Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Practicing Awareness of Microaggressions

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
-Nelson Mandela

This week we learned about microaggressions, these include microassaults, microinsults and microinvalidations. In the media segment from this week’s course resources, Dr. Sue explains that microaggressions are defined as brief everyday indignities, they may be verbal, behavioral or environmental and are communicated intentionally or unintentionally. He further states that microaggressions have an insulting message and often cause severe psychological stress and harm because they portray views of inferiority/superiority and inclusions/exclusions towards minority groups of people (Laureate Education, 2011). Dr. Sue explains that microaggressions often occur unintentionally and without intended harm or malice however, there is still a consequence to the person being subjected. These occurrences happen cumulatively, he states: “it is constant acts of marginalization that affect one’s self-esteem and cause individuals to feel displaced and on the rebound continuously” (Laureate Education, 2011).

An example of microaggression that I witnessed firsthand, occurred when I was at the mall with two of my girlfriends. As we were walking outside there was an Aboriginal man begging for money with a sign that said “Have no money and starving- please be kind and help”. I would not have even noticed him, he was quietly tucked away in a corner, if it wasn’t for a group of teenagers who intersected us. One of the girls said “How do they need money- they don’t pay for anything?!” While another teenage girl replied “I don’t know he probably just wants booze”. I remember wondering if the reaction would have been the same if it were a Caucasian man sitting with a sign asking for money. In this scenario the man was marginalized into a stereotype that Aboriginal people are drunks and have no reason to be poor. My best friend’s daughter is Aboriginal and I worry about the stereotypes and discrimination she will face growing up. For a city of 100,000 people, we have one of the highest rates of hate crimes in all of Canada. Here is a link for the CBC article if interested http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/thunder-bay-ranks-second-for-reported-hate-crimes-1.2689832 It is disheartening that a country that claims to be proud to be multicultural can exhibit such close-minded thinking, stereotyping, discrimination and racism.

This week I really listened to, and observed peoples’ interactions, reactions, facial expressions, body language and discourse in various environments while completing everyday tasks and errands. I was truly shocked at what I saw. I witnessed many people using terms like “that’s so gay” and “that’s retarded” in almost every area I went. I saw people walking slink far away from and Arab man as if they were fearful. What really spoke to me about this experience is that quite often the people making discriminatory comments were teenagers. This language has become so common place that people don't even realize the harm they are doing and the hurt they are causing. I believe for this very reason that the education system needs to do more to teach children about tolerance, understanding, awareness and appreciation of different cultures and ethnicities.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Microaggressions in everyday life [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Perspectives on Diversity and Culture

Male Aboriginal Age 30
I think that culture means that it is someone’s belief system. It could be their religion or their race, their language and their traditions and beliefs. Diversity is the differences that exist between all people as a result of different cultures. Some cultures are more evident than others when you look at society.
Female Caucasian Age 53
Someone’s culture is where they come from and who they are. It is the celebrations they celebrate, the language they speak, the colour of their skin and what they believe in. It could relate to religious affiliations, their heritage and their ancestral ties. To me diversity means that everyone is
 unique in their culture.

Male Caucasian Age 56
My definition of culture is a person’s ethnic roots and background. They are what shape the aspects of your life and outlook on society.
To me diversity means the differences. Diversity is the composite of all of the individual backgrounds and cultures in a society. It can lead to harmony or conflict depending on individual biases and preferences.

After discussing these questions with family and friends, I realized that each person included some ideas that were similar and some that were different. I believe that the differences are often related to their place in society (dominant or minority culture) as well as their prior experiences and prior knowledge concerning culture and diversity. In this week’s media segment Janet Gonzalez-Mena explained that she defined culture as a set of often “unconscious rules” that govern everything we do. She explained that cultural understanding includes different perspectives, world views, and different beliefs (Laureate Education, 2011). All of these aspects of culture were referenced while interviewing my three candidates. We have been learning however, about individual and family culture throughout the course. These are both aspects of culture that I had not considered before this course and I remarked that the people I interviewed did not discuss these aspects either. When discussing culture and diversity, people usually focus on heritage, race and ethnicity this was also evident while asking questions. Gonzalez-Mena explains that gender is heavily intertwined when discussing culture and that culture has a huge impact on the way that children are raised, perceived and educated (Laureate Education, 2011).

Other people’s definitions of culture and diversity influenced my own thinking about these topics as I realized how much someone’s personal story and viewpoint of the world and society at large has on such topics. Someone for example who is seen as the minority culture may feel as though he or she is not truly representing in what someone else may consider a very diverse workplace, classroom or community. Or someone who has seen war and destruction may understand that diversity can cause misunderstanding and conflict. This experience really shed light on the way that many people have different opinions and ideas about culture and diversity.


Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Culture and diversity [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Thursday, 10 July 2014

My Family Culture

Blog: My Family Culture

Imagine the following:
A major catastrophe has almost completely devastated the infrastructure of your country. The emergency government has decided that the surviving citizens will be best served if they are evacuated to other countries willing to take refugees. You and your immediate family are among the survivors of this catastrophic event. However, you have absolutely no input into the final destination or in any other evacuation details. You are told that your host country’s culture is completely different from your own, and that you might have to stay there permanently. You are further told that, in addition to one change of clothes, you can only take 3 small items with you. You decide to take three items that you hold dear and that represent your family culture.

Wow! This week’s question was really difficult and emotional to imagine. I cannot even begin to really think about how stressful and intimidating it would be to leave my home, extended family and friends in such a rush unsure of the outcome. It really put into perspective for me what so many refugees have faced in fleeing their countries in times of turmoil and war. The three items I would bring with me if I had to leave my country behind are first a photo album I have that includes pictures of my childhood, my family, friends, trips I have taken and also pictures of my partner and his family. This item would be so important because it not only tells my individual story but also tells the timeline of our life together. The second item I would bring is a diamond necklace that Chris bought me on our first anniversary. It is not just a piece of jewelry to me but is a symbol of the commitment that we have made to one another. Finally, I would be able to house these two other items in a small wooden box that was made by one of my Grandmother’s friends while she was still living. It is a wood burnt box and depicts an Estonian landscape. I would explain to others that these three items represent a piece of who I am. They portray my family life with my parents and siblings, my family life with Chris and a part of my cultural heritage.

If I was told, upon arrival that I was only able to keep one of the items that I brought with me, I would feel divided. These three things are all very important aspects of my life and who I am and if I was forced to choose one I would feel as though I was being forced to let go of a part of my identity. This experience was very visual. I actually put my three objects in front of me and debated about which I would keep if I was only allowed to keep one. This was a very difficult and emotional experience but was definitely worthwhile in learning exploring the importance of family culture. It was very challenging to narrow my objects down to three and seemed as though it would be an impossible task to limit myself to one object.