Culturally, American and Canadian are mostly indistinguishable but yet distinct from one another. In much the same way as British, German, French, Spanish, Greek, Italian, Asian, Middle-Eastern, African (including all sub-groups – like Congolese, Nigerian, Egyptian, …..). That is, all cultures are similar but distinct from one another. (Put that in your crack-pipe and smoke it!)
As I set about settling and working in Toronto in the 1970’s, assimilating meant that I became aware of buzz words such as multi-culturalism, melting pots and cultural mosaics (as the social scientists and politicians strove to understand, explain and define the social shifts from heterogeneous societies to ones in which different cultures mixed but remain distinct).
At some sub-conscious level, I became aware of the societal perpensity to use metaphors or labels to describe (or categorise) the fusings of national tendencies (stereotypes, cultures and ethnicities) into what we perceive as national identities. Calling a spade a spade.
An aside, in certain circles it is said that money is the root of all that’s ‘Evil’ in the world (as we know it). Perhaps. But tribalism is right up there with that ‘evil’ as a blight on societies.
Cosmopolitan was the word I was accustomed to as I grew up, lived with and generally socialized with the people of different ethnic and/or religious backgrounds around me. Yes, there was a time when I was blissfully unaware and naïve of the political tensions that exist in all societies. Being ‘of dark skin pigmentation’ BLACK was a mere acknowledgement of a reality. Not a political statement but a statement of fact that was observable and verifiable. And, it is for that reason that I cannot relate to the Black political ‘struggles’ of what I perceive as being a ‘ black North American thing’.
I am black and proud but don’t for a second think that equates me with the likes of Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X or the Black Power movement of the ’60s and 70’s. Black was beautiful and all that … rah! rah! rah! Super-heroes were more ‘my thing’; as well as those around me. Meanwhile, Castro and El Che were standing in the ring with the Americans, duking it out mano-a-mano. Not all superheroes come equipped with capes. There’s Captain America and the Green Berets.
And so, the social experiences of my youth were not that of a homogeneous society melting into one. None-the-less, it was heterogeneous in that we all had a national sense of identity that derived from place of birth.
Multiculturalism, on the other hand, tugged at various political touch-points in an attempt to attach values to each that would result in some form of egalitarian rule of the competing forces within a multi-cultural society. A holy grail of peace and harmony. Those hippies!!
In addition, even after having emigrated to Canada, I still experienced a common bond of commonality, connectivity and identity. As a West-Indian and citizen of the British Commonwealth, Canadian or not, I was part of the British Empire (not during its bulldog years). Familar with it’s History, Laws, Customs, institutions and Traditions. Experiencing its manifestation in the Canadian context (a former British colony) I too understood the impulse of the British loyalists to shout out Rule Britannia in support of Her Majesty, The Queen. And I still do.
That perspective (that of the English (Anglo) Canadian) has, over the many years of living in Canada, has been tempered by the political (constitutional) and cultural dicothomies as it relates to the British and French
This sense of belonging, of being a part of a cultural identity – British/English – is no different from self-identifying ones-self as being European, Asian, African, Oriental, American, Canadian, Latin American, etc.