Category Archives: Ethnocentrism

CULTURE SHOCK

Culture shock is defined as the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes (oxforddictionaries.com, 2013).  It is what happens when one encounters people, or groups, that have a different set of values, norms, and even laws.  Culture shock can even happen within a certain country, if that country is diverse enough. For example, one might experience culture shock when going from northern Michigan to Texas. There are things such as the weather, food, and dialect that are different from what one considers normal if from northern Michigan. To better understand what culture shock is, one must better understand what a culture is.  Wherever one lives in the world, culture is comprised of norms, folkways, mores, laws, and even includes languages to name a few.

Have you sat in a movie theater and watched as everyone got quiet once the movie started?  Or how you just know how to act while you’re attending church?  What about how we raise our hands to ask a question in class?  These are norms of our society, or in other words, what people have decided is acceptable.  There are different types of norms for different societies.  For example,  folkways deal with norms within a particular society.  A folkway is a norm that when broken, it is not that big of a deal even if a norm is broken. You will still be made aware that what you did was wrong, but you will live to see another day.  A good example that comes to mind is for men in particular. When using the urinal, you are supposed to stand at least two urinals away from the next person. Where is this rule written?  It is not written, but if you were to go stand right next to another man at a urinal when there are other spaces available, you would be sanctioned.  For example, the man you stood next to might leave in a hurry, or give you a dirty look, because what you did is considered wrong.  Mores are norms that are taken more seriously and obedience to must be necessary for society.  Mores are usually made into laws. These laws are enforced with more serious sanctions, such as prison, to make sure our obedience is mandatory.

These patterns of society help create our culture. Society needs these patterns of behavior to survive.  Without these, we would easily fall into chaos caused by the lack of rules.  Think of a school room full of students without the teacher.  The children will go wild, pulling hair and running around, with no one to object. In doing so, they break the norms of the class room. Nothing would be able to be accomplished until the teacher returns to establish the norms.  Without those norms in place, the children were not able to learn and advance; staying in the same state until the norms were again in force.

Now that we better understand what culture is and consists of, we can talk about culture shock.  I experienced this when I went from Michigan to the country of Malawi. I was trading not only countries, but races as well.  As I went from the dreary parts of Michigan to the warm heart of Africa, I could not help but feel out-of-place.  The people talked different, transportation was odd to me, and do not get me started on the food.  As I immediately began comparing the two places, for a time, I began to think my home was better, simply because we did not eat caterpillars and all (for the most part) spoke the same language.  Although those thoughts passed as I spent more time there, I now realize that to be Ethnocentrism.  I feel bad holding what I was used to as being better than where I was, but that is a fairly common thing to do.  Looking back, I think that Ethnocentrism could even be the founder of racism.  It would not be very hard for those feelings of, “My culture is better than yours,” to lead to the idea that, “I am better than you.”

As time went on, I became more acceptable to the culture and the people around me. In turn, it became easier for me to practice cultural relativism, or the judging of peoples’ behaviors based on their own culture.  For instance, eating bugs as part of a meal.  In America, it is considered disgusting, however, in Malawi it would be considered normal.  So as I began to practice cultural relativism, I no longer deemed that as wrong and took part in such cultural activities.

While I was in Malawi, I went to some interesting places.  Once, we were invited into a very wealthy Indian man’s home.  I felt so strange because I was still in Malawi, but everything I had come to associate Malawi with was gone.  Instead of a dirt floor, he had tile.  He told us that he resented the dirtiness of most of the people there.  He almost lived to set himself apart from the dirtiness of the rest of the country.  As we left this man’s home, we looked around and realized that there was a whole group of people who felt the same way.  This counter-culture openly opposed the main culture of Malawi, but they could not get rid of the main culture entirely.

New Picture

As I moved from the warm heart of Africa to the neighboring country, Zambia, I noticed that because of the size of the country and number of different tribes, it was hard for them to be united under one culture.  In the north, you had the Bembas, in the south was the Tongas, and eastward was home of the Chewas.  These subcultures were still able to relate to most things, but you just knew that they were different.   They differed in their mores, folkways, and values of the larger society (Jon, 2011, 63). I believe that the shared main culture within all of the tribes of Zambia is what keeps it together. If a country lacks that main culture similarity and there are competing cultures fighting for dominance, the result may very well be civil war.  Looking at the civil war in the United States, the culture of the South was to have slaves while the culture in the North was anti-slavery.  The two different cultures were so close to each other, within the same country, the differences could only be solved by war.

