, Toronto is not a city that has large pockets of disenfranchised communities on the fringes of society . It is a city that integrates different communities into the mainstream life but also provides them with space to keep their own identities. What Toronto does well is that it fosters cultural understanding between communities. No ethnic event is off limits to anyone; you just have to show up and you are welcomed into the community. Our first-generation immigrant parents may feel uneasy, but their second-generation and even third-generation have perfectly embraced ethnic diversity as the norm. It is because of the cultural understanding they developed when they are young that they will succeed in the workplace and in life since one of the important skills in the world today is the ability to work with different cultural groups.
A cultural understanding is much more than tasting food, enjoying ethnic music or dating somebody we find ethnically exotic; it is a tool we need to help us shed stereotypes, prejudices or other snap judgements that can polarize a society. As Western countries welcome more immigrants and refugees in our increasingly unstable world, it is never too late to reach out to our new neighbours to understand their needs, desires, motivations, and why they are doing what they are doing. Many come from war-ravaged countries and have been through a life time of horror. Instead of closing our doors on them, we should be embracing them with kindness and an eye toward understanding. Toronto may not be as glamorous as its counterparts in the U.S and Europe, but the city has worked, and it’s because of understanding.
Post in response to the daily word prompt – Understanding
Post in response to the daily word prompt – City