Journal # 9

“The medium is the message” – Marshall McLuhan.

So what does this mean?

The medium through which information is received influences and has a direct relationship with the message itself.

Think of the main media source in today’s society: the internet. It’s fast, full of misinformation, full of people claiming to be experts, but it can also be a valuable tool in research. This reflects society today. We want instant gratification. Blogging and web design removes gatekeepers and allows anyone to pose as an expert. 

Not only does media influence our culture, it is our culture. Because of popular sites like Reddit, people can crowd source information on a large scale. We can anonymously ask embarrassing or sensitive questions without fear of repercussions. 

Because we are so involved in our media consumption, it also influences our thinking. Big name YouTubers and Instagram models dictate our beauty standards. They tell us what to buy and what movies to see. When was the last time you walked into a restaurant without using Yelp or Google Reviews to make sure it was good? When was the last time you saw a film without looking up what the critics had to say?

Although we may assume we are a more freethinking society than times of old, in some ways we are not. Take for example the guest speaker, Scott. The population was influenced by what the Discovery Channel had to say about his work in Ghana. From his perspective, he was trying to be ethical and even worked hard to respect the culture there. From the perspective of others, he was disrespectful and harming their nation. 

If we allow the media to tell us what to think, we’re not thinking at all. 

Journal # 8

I am in an interracial relationship myself, but since the assignment said to ask someone else, I asked my friend. She’s dating a guy from Japan. They started dating about a year ago. She said at first, she was blown away with how sweet he was. He would shower her with gifts and she wasn’t used to that. He also puts a lot of thought into planning dates. She said it’s so different than dating white guys who just want to “hang out”. 

One of the difficulties she talked about is that he doesn’t want to hold her hand or show her affection in public. He tells her it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love her, it’s just part of their culture. Japanese people think it’s rude to others to be affectionate in public. Maybe they don’t want to see it, or maybe it will make them feel lonely. She also said he doesn’t say “i love you” very often. He tries to tell her that the more you say it, the meaning gets diluted. It’s hard for her to understand. This relates to class because we often talk about how things that may seem normal for us are not normal for others. It’s only once you learn about other cultures that you discover how many different ways there are to see the world.

Learning about co-culture groups was really interesting. Even here in Utah, we are all Utahns. But we have Mormon and non-Mormon groups. We also have ethnic groups within that. And even further, we have groups that are split into interest or hobbies. So someone could be a white Utahn, but they are non-Mormon and they are a gamer. These would be their co-cultures.

Ted Talk Presentation

Expelling Stereotypes Through Friendships

 

Zak Ebrahim is the son of one of the terrorists who planned the 9/11 attacks. He was raised to be a terrorist as well. When he began going out and living on his own, he started to change his perspective. He began making Jewish and homosexual friends, and learned that the groups of people he had been taught to hate weren’t evil at all. Because of this, his perspective changed.

Currently, society stereotypes terrorists as Middle Eastern Muslims. As we are taught these stereotypes over and over, cognitive structures are created in my mind. According to Hirchi, “. Since 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, these negative representations became even more anchored in the American cultural imaginary. Media apparatuses contribute enormously to the construction of these images and symbols rather than construct a conceptual model that sheds light on the complex relationship between the media, culture, and the political process” (Hirchi, 8). Another example of this is the refusal to call white terrorists terrorists.

In an experiment done by Horry and Wright, which closely resembled the design done by Eberhardt et al, they were able to observe a visual bias between terrorism and Middle Eastern males (Horry and Wright, 345). “The results also support Eberhardt et al.’s (2004) findings that racial stereotypes, activated through subliminal priming, can guide visual attention toward faces of other races” (355). Stereotypes being reinforced over and over again creates a pattern in our brain that become difficult to break.

However, I believe there is a way to change this. Just like Zak Ebrahim, making friends with people from groups we hold stereotypes about is a way to change our perspective. I was also raised to think something is wrong with homosexual people. When I grew up, I became friends with many LGBTQ people and some of them became my best friends. The same with Middle Eastern Muslims. I learned to be afraid of them from their representation in the media, but when I got here to UVU I met so many incredibly kind and loving Muslim people. When we step out of our comfort zone and make an effort to be friends with people from groups we have stereotypes about, we can educate ourselves in a way that the media cannot. We can create new patterns in our mind that are more realistic and healthy. I hope that more people can try to reach out and befriend people from different groups without stereotyping them in order to make an effort to have a more understanding and culturally sensitive world.