Culture is very much a part of who we are.  Every day we are shaped by our culture and the rules that come with it.  We need our culture to hold us together and help society to continue to advance.  When we are placed into a culture that we do not relate with, we are shocked.

Works Cited

“Culture Shock”. OxfordUniversity Press. 2013 2/23/13 <http://oxforddictionaries.com/definitino/english/culture%2Bshock

Witt, Jon. Soc 2012 Ed. Boedeker, Gina. New York: McGraw-Hill. 2011.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSJFBeVFtak  Youtube.com Posted by: Fallon Burke, 2009

http://romeoandjulietdebate.wikispaces.com/file/view/800px-Quarter-4-benchmark-group2.jpg/126626615/800px-Quarter-4-benchmark-group2.jpg  Titled Chaos in Classroom.  Classinex.com.br

CULTURAL RELATIVISM

“He who Marches out of step hears another drum”

–Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest

The easiest way to address the idea of cultural relativism is to consider the norms of the society that we are accustomed to. A norm is the behavior that we deem normal or acceptable. There are different types of norms including Folkways (everyday behavior), Mores (thought necessary in a society), Formal Norms (laws), and Informal Norms (things society sees as normal that are not written laws). Examples of these everyday norms are: dressing appropriately for work (Folkways), the act of adultery (Mores), paying taxes (Formal Norms), or how to react when entering a classroom (Informal norm). But norms change. Cultural relativism is the practice of looking at differences in society through that society’s eyes. This is an idea of objectively considering the acts, traditions, or behaviors of a culture different from your own. It is an unbiased process of analyzing a world that we are not accustom to, because it was not the culture we were socialized into. This act of socialization that occurs when we are young and continually occurs as we grow is the process that teaches us what to view as a norm and what to view as deviant.  The extreme opposite of Culture Relativism is Ethnocentrism. This is where a culture is analyzed for its differences in a negative manner. In other words, ethnocentrism is seeing traditions and beliefs that are different from your own, comparing the two, and favoring your own.

An example of these processes can be applied to the pictures above. On the left there is a girl who has scars on her face. These scars are purposeful and deemed as normal and positive in the society she was raised. The scars are a way to identify her with the village that she came from. The girl on the right has a tattoo on her shoulder. This is also a purposeful and positive symbol that she has decided to place upon her body. Both of these acts are similar, they have both scared their skin for life in order to identify with their culture or a value that they hold. Seeing this as it was previously stated, would be looking at these processes through a culturally relativistic view. Seeing only the girl with a primitive way of identifying with her village, or a girl who paid to mar her body with an insignificant picture would be an ethnocentric view of their cultural values and normative practices.

 

Works Cited

“One Few Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Quotes.” Goodreads. Goodreads Inc., n.d. Web. 25 Feb 2013. http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2100252-one-flew-over-the-cuckoo-s-nest

“Cultural Relativism, Basic Concepts.” Sociology Gide. SEO Expert Chennai, n.d. Web. 25 Feb 2013. http://www.sociologyguide.com/basic-concepts/Cultural-Relativism.php

 

RITES OF PASSAGE

All cultures have certain rites of passage among their population. A rite of passage is defined as “a ritual marking the symbolic transition from one social position to another“(Witt 88). Rites of passage can vary in importance. However they normally involve moving up into a new chapter of life. They are important to cultures and many young children think about the day where they can become a man/woman. In the United States, at the age of sixteen, most teenagers go through the act of getting their driver’s license.  Although after having your license for a while it just becomes a normal way of life, many young children fantasize about their sixteenth birthday so they can join the other adults on the road. Other important birthdays that are treated as rites of passage can be the eighteenth, twenty-first or fiftieth. When one turns eighteen, they have officially soared into the world of adulthood. The twenty-first birthday is when one can legally drink alcohol and the fiftieth birthday is one that many dread. The fiftieth birthday is a milestone of having reached the age of being a senior.

Not all rites of passage in the United States are birthdays, major life events can fall into this category as well. Graduation from high school or college is a passage into the next stage of life. Getting married for the first time and having a baby for the first time allows one to move into a new social status such as being a wife/ husband and a parent.

