Who I am; my beliefs, values, morals, and views on diversity are shaped based upon my upbringing, the values within society, and the norms adopted by our culture. However, I can’t only thank these sources for whom I am; my own personal experiences and feelings have had a huge impact on my cultural views. My biases; I am aware of them (good), but they exist, and to some may seem bad. I want to take you on a journey inside my path to cultural identity.
I think I was a pretty easy going teen growing up; as long as I had my eye liner and my eclectic group of friends by my side, it was going to be a good day. I went to school (preschool-12th grade) in a small community, predominantly white. There were maybe a handful of African Americans in my school, but one of my closest friends, Shilo, was bi-racial. Hartford is a small town, and is segregated to an obvious degree. Over by Stop n Rob (actually Stop n Go, but because of the area, it got a nickname), is the “ghetto” of town; the low income housing, and where most (and not much at that) of the crimes happened. These facts aside, I never grew up thinking the White race was above any other; I don’t remember any acts of racism occurring within my community growing up.
America’s had an impact on my cultural views; both good and bad. Good: I never had much exposure to the gay/lesbian culture growing up, yet I always admired and supported their fight for equal rights. I think America has shed light upon the idea of equality among gay marriage, and has only strengthened my already supportive view. The bad: September 11, 2001. I don’t need to go into details about the tragic events that took place that day, but that did drastically change my views of different cultures. As America started to fear them, I started to look at Afghans and Palestinians differently. It opened my eyes to the bigger picture: unknown cultural differences. To the bombers of 9/11, they were getting a one way ticket to a pleasant after-life; to me, they are cold blooded murderers that deserve nothing but the worst.
The schools I attended growing up always promoted equality; I saw nothing different. It wasn’t until college that my eyes opened even wider to the differences among cultures. When trying to apply for scholarships, I found several scholarships for single African American women, and African Americans in general, yet I found no White scholarships; nothing given specifically to my race to help us better our futures. Within college, I notice a very liberal attitude; equal rights and happy endings. I DO NOT consider myself racist (liberal in certain areas), but with my views and opinions differing in areas of cultural diversity, I find myself feeling like I am wrong for having the feelings and attitudes I do; I shouldn’t as they are mine to own.
Growing up in a smaller town, my grandparents being very set in their traditions and beliefs, I was raised hearing things that I disagree with today. My grandma, bless her soul, has told me since I was old enough to date, that if I ever brought an African American man home, she would disown me. In the bible, according to her, it is a sin to date outside one’s race. Even today, I have to defend my openness to cultural diversity to her. I don’t take offense to her words; I know she was raised in times when that mind set was considered “ok”. I guess one could say that I feel I learned how NOT to view the world from my family. My family traditions I hold dear to my heart, and I feel those traditions showed me the importance of family and having a sense of belonging.
As stated prior, growing up, I never saw any racist acts take place; I never saw America as being racist. As I am growing up, I am seeing things differently. Starting with 9/11, and the effects that followed that day, scholarship hunting, presidential situations, and now the idea that the White man is to blame for racism (and all the problems that has caused), I feel like my own cultural experiences have done more than enough to shape who I am today. While I don’t have many different cultural experiences, I would like to take the time to consider my culture run-ins. I have already described 9/11 and scholarship issues, but I must say that I was shocked when the 2008 election took place. I have NEVER voted republican, but during the 2008 election, I felt I had no choice. Here was a man (Obama), running for president, when he had no real political experience, and to me, had no real promise of a better future, but he won. Headlines swarmed with the fact that people were voting for Obama (for racial reasons) that have never voted in their life. I was disappointed, but what put the final stake in the coffin was when I was considered racist because I didn’t vote for Obama. The fact that I had to defend myself against racism in a presidential election infuriates me (to this day).
As far as “us white people” go vs. racism: it is a two way street! Are there White racists out there? Yes. Are there African American racists out there? Yes. I do not feel comfortable going into all of my views in this area because I feel like if I say what I feel, I will be considered racist, and be doomed in the counseling field. What I am going to say on this topic is this: slavery happened many years ago; was it awful? Yes. Does that warrant a race their own magazine, TV channel, award show, and college funds? Ummm no.
My cultural and family biases that shaped who I am today? Well, my family feels the same way I do on many issues surrounding cultural diversity, so I guess maybe I did get some of my views from them. I never really thought about this, but they have always made it clear that African Americans still cry “slavery” and oppression, yet they have the same rights, and in some aspects, more than we do. My family is very pro-closed American borders (as am I); they feel immigrants come into America, and get the world handed to them (housing and food assistance at the least). I want to say thank you Mr. Lotto for asking this question. It has opened my eyes to the idea that family and cultural biases are handed down generation to generation, and some may not even be aware of it. While I don’t see it as a bad thing, I understand.
My own cultural identity and biases could probably consist of a small book, both good and bad. I have been as honest in this paper as I feel comfortable being, but to sum up my biases, I will say this: I think people need to stop crying victim, and start making an honest lives for themselves. Color aside, everyone has their own struggles; not everyone cries discrimination.
My biases are mine, and mine alone. I respect other’s opinions, as long as they are not saying “those White people” (I feel they are generalizing). I think, just like values and morals, there is a time and a place to voice my feelings, but when working with a client, that is not the time or place. I think I would struggle if someone came in and cried “victim” due to racial discrimination issues. I could see myself trying to help them see that rather than looking at the situation as being victimized, look at it as an opportunity to overcome a hurdle in their life. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but I would try and empathize with their situation, while not giving sympathy.
I think there are benefits to having cross cultural relationships. Every culture has their own beliefs and ways of thinking; by having an open mind to others’ perspectives, you open your eyes to opportunities. An opportunity to see the world through another’s eyes; maybe helping you see things differently (better or worse), and making changes within yourself/actions. Keeping an open mind to others is very important if you want to be able to understand, and empathize with culturally diverse situations.
There are a vast ore of opportunities from which someone can gain cultural diversity understanding, and determine any biases. I think it is important that people become aware of their feelings toward diversity, as well as acknowledge the positive and negative. I am not going to sit here and say that I have no biases; I am both aware of them, and understand where they stem from (this paper helped). In a world full of cultural diversity, it is more important now than ever that people come to grips with their feelings/attitudes towards others of different ethnicities and cultures. I do hope to gain some type of understanding as to what/why different cultures feel discrimination from White people. I don’t see it, and in certain aspects I feel it is the other way around, so hopefully Diversity in Counseling will shed some light for me (I just need to keep an open mind and try not to get defensive).