 

Works Cited

Ebrahim, Zak. I am the Son of a Terrorist. Here’s How I Chose Peace. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/zak_ebrahim_i_am_the_son_of_a_terrorist_here_s_how_i_chose_peace/transcript

HORRY, R., & WRIGHT, D. B. (2009). Anxiety and terrorism: Automatic stereotypes affect visual attention and recognition memory for White and Middle Eastern faces. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23(3), 345-357.

Hirchi, M. (2007). Media representations of the Middle East. Media Development, 54(2), 7-11.

Journal # 7

The last few weeks have gotten the wheels in my head turning. It can be easy to see the ways in which we are underprivileged. We can always see the deficit around us in regards to ourselves. But it’s not as easy to see how privileged we are. 

I’ve often focused on the ways I’ve been underprivileged, such as being female or being nonreligious. I get stared at when I wear clothes that are not considered modest by the dominant religion around here. I can feel the looks when my tattoos are exposed, or when I have a cup of coffee in my hand. Those are daily occurrences in my life, and often the lack of privilege shows itself in more serious ways.

But after the last few weeks, I’ve been considering more and more how much privilege I do have. Being born into a white, middle class family puts me in a position of privilege. I’ve always lived in reasonable safe neighborhoods. I’ve always been reasonably healthy. I haven’t had to worry about people thinking I am a thief or a terrorist, and I can’t possibly imagine what it would be like to live that way.

Because of this, I want to do more and more to help those in need. I like the idea of being an advocate. I already told this story, but recently I stood up for my beliefs in the speech lab. One of my students was using racially insensitive rhetoric, and I took the time to explain to him why it wasn’t right. If I was a person of color, it’s likely he would have disregarded what I said. But by using my place of privilege, I think he listened to me. I’m going to continue to take those opportunities to be an advocate and continue to learn new ways I can help those with less privilege than I.

Journal # 6

This week, we talked a lot about privilege. It’s always interesting to hear my classmates perspectives, especially since we live in a predominately white, Christian area. Some people felt uncomfortable talking about their privilege, especially the white men. In my opinion, they shouldn’t feel guilty unless they are guilty of exploiting their own privilege. 

As a white privileged person, the best thing I can do for the world is to first of all, admit to my privilege. There’s no reason to deny it. Certain things are easier for me because of my race. The more I deny it, the more I’m delegitimizing the struggles of others. After admitting it, it’s important to use my position of power to empower others. 

For example, when I hear my dad say something racist, it would be easy to just say nothing. Instead, I always call him out on it. I tell him why it’s wrong and make sure he knows he can’t get away with saying those things.

Another example is a few weeks ago when I was tutoring, a student wrote a speech about how he doesn’t see race, he’s sick of hearing about racial issues, and he doesn’t want to use the terms black and white anymore. I could have just let him walk out and think it was ok to say all those things. Instead, I had to tell him why his rhetoric comes across as racially insensitive. Also, if I was a person of color, it’s likely he would have disregarded my comments and gone on with his speech as it was. But because I am a white person of privilege, it’s possible he would have listened more to my perspective.

In the end, that’s what I told him he should do. LISTEN. Listen to the stories of people of color, listen to perspectives outside his own, and see what he learns. There are so many ways to experience this life, and that of a white privileged man is so narrow. The more we listen to others, the more we can understand that life isn’t so easy for minorities and people of colors, and then we can know how to help them. 

Journal # 5

I’m a very privileged person. I’m white. I was born in a fairly middle class setting. Yes, we struggled financially, but we survived. We always had a home. My parents both went to university and I was encouraged to do the same. I don’t have to worry about being followed around the mall for stealing, and I don’t have to worry about being perceived as a terrorist. 

However, there are some ways in which I am not privileged. I am a woman. There will always be patriarchs who believe that there are things I cannot do as a woman. I have to disagree that “women participate in patriarchy” and that “people can only be subordinate if they allow it”. Yes, some women do participate in it. But not every woman does. I am constantly challenging patriarchy, whether or not that is good for my image. Also, did the African slaves brought over to the states allow themselves to be subordinate? Did the Jews allow Hitler to dominate them? These are blanket statements that were made in class that I believe should be challenged. Women have been treated as property by men for the entirety of recorded history. Men are, by nature, usually physically stronger than women and could impose force upon them. This doesn’t mean women allowed themselves to be raped, beaten, and treated as property.

