My name is Sarah. I’m a senior studying Speech Communication. Part of what drew me to this major is the fact that language is an immensely complicated system that we are able to use without deliberation. We draw on millions of interactions and associations to form sentences in the blink of an eye. Through all this, we find many pitfalls of miscommunication. I want to learn how to avoid those, make better communication strategies, and especially study my second language, Japanese.
Taking this class as part of my major is very important to me. I have made a conscious effort in my adult life to be a multicultural person, and to be sensitive and aware of cultural issues and topics. As stated in the book, “a culture is any group of people that share a way of life” (3). This determines that groups norms, values, beliefs and customs. The fact that these can vary from group to group is an eye opening notion. It can make one question whether or not there is any one right way of doing things. Despite that, people cling to their beliefs and the power that is inferred by their privilege.
For this post, I have thought particularly about privilege. I’m very aware of my white privilege, and I do my best to be an ally and to admit to my shortcomings. This is very hard for most people to admit, but I think it’s the first step to changing our society: admitting that we, as white Americans, are privileged, and we are conditioned to have certain stereotypes and perceptions. Even if I fight it with all my might, I have been conditioned from a young age to think that people of African descent are dangerous, that Asians are overachievers, that Latinos are lazy and promiscuous, and so on.
This doesn’t mean that I actually hold those beliefs to be true. It just means that through social programming, I’ve been taught to have these as a gut reaction. When I see a black person walking toward me in the dark, I’m more likely to think they are a gang member than if they were white. If a Latino guy flirts with me, I’m more likely to think that he’s promiscuous and flirts with every girl than if he were another race. This is a battle we have to keep fighting. When those thoughts crop up, I am quick to dismiss them, and I wonder if I will ever be able to completely abandon them. I can only hope that one day we will live in a world that doesn’t program these stereotypes into children, and that we can live in a more free and just society.