Cultural differences, local similarities

8 Apr

A clip from the the doc God Grew Tired of Us—about a group of Lost Boys from Sudan who relocate to the United States— was sent to me yesterday through a BC Teachers’ Federation social justice listserv (not actually this clip from above, since I couldn’t get it to embed, but there are similar themes in both). I was struck while watching it by some of the similarities I see with the immigrant population of Vancouver. I don’t think we have a large Sudanese diaspora in Vancouver, but a large percentage of this city’s population are immigrants, and there’s undeniably some unease about this amongst some of the “native” Canadians.

I’m not saying I’m a Stephen-Colbert-like saint who doesn’t see race or has never thought another custom was weird. But when I hear others griping about people who “refuse” to learn English, or eat pig uterus, or refuse to uncover their hair in public, I think it’s important we look at ourselves and our own culture: we eat fried sliced potatoes from bags; can’t function without access to electricity, indoor plumbing, cell phones, or internet; fear strangers enough to ignore people who smile or say hello to us on the street. These customs aren’t unique to us, but there are certainly people coming to live in Vancouver that just don’t get them or us, like we don’t get them. Something to ponder the next time you make a mass generalization (as we all do) about another culture/race/ethnicity in Canada.


2 Responses to “Cultural differences, local similarities”

  1. Donna Millen May 17, 2011 at 8:06 pm #

    Hi Katie; I saw your article on Tyee about the Slutwalk.
    Its the first I heard of it and it upset me greatly. What the heck world are we living in anyway? One of the people you quoted said that ” you can look but don’t touch” is where it is at. That’s insane, it’s twisted.
    We are all animals that are hard-wired to attract even if we don’t work at it consciously. Whatever happened to modesty? Whatever happened to consequences?

    • Katie Hyslop May 18, 2011 at 5:17 pm #


      thanks for your comment. It might be better for fostering this discussion if you comment on the story on The Tyee, but it might be a dead story by now. As to your question about modesty, the definition is fluid: in some cultures or societies, it’s immodest to show your hair or even your face if you’re a woman, while in others no one batts an eye if a woman goes topless on a hot day. In our culture, modesty hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years, at least: my step-mother showed me a couple of her dresses from the early 70s that were so short they had matching underwear. All that aside, how is rape or being called a slut an accepted consequence of wearing revealing clothing? Most people are capable of keeping their hands to themselves, regardless of what attraction they are feeling, so a woman’s clothing or perceived promiscuity (or even if she is promiscuous) is a poor excuse for her rape, assault, or the sexist, derogatory comments people might hurl at her. I’m sorry you are upset, but a world that thinks less of women who wear revealing clothing or walk alone at night upsets me very much, and I don’t believe it’s set in stone because we are animals.

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