Looking over this assignment in the beginning of the week, I knew that I wanted to get responses from people who were different from me in one way or another. I define myself as a heterosexual, white woman. Therefore, I knew that I wanted to reach out to people who were different from me in a variety of ways, ranging from race to sexuality. Fortunately, I was able to contact all three of these individuals (well, ok, two out of the three were fairly simple to ask). I’m thankful that I was able to gather three distinct, yet similar perspectives on culture and diversity, as it really helped to deepen my grasp on these two topics.
Included Perspectives of Culture and Diversity
Reflecting on all of the responses from these individuals, I have discovered some aspects of culture and diversity that I have studied recently scattered through their definitions. These include:
- Surface Culture
Louise Derman-Sparks shared that surface culture are “external symbols of the underlying beliefs and values and rules about behavior” (Laurete Education, Inc., 2011). I was startled to see that all three individuals shared examples or referred to surface culture within their definitions of either culture or diversity. For example:
- Sam mentioned that culture is experiencing other races, which is a very obvious external factor.
- Kristen also defined diversity based on the color of one’s skin.
- Bernie did take a different approach by referring to what foods she eats or how she celebrates Christmas.
- Social Identities
While not all three individuals mentioned a type of social identity, I did notice that Sam defined himself as a black man and based his definitions on this. It was apparent that his social identity as a black man meant a lot to him, and he was proud of this identification factor.
All three individuals mentioned that diversity is essentially a mixture of cultures and individuals, not just one homogeneous group of people. As I continue to learn throughout this course, I am realizing that diversity does indeed encompass a large group of people with both similarities and differences
- Sam said that diversity is “being around other races.”
- Kristen defines diversity as “being exposed to differences.”
- Bernie also referred to diversity as “a variety of cultures.”
Omitted Aspects of Culture and Diversity
Although all three of these individuals did include some of the anticipated aspects that I have learned about culture and diversity within their definitions, I was somewhat shocked to find that there were a few (anticipated) aspects that were left out. A few of these include:
- Deep Culture
Yes, all three of these people mentioned aspects that revolved around surface culture, but what about the deeper aspects that truly are enmeshed in an person’s culture? Derman-Sparks and Edwards (2010) referred to this deeper culture as being “much deeper and more significant than those things” (p. 56). (Please note – “those things” refer to surface culture aspects). Some examples are:
- Sam defined culture as being around other races, but what about being within your race? Ramsey (2004) wrote that there are “more genetic differences within different ‘racial groups’ … than across them” (p. 5).There are clearly differences even within an ethic or racial group. Therefore, culture can also include being around those are who within your race, yet are different that you
- Kristen did include differences within her definition of diversity, yet she only reached as far as the color of skin or nails. While these are clear differences, they remain external factors. Differences go so much more deeper than what is on the outside.
- Bernie also stayed within the surface culture area, by only mentioning food and holiday celebrations that mark her culture. She did mention that this is really what does define her, however there are other aspects of deeper culture that can be included.
- Social Identities
Yes, I realize that this was included in Sam’s definition, which was to be expected. However, I was shocked to find that Kristen did not clearly identified part of her culture within a sexual orientation perimeter. Hearing some of the stories she has shared growing up as a lesbian, I was anticipating that she would define her culture based upon this root. However, it was not included.
- Personal Factor
I have been learning that culture is very personal, and it has been ingrained in everyone since birth. As I asked the questions to these three individuals, I offered an example of how I see my culture (white, Christian woman who is a mother). However, all three of them chose to stay within a generic definition of both culture and diversity. Sam did touch a bit on personal aspects by referencing to his race, and Bernie did share two examples of her culture; however, none of them told me what their personal culture is. All three defined culture and diversity as being within larger groups.
Looking back on these individuals’ responses and what aspects were and were not included, I realized that I gained several insights that have allowed me to grasp deeper thoughts and perspectives of my own in regards to diversity and culture.
- Deep culture is not always immediately identified. Listening to all three of these definitions, I quickly realized that those aspects affiliated with the deeper side of culture are not usually readily recognized. While those aspects are the root of our identity and culture, they require time to ponder and think about it. After each person shared their definitions (which are recorded above), I went on to ask a few specific questions just out of curiosity. It was through these deeper questions that the individuals were able to begin to recognize how the deeper elements of culture affect them. I was able to clearly see that if there is no present oppression, an individual “may not be thinking of [their] race, class, sexual orientation, religion, and age” (Gonzalez-Mena, 2008, p. 11).
- Differences are usually highlighted. Within these various definitions, all three individuals referred to the differences of others or being with those who are not like you. I was able to see that as first glance, culture is often see as mixture of only differences. While there are definitely differences within culture, it is also important to embrace and celebrate the similarities too. Culture, in my personal opinion, is actually a mixture of both the similarities and differences that people have to offer, rather than solely the differences. However, people often only focus on these differences. This has encouraged me to set an example by discovering how I am the same and difference in comparison to others, and this is ok!
- Culture and diversity are lived daily, but remain somewhat unfamiliar defined topics. Since I have been studying both culture and diversity, I am able to provide a thorough definition of these terms. I can grasp both the surface and deep culture. I can see how diversity is a combination of both similarities and differences. This is only because I have been reading and learning about these topics recently. If someone had asked me before this course, I would have probably offered a definition similar to one above. Culture is something that I practice and live every day, but if I had been asked to stop and actually define it, it would have been difficult. I learned that individuals may not necessarily be able to provide a textbook definition of either culture or diversity, however their lives are enriched with both daily.
Through looking through these different lens, I was able to gain a deeper perspective and meaning of what culture and diversity mean to me both personally and professionally.
Derman-Sparks, L., & Edwards, J. O. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Gonzalez-Mena, J. (2008). Diversity in Early Care and Education (5th ed., pp. 8-13). Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.
Laurete Education. (2011). Culture and Diversity. [Media Presentation]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2821339_1%26url%3D
Ramsey, P. G. (2004). Teaching and learning in a diverse world (pp. 3–6). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.