While reading of other culture’s rite of passage ceremonies, I found myself judging other cultures because of safety or health hazards. My display of ethnocentrism is how many people of the United States would act upon hearing of these events. In Vanuatu, men participate in a rite of passage called land diving. Once a male reaches the age of seven or eight and has been circumcised, they can partake in this event. These males climb on top of a ninety-eight foot tower. They tie vines to their ankles and jump. A good jump ends with the male’s head or shoulders touching the ground. However vines do not have the elastic qualities that bungee cords do, so a miscalculation in the length of the vine can end in serious injuries or death. During a boy’s first jump, his mother holds onto an item signifying his childhood, when he dives the mother throws the item away. This event is now becoming a tourist attraction for people to come see. However many experience culture shock and cannot believe the danger these men put themselves in.

In the Northwest Amazon, the Tukuna people have a rite of passage for young women that involve alienation. Once a young girl begins her menstruation period for the first time, she is forced into seclusion for four to twelve weeks. She is put in a chamber within the dwelling of the family that is constructed for this purpose. The girl is thought to be in danger of demons called the Noo while in this chamber. Near the end of this ritual, guests arrive in masks that allow them to become incarnations of the Noo. After this encounter with these “demons” the young girl stays within the chamber for another two days, she paints her body with black genipa dye for protection from the Noo. After the alienation is over, the young girl is surrounded by her relatives and led out into festivities where her family dances around her until dawn. At that time she is given a fire brand that she will throw at the Noo, breaking their power. The young girl has now safely entered into womanhood.

Even more extreme rites of passage can be found around the world, many of them involve circumcision or body mutilations. Although people of these cultures put themselves through great pain, the reward to become a man/woman is so great that cultures cherish these events and they have lasted through generations. Industrial and post-industrial societies tend not to have such violent acts as rites of passages. Rites of passages that are less extreme include ceremonies such as a Bar Mitzvah for Jewish boys transitioning into men. Whether extreme or not, each type of passage is important to the culture from which it comes from.

 

Works Cited

“10 Bizarre Rites Of Passage.” Listverse. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

“8 Interesting (And Insane) Male Rites of Passages From Around the World.” The Art of Manliness RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

Web. 23 Feb. 2013. <http://listverse.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/ayof-image-21_794222i-tm.jpg&gt;.

Web. 23 Feb. 2013. <http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/patrimonio/patrimonio0901/patrimonio090100036/4174917-driver-license-identification-card.jpg&gt;.

Web. 23 Feb. 2013. <http://weddingcakes.simpleweddingdecorations.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/bride-and-groom wedding-cake-topper-2013.jpg>.

Witt, Jon. SOC 2012. Ed. Gina Boedeker. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. 88. Print.

MCDONALDIZATION

One of the most well-known sociological theories is George Ritzer’s idea of McDonaldization. This idea initially leads many to think of the company McDonald’s for which the term is properly coined after. McDonaldization defined by the sociologist George Ritzer is “The process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world” (Gordon). Ritzer’s based his idea’s on sociologist Max Weber’s work, that capitalism and industrialization were fueling a world in which our individual freedoms are being eroded.

By adapting Weber’s concerns to a more contemporary setting Ritzer saw that the fast food industry, in particular, is a great factor in how society is being effected today. The way that fast food industries prepare food for consumers is a prime example of Max Weber’s theory of the rationalization of the modern world. For instance, these companies use methods of scientific management for the improvement of economic efficiency (Wikipedia) and Fordism, which is the process of standardizing mass production (Wikipedia). These methods can guarantee, efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control to customers. Due to such practices, McDonald’s and other fast food companies included are having a negative effect over many other social institutions. Methods in the fast food industries continue to invade other aspects of our lives; health care, education, and even the media are impacted by McDonaldization’s expansion and acceptance in today’s society.

These four main dimensions of McDonaldization are achieved by taking rationalization to the extreme. In sociology, rationalization is simply defined as the way to replace logical rules for illogical ones (McDonaldization.com). By doing this, almost every task is simplified to its greatest possibility and results in an efficient, logical sequence of methods that can complete the task the exact way every time with the same precise desired outcome.

