Multiculturalism: Mosaic or melting pot

Épices et couleurs de Dubai

The perception of multiculturalism can vary as much as the diversity of cultures within a country’s borders. As I’ve been diving deep into cultural research of late, I’ve stumbled upon multiple descriptions. One particularly captured my attention: the difference between the Canadian and the US perspective of multiculturalism. Canada tends to view its cultural variety as a mosaic while the US refers to theirs as a melting pot. The metaphors interestingly illustrate the conceptual distinction between the close neighbours.

The Canadian Mosaic

In its pure form, a mosaic describes a collection of unique pieces assembled to create a harmonious work of art. Using this colourful representation to explain Canada’s perception of multiculturalism attests to its sensitive approach to difference, respectful of particularities. The vibrant image also informs on the intention to preserve cultural identity within diversity, be it of race, beliefs or even generations.

Our Prime Minister further elevated the notion by declaring diversity to be Canada’s strength. His words: “Canada has learned how to be strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them” have echoed far and wide and set the tone for the country’s immigration policy.

The image of a mosaic is in and of itself a statement to welcoming difference, enhancing what makes a person, a group or a community unique. While not always easy, finding ways to “collage” the uniqueness of each culture so as to foster harmony is a creative and diplomatic way to address multiculturalism.

The US Melting Pot

While not necessarily opposing the notion of mosaic, the United States’ concept of melting pot echoes a more blended approach. One could perceive an intention to homogenize cultures into a single unique blend. My first thought was: What does this mean for cultural identity?

Approaching this concept as one would a succulent sauce or flavoursome soup, the melting pot can conjure up a tasteful, pleasing mixture. One wonders though if mixing means to substitute (or remove) an ingredient’s particular taste in favour of creating an entirely different flavour.

Welcoming Differences

In either case, imagery informs perception which in turn, informs our perspective of difference. Mosaic or melting pot, the challenge remains accepting cultural differences whether of country, nation, race, gender, or beliefs.