For example, let’s tie this to the lecture by Patience. He talked about the white Afrikaans taking control of the country. He explained how male-centric the culture is and how they even oppressed their own women. He told us that there would be a cottage at the back of the house for the black maid to live. At night, the men would go into the cottage and rape the maid. Their white wives knew about it, but how could they say anything? If they did, they would be facing a large man with institutional power who could beat them, kick them out, kill them, or ignore them. Sure, they could leave, but when social injustice is institutionalized, they would have nowhere to go. 

But I digress.

All this is to say that I am not always privileged. I am also not religious. Especially in Utah, this gives me a disadvantage. I am pushed away socially. I am not welcomed in certain groups because I am different. People perceive that something is wrong with me and my soul needs saving. The truth is, I don’t feel a need for religion in my life. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my problems, but it also doesn’t mean I “need Jesus”. I am even outcast in my own family, and let me tell you, that doesn’t feel great. 

Patience told us he is also not a member of the dominant religion around here. That, plus being a black African man in Utah must be really tough. He has so much more to think about than I do. He’s disadvantaged in ways I am not. People may not know from looking at me that I’m not LDS, but people will always be able to see that he’s black. It was very interesting to hear his talk about South Africa and the institutional racism that still exists. I hope it helped my classmates learn that racism doesn’t disappear. It also helped me have a better picture of the history of South Africa, and added to my intercultural knowledge. 

Cultural Self-Assessment

Most of my life, I’ve lived here in Utah. Despite that, I have never identified with the culture here in happy valley. I’ve always been a loner and a weirdo. Instead of trying to force myself to fit into a culture that I don’t identify with, I’ve always reached out to learn about other peoples and I like to think of myself as a culturally aware person. There’s almost no ethnic food I haven’t tried, I’ve traveled, am bilingual, have friends from many different countries, and try to learn what I can about places in the world that I’ve never been. However, through this class, I’ve learned that I’m not as culturally aware as I thought.

As for my own cultural identity, it is complicated. I am a white middle class female. But it’s not as simple as that. I’m half Croatian, my mother is from an upper class family, and I am do not believe in enforcing gender stereotypes and roles. Although I spent most of my life in Springville, Utah, we did live in Georgia for five years when I was young. During that time, most of my classmates were black. I remember being young enough to not think much of it, but I did begin to become aware of race. I remember another white girl saying “Carrie is cute… for a black boy.” I pondered at that notion. Were white boys cuter than black boys? I didn’t think so. I actually felt myself feel that fluttery playground excitement around some of the black boys and it wasn’t different from what I felt for the white boys. I lived there during the OJ Simpson trial and I remember the other children talking about it. Surely they were just repeating what their parents had said. But the black kids wanted him to be acquitted. Although we were too young to understand, we were already being programmed.

Back in Springville, there was almost no cultural diversity. I think there was one black girl at my school and quite a few Hispanics. There was one Asian girl, but she was born in Utah. No one of Middle Eastern descent. I didn’t identify with the Mormon culture and had a very hard time making friends. I spent most of my days alone. This was before the internet was big, so it was near impossible for me to have contact with the outside world. I did look at encyclopedias often and when I wasn’t looking at animals, I was looking at the cities around the world. Rome, London, Tokyo. I dreamed about what it must be like there. But there’s only so much you can learn from a few pages in an encyclopedia. When I was 14, another girl showed me an anime called Fruits Basket. It was in Japanese. I fell in love instantly with the language and became obsessed with the culture. This was when the internet was becoming widely used, so I was able to research online. However, I didn’t meet a Japanese person in real life until I was 20. His name was Nobu and we are still friends.

When it comes to other cultures, I’ve always been more curious than anything. I want to know what they eat, what phrases they use, how they live. I think I’m pretty good at asking questions and not being offensive. I’ve also done a lot of research on many cultures, and can surprise people with the things I might know about their country. This isn’t to say I’m always right, and I do still make mistakes. Although in my youth I was very ignorant, I have worked hard to overcome that. When I was young, we didn’t have much contact with the outside world and other cultures. I grew up in a bubble and didn’t have to be aware of other cultures. I do wish my parents had made more of an effort to teach us about other peoples, but it has been fun to discover on my own. As an adult, I’ve been striving to be a culturally aware person.

