RSS

Monthly Archives: May 2013

Image

Perspectives on Diversity and Culture

differentperspectives

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.
  • Diversity
    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.

Insights Gained

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.

  1. 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). 
  2. 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!
  3. 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.

References:

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.

Advertisements
 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 25, 2013 in Culture and Diversity, Week 3

 

My Family Culture

Take a snapshot of this scenario: The land … the country you have lived your entire life has suddenly reached a catastrophic state. Everywhere you look, you see devastation … horror. The good memories are now gone, only to be replaced by a heavy sadness and a huge loss. At least you have your immediate family to hold onto as your walk the barren, deserted roads. Suddenly, you hear the rumors that the surviving individuals will need to evacuate to other countries. The rumors quickly turn into truth, as you learn more about this life-shifting move that is coming at you full-steam. The latest news is that individuals will be sent to a country that is not of their choice. As if that is hard enough to swallow, you were told the next day that the culture in that country is polar opposite that the one that was in your homeland. So, now you are facing the future of a new country, a new culture, a new land. Nothing you once knew would be there. As mind blowing as that it, devastation is quickly surmounting around you, and you have 24 hours to pack a change of clothes and only three small items to take with you. Unsure of the future of the country where you lived … built all your memories … these three items may be all that you have to remember the culture that shaped and molded you into who you are today … What would you choose?

To be honest, I have been thinking about this question all week. I thought about my daily goings and comings, determining what items I use on a daily basis that I just positively can’t see myself without. My mind immediately went to my cell phone. My phone has become my second-hand man. It does everything for me … from my banking to keeping in touch with my loved ones. Perhaps this would be a good choice? Then again, I would be in a completely new country. Therefore, the cell towers probably … well ok … won’t reach my cell phone, AND I won’t be able to keep up my with my cell phone bill. Ultimately, my cell phone would be useless in a new country. Well, that idea got thrown out the window. Then, I began to truly dig deep into my life. What items have been with me since I was young? What items define who I am today? What items bring me a sense of hope, comfort, and love? Well, it was a bit tough narrowing down to only three, but they are (with attached descriptions):

familyphots descriptions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blanketdescription

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bibledescription

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Please note the above pictures depict the real items.)

Ok … here’s another snapshot to add to your photo album: You packed up all of your items and boarded the plane with your family. As you stare at the water below you, you grip onto the blanket for a sense of comfort. When the plane lands, your feet hit the soil hard. Your feet shuffled slowly, as you dread meeting new people in a whole new land. You reach the customs station and are forced to open the only bag you brought with you. You are shown to small, dimly-lit room, with a friendly man sitting at a table. Through the translator, you are asked to put all of the items on the table. Your hand reaches all three items, as your delicately place each one on the table in front of you. The man, with a smile painted on his face, touches the items without a word. Then, slowly, he asks you one question: What do these items mean to you? (Of course, the translator spoke this sentence to you.) What would your response be?