Having the ability to have controlled, consistent, and measurable outcomes are what any business works for. Seeing how these goals are rewarding for businesses and consumers, how might it be seen as a problem? As we all know, fast food is not the healthiest choice out there. It is high in fat, salt, and low in nutritional value. With obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems on the rise, it simply makes little sense for us to continue eating such products. This has non-Americans stumped as to why the norm is accepted when all the negative side effects of fast food are understood and yet we have no problem continuing to indulge in it. Once over the culture shock of our dependency on fast food, foreigners lose the ethnocentrism they once had and they themselves fall into our material culture.

Just like our craving for fast food, our educational system is seeking a more efficient model for our future generations. Standardized test and using inventions like social media have drawbacks (Bruenderman). Thanks to a rationalized model of education, teachers simply fill the students like boxes for the sole purpose of passing the next test. This process is efficient and means that the students have the best chance of graduation. Consequently, if all you learned in school were dates and facts, where would the personal interactions we all learned from go? As a result, what was once an intellectual exchange of knowledge between professor and student now results in nothing more than a business transaction. The students today are seen as consumers with the ideal that they need to go to college to get a job which in the past was looked at as a way to further a persons education rather than increasing their future salary. Regrettably, the restructuring of education from McDonaldization not only is occurring in schools but the media as well.

Today’s media, like the USA Today for example, has changed the way local newspapers present the news (Bruenderman) . Look at how headlines today are presented. Stories are shorter, contain only the needed information and infrequently do they continue to a second page. This lets the reader or viewer learn about many stories in a short amount of time without having to turn the page or flip channels. Media has also become brighter in the sense that journalists and reporters include brighter colors to grab attention. These tactics have lead to greater profits for news media outlets around the world. However, contemporary news is now more about entertaining the readers instead of informing them. Subsequently, the McDonaldization of the news does not accurately educate readers or let them form their own opinions on issues that are being reported about.

Taking the time to look at how much this country has shifted from quality to quantity shows how greatly the well being, learning, and our media insight have become McDonalized. Thanks to rationalization, people across these parts of society have become hypnotized into believing “more is better.”  I believe it would be highly beneficial to combat this growing problem if we look closely at all the different ways our lives are affected by McDonaldization, first starting with its effects on LansingCommunity College. Looking at how our daily observations and interactions in which we spend almost half the year could lead to a greater understanding of the negative effects McDonaldization has on our daily lives. In doing this, maybe we will find a way to reverse the effects this McDonaldized society has on us.

Work Cited

Bruenderman, Andrew. NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF McDONALDIZATION. Rep. no. 2. Vol. 1. N.p.: GattonCollege of Business & Economics, University of Kentucky, n.d. Print.

“Fordism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

GORDON MARSHALL. “McDonaldization.A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998.Encyclopedia.com. 21            Feb. 2013.

Kaufman, Peter. “The Rationality of Irrationality.” Web log post. N.p., 10 Sept. 2012. Web. 20 Feb.     2013. (McDonald space man picture found here as well)

“McDonaldization.com – What Is It?” McDonaldization.com – What Is It? N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.       (Lady Eating Burger Pic)

“McDonaldization Theory of George Ritzer.” YouTube. YouTube, 24 Oct. 2007. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

“Rationalization (sociology).” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

“Scientific Management.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

SUBCULTURE

With the United States being a very diverse country, we still have a unified culture. Culture is the learned and shared ways of believing and doing with a society. It provides us skills, habits, and styles which are passed from generation to generation. As a complex society, we have many subcultures in the U.S., which are segments of the larger culture. They have their own beliefs and values which they carry from their own cultures. Conversely, many subcultural groups also participate and engage in the behaviors of the dominant culture. As we know, language is part of culture.  It has an impact on subcultural groups within a larger society who struggle to keep their language. For instance, many Somali children, when they move to the U.S, end up speaking American English more fluently than the language of their culture simply because the U.S  culture surrounds them most of the time. Not only does the dominant culture influence on language, but it also dominates subcultural values, mores, and folkways.