I have a group of international friends at UVU from Saudi Arabia, Latin America, Korea, Russia, and so on. We often talk about our languages and laugh at the creative things that other cultures come up with. Those conversations make me feel alive. I am always thirsty for more and want to visit their countries. However, that is not to say that I don’t have my biases and stereotypes. These are ingrained in our minds from a young age. I often catch myself thinking about them. Black people like hip hop, Mexicans are lazy, and so forth. TV and society enforces these ideas. Until we stop and think about them, we are slave to them. Because of this class, I realized I know so little about African cultures and Eastern Europe and the Pacific Islands. When we only have a “single story”, we lack so much information about these cultures. Being brought up in Happy valley, we were taught that everyone is equal, but we never did anything to help people less fortunate than us. My dad still makes racist jokes sometimes and thinks he’s funny. It bothers me and my siblings a lot, and we try to talk to him about it, but he doesn’t understand.

When it comes to other genders, I think I am more empathetic than some other people. I mentioned this in class, but having my gender identify pushed on me really affected me negatively. It made me hate my younger sister which translated into becoming a jealous woman. I have worked to overcome this but it’s deeply programmed in me. Because of this, I am very open minded about gender and have a lot of trans and gender fluid friends. It doesn’t bother me at all and I don’t think it’s tearing apart the framework of society. I think gender is a performative notion that should be allowed some freedom.

Whenever I meet a person who is not performing their gender in a binary fashion, I make sure to be careful about the pronouns I use and ask their name. This makes us treat each other as individual humans instead of clusters of men and women. Overall, I think this is a positive thing for society. Maybe others don’t see it that way, but I would rather approach other people as individual human beings, instead of being programmed to talk to them a certain way because of their gender. I do, however, have some stereotypes about men. This is mostly enforced by experience but also culture. I often think that men perceive themselves as superior and will always treat me as less. This is not always true, and I have to take things on a case by case basis.

For the most part, we learn about culture from TV, movies, news, and the people around us. When you’re young, and especially when you are brought up in a fairly homogeneous society, it is hard to get your knowledge from elsewhere. In the news, you often see stories highlighted with black or Hispanic criminals, and Middle Eastern terrorists. This enforces our stereotypes and doesn’t paint an accurate picture of what is really going on. When we went to New York for my grandmother’s funeral when I was 16, I was blown away with all the different cultures in the city. I loved it. I knew I wanted to live in a big city. Even the weird things excited me, like the street preachers and homeless people and all the colorful characters on the subway.

When I got older, I started traveling by myself and got even more excited about the possibilities. The food in Europe, the entertainment in Japan, the history of China, it all made me want more. It made me want to be a more aware global citizen. Once I started traveling, I started learning how to use proper terms for people, how to be culturally sensitive, and how to learn about other cultures. This has helped me break down the stereotypes I previously had and made me see how much there is to know in the world. No matter how hard I try, I can never know it all, but I’d like to learn as much as I can.

Overall, no matter how much I try to be a culturally aware person, I know I am still lacking so much. Having Donette in the class made me realize I know nothing about Liberia. I’d love to learn more about his culture. We also have a Fijian girl in class, and I think it would be really interesting to hear about her country of origin. Lastly, I think it would be interesting to hear from other classmates who may not have a visible difference. They may be bilingual, or from a European country. It would help us understand that we don’t always see differences, but they are always there. Overall, this class has enriched my worldview and I am excited to learn more.

 

Post # 4

I found the talk by Adonica to be highly inspirational. I felt myself getting a little choked up at parts of her story. After such a disadvantaged upbringing, being a person of color with a mentally ill mother, and growing up in the foster system, then experiencing an abusive relationship, she was still able to make so much of herself. After all that, she became a highly successful woman, holding two bachelor and two masters degrees. 