  • My blanket: This blanket has seen me through the worst and happiest days of my life. Since I was first born, it was wrapped around me to keep me warm and to shelter me from the world. As I grew, every time I would fall down or get sick, this blanket was there to provide me comfort, reassuring me of familiarity and love. Reaching my teen years and being introduced to love and heartbreak, this blanket was there to wipe away my tears as this boy or that broke my heart. As I birthed my son into this world, I gripped this blanket with all my might to bear through the pain. You see, this blanket is so much more than material. It holds vivid memories of my entire life. Etched through the seams are my thoughts, my secrets, my tears, and my smiles. It has provided warmth on the coldest nights, comforts on the hardest days, love on the loneliest days, and safety when the world was too hard to face. It has been my dearest friend … my only friend … my friend in the middle of the time … my friend when I needed one the most. This blanket and I have been together through the good and bad times … and will be together until my last breath. “Until the grave…” I whisper softly.
  • My Bible: My Bible has been a source of guidance and direction throughout my life. When I was a young girl, I decided to follow Christ, letting my light burn brightly for all the world to see. Yet, I realized that I couldn’t fulfill this decision all on my own. I needed direction to show me how to live and where to go. While people around me where helpful, the Bible was my ultimate source to show me how to live an upright, righteous life. When the road got bumpy, I ingested the words scattered through the Bible to get me through. As I had moments of triumph, I sang praises through the very words etched on the pages. The Bible has spoken words for me when I could no longer speak. I hold the Bible very dear to my heart, as it has guided my thoughts, words, and actions throughout my lifetime.
  • My Family Pictures: Although these photos are not the actual individuals, they represent memories … moments shared in time … with people that I cherish, adore, and love. You see … there are my parents and brother. My family who has been with me for as long as I can remember. They have cheered me on and walked beside me. Although I’m grown now and walk a bit of a different path that the ones they are on, these pictures gently remind me that they will always be there. Oh look .. that’s my son. My precious miracle whose very breath took mine away. He has had his share of struggles throughout his short life, but he always managed to come out with a smile. Pictures of him remind me what a miracle really is, and that no matter how hard of a day I may have, there is always a reason to keep going on. Finally, see this handsome man … that’s my one true love. We waiting for nearly 7 years for each other, with 4 of those years being spent completely apart. It was a long wait, but oh so well worth it. We eagerly look forward to the day when we will become one, sharing in a lifetime forever. Pictures of this sweet man show me what love is … show me that I am loved … show me that things are worth waiting for. For you see … all of these pictures represent more than paper or even the people in them … they represent memories that have given me nuggets of truth to succeed in life. 

Ok … you’ve just finished up explaining about these three items and their immeasurable worth to you. The kind man’s smile slowly fades, as his face suddenly becomes very sullen. The translator tells you that while these items are lovely, this new country has a rule that only one item is allowed to be brought in. You touch each item with hesitancy, as you are forced to continue on with only one item. How would you feel?

Honestly, to know that I’d have to give up two of these items crushes my heart. All three are representations of who I am as an individual. They reveal my culture … my identity … my being. To carry on without all of them would leave me feeling a bit empty … hollow … alone. I wouldn’t feel whole. However, if this is a rule, I have to decide. Let the narrowing process begin:

* My Bible, although precious and wise, is a universal book. More than likely, I would be able to replace my Bible with another one that would be in the language of this new country. Yet, giving up my Bible, even with the thoughts of obtaining a new one in the future, leaves me feeling sad. I simply don’t feel like myself without it.
* My Family Pictures … these depict times of memories shared within my homeland. I don’t want to part from them and forget these delightful times shared with my family. Nonetheless, I am comforted by the fact that my immediate family was able to come with me to this new land. Although the family pictures were from our homeland, we would be able to take new pictures within this new country. The pictures won’t delete or even replace the memories, but the new pictures would be able to capture the individuals that instill character and virtue in me.
* My Blanket … Since the other two items have been choice to be left behind, I would pick my blanket. This is an object that is unique and non-replaceable. I would not be able to find this very blanket in this new country that has the same kind of meaning and history as this yellow blanket does.

Thankfully, the above scenario hasn’t actually happened. It was just a simulation exercise to trigger thoughts and emotions about how culture, diversity, and cultural differences are related to yourself personally and professionally. What did you learn?

Thinking about how much these items meant to me, I was able to see how much emotions are rooted within culture. An item wasn’t chosen just because it was handy or decorative. These items were picked based on connections to the past, my thoughts and emotions. When getting to know a family’s culture, I realized that it is important to learn the history behind this. What makes them happy? What comforts them when they are sad? How do they celebrate victory? Culture is entwined with emotions that truly affect a person’s behaviors and thoughts. As professionals, we should take the time to understand the rich history that is woven throughout a person’s culture.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for my next post J Here’s to a happy few weeks, as we explore about diversity and equity! 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 18, 2013 in Family Culture, Week 2