Although there is a huge immigrant population in this country, I would say when it comes resocializing, some immigrants can adapt easily.  Resocialization, the process of leaving old behavior behind and accepting the new life changes they’re undergoing is easy for some, while others, like refugees, take time to go through this process.  This is simply because some immigrants may come into this country for different reason: education, business, or vacation. These kinds of immigrants tend to experience fewer traumas compared to refugees who are vulnerable, having undergone rigorous situations in their countries.  My mom, for example, after living three years in Lansing, is still having trouble transforming herself and taking on some of the behaviors of the U.S..  Language is an issue for her. Even though she has transformed by adhering to some of the norms and values of this country, she wouldn’t have even followed these without being told by her children to do so. The language barrier has kept her from getting a job since English is the only language used in the larger society. This problem has explicitly resulted from the lack of resocialization and driver’s license.  Addition, she is not able to go to a doctor’s appointment without an interpreter. By accepting new transitions and social relationships, resocialization changes individuals from their old behaviors and way of life to the new patterns.

 

 

Another problem associated with subcultures is ethnocentrism.  Ethnocentrism can lead to bad things for many different reasons. It often puts down a certain group or culture. Subcultural groups can feel ethnocentric when they have to learn the language of the bigger society. In addition, following their norms and values has been prioritized. Ethnocentrism also leads a group to thinking they are righteous and better than other groups.  This happens at my workplace when working with some employees from the dominant culture. I had small talk one day with one of my coworker and come up with one of the norms of culture to compare with another from the large culture. I felt he implicitly preferred the norms of that subculture. Sometimes ethnocentrism does not have a negative impact, rather it has advantages. For instance, it can create patriotism. Even though we consist of different societies with different beliefs, values, norms, and knowledge, we still have common norms, values and symbols that bring us together.  For instance, the flag symbolizes unity and shows love of the country and obedience to the rules and regulations. The flag encourages people to be patriotic for the country whether an individual is from the dominant culture or subculture.

CULTURE SHOCK

Imagine you are planning a much needed vacation and you decide to go to China.  You are on the plane when you arrive at your destination.  Getting off the plane and walking into the airport, you notice some things that are different than in the United States.  As you continue to walk through the airport and make your way towards where you will be living during your vacation, you realize things are very different than where you from.  People are speaking a different language, wearing different clothes, and eating different foods; those are just some of the differences between cultures.  When people visit another country or anywhere different from where they live, they experience some uneasiness or may be a bit uncomfortable.  This is called culture shock.  Most people will experience some degree of culture shock when they visit another area different from where they are from.

 Culture shock can be described as the feelings one experiences after leaving their familiar home culture to live in another cultural or social environment.  It occurs when the cultural symbols or signs that we use in social interaction are stripped away.  Some symptoms of culture shock that people may experience are homesickness, withdrawal, irritability, or the person might even feel a bit hostile towards the people of the new area because they do things differently than what the person is used to which is part of the cause for the person feeling uncomfortable.  They may feel negatively towards the people that live in the new area because they are different and don’t do things the way the visiting person is used to.  When people travel to other countries, they may come in contact with a counterculture.  A counterculture is a subculture that opposes certain aspects of the larger culture.  There may be people within a culture that do things differently than the rest of the people within that culture.  Another concept related to culture shock is ethnocentrism, which is when someone assumes that their own culture or way of life represent what is normal or are better than others.  Some people may realize they think this way when they travel away from home.

There are some things a person can do to prepare for culture shock and possibly try to prevent it or minimize it a bit.  It is a good idea to learn as much as you can about where you are going before you go.  Familiarizing yourself with the culture and what it will be like will help dealing with culture shock.  A person should try to stay open-minded when traveling somewhere new.  They could try to have a sense of humor about things to lighten the mood of the situation a bit, or possibly making a new friend in the new country would help.  Making a new friend means you would have someone who knows all about the culture of the area and could be of great help with any questions or concerns.  You could also bring some things with you to remind you of home, such as a favorite picture of your loved ones, or some other special item that will make you think of home and feel more comfortable.  It would also be good to keep in touch with people back home, such as friends and family.  They will help put your mind at ease, give you some advice and support when you are feeling uncomfortable and alone in a new place.  Perhaps the most important thing someone can do when traveling to a new place is to not give up.  You should just keep trying to figure things out in the new area, and just try to stay positive about the situation.  It won’t necessarily be easy at first, but it will get better.

Culture shock is a common thing to deal with when traveling to a new area.  People feel uncomfortable and sometimes even scared when they don’t know what is going on.  There are several things that can be done to deal with culture shock, and if people try to do these things and don’t give up, they can overcome the feeling of culture shock and have a great time in the new area they are traveling to.

