Critical Analysis: “I am Half-Canadian“
In her essay "I am Half-Canadian, Pamela Swanigan seeks to define Canadian cultural identity by comparing and contrasting it to the often highly regarded identity, in particular, American identity. Born in the USA, to parents of mixed racial origin and later immigrating to Canada Swanigan offers a unique view on many of the common fallacies that come up when one predicts the culture of the United States. She makes the point that in Canada, the government does not force its citizens into pigeon-holes, but in the United States, that is not the case: "America treats identity as a zero-sum proposition: you can be this, but only if you're not that" (Swanigan, 2009, p. 411). As an example, Swanigan mentions an application form that she had to fill out, observing wittily that it reassured her that although the employer by taking gender and ethnicity data, along with other sensitive information, it had no intention of using it, sharing it, or doing anything with it "that can affect your life in any way" (Swanigan, 2009, p. 411). She makes her point clearly but without stating it directly, namely, if they aren't going to use provided information on the form why are they collecting it in the first place? What is the purpose? And why do we passively let anyone intrude into our personal lives?
She then comes to what is really the heart of the essay when she says that the form offers only six choices of ethnic background (Swanigan, 2009, p. 411). She also states and I quote "You may be black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Hawaiian, or American/Alaskan Indian. Or again you may not, in which case you're out of luck (Swanigan, 2009, p. 412). The choices are limited to the six that someone has deemed will cover the entire population of America and makes no allowance for people of mixed race or those of other races entirely. Nor do these forms truly explain why anybody needs to know this staff in the first place. And in this lies...
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