What struck me the most about this was that she is the exception to the rule. She fought her way out of the cycle of poverty and has become so successful. However, despite being the exception to the rule, she doesn’t brag and tell others that they shouldn’t complain because they can do the same. Instead, she advocates for disadvantaged people. She spreads education and helps people fill in the gaps where they have no help. She knows what it’s like to be there, and she is taking initiative to make it easier for others to do the same, instead of expecting them to fight as hard as she did. 

My partner is a POC who grew up in the projects with parents who didn’t speak English. Now, he is a successful scientist who is able to support me and his mother. However, he doesn’t tell other people of color that they should get off their lazy ass and do the same. He advocates for young people of color to have access to better programs to help them do well at school and find careers that they will enjoy. Being the exception to the rule puts you in a position to help others, not tell them that they aren’t trying hard enough.

This has been on the forefront of my mind lately. I tutor in the speech lab, and today a student came in with a speech about how the Michael Brown case shouldn’t have been about race, that all people should be treated the same, and that he doesn’t see color. I couldn’t even focus on the structure of his speech because everything he was saying was so insensitive and ignorant. I had to take him to social justice preschool to explain why his rhetoric was harmful and does not advocate for a better, more equal future for all. In a nutshell, I told him that he should take more time to listen to the stories of people of color, and always remember that was white privileged Americans, we do not know what it is like to be them. If we listen to people like Adonica, we can get a better sense of what we can do to further the effort to make a nurturing and supportive society for all. 

Journal # 3

A great neuroscientist once told me, “If you can learn one language, you can learn any language.” To me, this applies to everyone. I do think it’s great when immigrants who come to the US try hard to learn English, but many of them are older and have a much harder time adjusting. They’re so used to their native language and mostly came here to help their children have a better life. Specifically, many Spanish speakers have this experience. 

In my opinion, it would be beneficial to everyone if we required American students to take Spanish. After all, don’t we require some foreign language credits in high school? Why not do the same in Elementary and junior high? Younger children have an easier time learning languages, and this would prepare them to be able to communicate with an even wider population. Furthermore, Spanish and English are related, making it easier for English speakers to learn. Many countries require English learning, such as Japan, Korea, and Scandinavian countries. Why couldn’t we do the same?

English only laws are discriminatory. Also, even if someone comes to this country not speaking much English, it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to learn. Allowing non-English speakers the same rights would create more jobs and a more community oriented society.


So far, I have collected a lot of Halloween costumes for Because He First Loved Us. The thing that has struck me the most is the questions people ask when I collect the costumes. They want to know about the refugees, what country they’re from, how many kids there are. Some of them express sympathy. Those poor people, they must have it rough. But it struck me, I don’t know that much about them yet, as I haven’t been up to the center yet. Furthermore, I don’t know if they “have it rough”. Maybe they are really happy and enjoying their lives. It reminded me of the “Danger of a Single Story” that we listened to in class. We hear about refugees having such a terrible time, we don’t consider that some of them might be thriving now. In any case, I’m looking forward to meeting them and finding out what their stories are.

Journal # 2

There’s a lot I’ve thought about over these chapters, and I’m not sure how to organize my thoughts. Firstly, I want to mention the concept of competence. This idea was first introduced to me when I called an intercultural consultant in the area to ask him if I could do an internship with him. He was unable to undertake me, but he did give me some advice. He told me if I want to work as an intercultural consultant, I need to get to the level of unconscious competence with Japanese culture. In some ways, I’m already there. I bow, I sense the atmosphere, I know how to eat. But in some ways, I’m so far off. Mostly, I’m not there with the language. If it’s an easy conversation, I can speak without thinking. But if it’s new vocabulary or something complicated, I stumble. I need more practice. 

In regards to Babakiueria, I feel that this film was brilliant in many ways. The satire was used perfectly to explore what it would be like to reverse the roles of racism. Of course, I had thought about this before. What if I, a white privileged American, was in the position of a minority? How would I feel? But watching it be played out in the film was eye-opening indeed. We had to laugh, but it was also disturbing to know that the Aboriginal genocide, the stolen generation, and other atrocities really happened not that long ago. This notion of colonialism and white man’s burden has always disturbed me. Why is our culture imposed upon theirs? What would the world be like if we had not destroyed so many ancient and beautiful cultures? One can only imagine, but sadly it is too late. I simply hope that we can try from here on to be more sensitive, engaging, and encouraging members of society rather than insisting that our way is the best.