RITE OF PASSAGE

Imagine that you’re a boy of the Algonquin Indian tribe from Quebec. When you reached the age of 13 you would be taken to a secluded area, probably caged, and given a very strong hallucinogen, called Wysoccan, which is said to be 100 times stronger than LSD. After being given this drug, the boys are forced to stay secluded for 20 days and fend for themselves. This drug was meant to force all of the childhood memories out of your head. In some cases taking this drug caused the boys to lose memories of their families, their identities, the ability to speak, and sometimes it even caused death. If one of the boys came back with some of their childhood memories left, they were sent back and given a second lethal does and forced to try and cheat death a second time. This is a very extreme example of something that is known as a rite of passage, and it is seen only in this culture. A rite of passage is a ritual or event that marks a transition from one social position to another.

There are many different types of cultures throughout the world. Culture is the characteristics of a specific group of people, such as language, religion, social habits, music, and arts. The Rites of Passage that a person will go through during their life is very dependent on their culture. Different cultures have their own special rites of passage that people must go through at various times in their life. The ritual that I talked about above is a very good example of how different cultures have different rites of passages. Taking a child to a secluded area and giving them drugs that could possibly kill them would be very frowned upon by an American ethnocentric point of view, but it is seen as necessary to become a man within the Algonquin tribe.

Ethnocentrism is the judging of someone else’s culture based only on the views and standards of your culture. When people from the American culture look at the Algonquin ritual they are only looking at it based on their beliefs about drugs and children. To avoid ethnocentrism, people should try and open up their minds while looking at different cultures. People need to realize that some of the behaviors and activities that we participate in within American also look weird to people from other countries. For example, there are a few religions who view cows as sacred creatures and slaughtering one is seen as a taboo.   They would see the way that Americans eat beef as very offensive, but it is just part of our normal lives.

 

The way that we look at different rituals preformed in different places around the world also depends a lot on Socialization. Socialization is the way in which people learn their culture and the appropriate way to act within that culture. Another big factor in deciding the rites of passage that we will go through in our life are agents of socialization. Agents of socialization are the people and groups that influence the way that people learn their culture. This includes family, religion, mass media, and peers. The two biggest agents of socialization for the boys of the Algonquin Indian tribe would be family and religion. When a boy reaches the age of 13 he is pressured by his family to take place in this ritual. His father did it and so did his grandfather, so it’s mandatory for him to do so too. Religion also plays a big role in the socialization of this ritual. When the ritual first took place it was built on strong religious beliefs.

Two other good examples of rites of passages are high school graduation and wedding ceremonies. High school graduation marks a very important time in a person’s life where they are switching roles between being a child to being an adult.   This rite of passage has been taking place in American since 1821 at the first public high school, The English High School. Wedding ceremonies are also a very important rite of passage that marks the transition from being single to being part of a married couple. Both of these rites of passages have been put into place so that family and friends can help celebrate and show their support during these important steps in life.

ETHNOCENTRISM

In too many instances, most look at Blacks with harsh eyes, and whether they speak or are silent there are way too many doubtful thoughts racing through their mind. We, Blacks, may not be mind-readers but we already know what words and phrases are formulating through the minds of the “others” who don’t think it is quite possible for us to succeed…and sadly that might be true…but for only one reason…they have caused such blockage to occur.

One might ask who is the “they” that I speak of. “They” comes in many forms: people from other ethnic backgrounds, discrimination, stereotypes, government, justice system, educational system, and sometimes even our own. Why do they cause such blockage? It is because of their culture that has been embedded in them since birth or their condescending ways that have snowballed into a pile of self-worth and self-distinction. Things such as this create ethnocentrisms, the belief in the superiority in one’s ethnic group.

The outlook of being superior to blacks has gone on since we were brought to this country. And like John Mayer, we are waiting for the world to change, but I am sure his change doesn’t include blacks.  If Elvis Presley was featured in the song, his world wouldn’t include blacks either, because according to him only thing we could do for him is shine his shoes and we don’t want to stop blacks from doing that because everybody needs a good shoe shining!

“Yes we can!”

Instead we need the encouragement that Obama says best. But unfortunately this does not happen often, so our heart hums songs of overcoming, while are our actions involve ways that aren’t always that illegal. We are the true survivors of the fittest. With few of the resources one may need to make ends meet, we make change, not always good but we make things happen—despite the belittling from other ethnic groups.  And many may not believe this, but we want all our actions to be positive but this can’t happen if we are constantly ridiculed and not properly taught.

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” 

Like most, we want the opportunity to grow into something healthy and beautiful. But, unfortunately this can’t happen if we are not given the right resources to make that happen. In our eyes, we are like foster children who, unfortunately, got stuck with some not so nice and caring foster parents who badly abuse us and gives us the leftovers of what they once had and no longer wants or temporarily have no need for—usually they receive benefit from doing so .  In order to keep such a superior stance, one or many must keep the inferior group down. Here is how “they” did it and here are some of the leftovers, these are not to help, but to keep us distracted and quiet: 1. A ball. 2. Some crack. 3. 28 days. 4. A Piggy bank. 5. A beat.

1. As a Black, if you can dribble or throw a ball, you are seen as Captain Save ‘em.  Blacks are scouted out because their skills. Because of this, many Black youth value system may differ from white youth. For instance asking a young black boy what he wants to be when he grows up; his response …a basketball player.

2.  THE CRACK EPIDEMIC scare was orchestrated by the media. They inhaled oxygen and exhaled carbon dixode, blowing on an ignited flame forming an urban fire killing, not trees, but people…a fire that began in the eighties but has grown more vicious today.  Crack served as the white savior to many Blacks. It was passed around urban areas heavily populated by Blacks. Not only were Blacks getting hooked, but they were dying, killing, landing in jail. Surburban areas, most populated by whites weren’t even hit with 10% of the blow back from urban areas.

3.  TGIF: THANK GOD IT’S FEBRUARY!  For 28 days—sometimes not even that amount—Black youth have the opportunity to learn bits and pieces and half truths about their race and culture. But for the rest of the school year, they learn of norms orchestrated by white society.

4. WELFARE. The code for poor Black people.  Thanks to the media and ignorance of way too many, TANF, commonly known as welfare, is seen to cover the lazy behinds of blacks that just don’t want to work. I see it is as a stumbling block that spoonfeeds Blacks and keeps minds in bondage from trying to succeed. Think about it. Yes, there are financial benefits from TANF, but not many opportunities to teach one how to “pull themselves up from their bootstraps” and become self-sufficient.

5.  MUSIC…From the beginning of time the ancestors of Blacks have used music to uplift their spirits. Passing each lyric down from one generation to the next. Now there is a new style of lyric and new form of lyric passing. In this new day, we have rap; a style that most use to promote their new shiny materials, while subconsciously belittling themselves….guess who again gets the top cut and first and last laugh.

Social Location

Social location is a concept that is often introduced at the beginning of introductory courses in sociology. It helps students who are new to the field of sociology begin to understand the relationship between the course content and their own lives and social experiences. Social location is defined as the social position an individual holds within their society and is based upon social characteristics deemed to be important by any given society. Some of the social characteristics deemed to be important by U.S. society include social class position, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, religion and so on. Sociologists argue that the social location of an individual profoundly influences who they are and who they become, interactions with others, self-perception, opportunities and outcomes.

For most people, nationality is an important part of their social location. I like to travel and when I do, I am often reminded of the degree to which my nationality influences my perceptions of the world, my likes and dislikes and my tolerance for different behaviors. I visited China in 2008 and had the chance to travel from north to south, visiting not only large urban areas like Beijing and Cheng Du, but also small towns and remote minority villages. The food throughout China was delicious – I don’t think I ate a meal that wasn’t tasty and fresh. Here’s a picture of a meal at the home of a Tunpu family (the Tunpu are a minority group not officially recognized by the Chinese government):

However, there were a few foods I encountered that I didn’t try. In villages north of Beijing there are many donkey meat restaurants and in Southern China, dog meat restaurants are common and you can also buy dog meat at the open air markets, along with pork, tofu, fish, chicken and other birds. Here’s a restaurant sign, which advertises the different types of meat available in the dishes sold there (notice the golden retriever at the bottom).

Having worked at the Humane Society for years and knowing what becomes of unwanted animals in the U.S., the thought of eating dog meat didn’t disturb me. However, there were other tourists from the U.S. that I observed who were very upset about the notion of dining on this type of meat. Some of their reactions were quite ethnocentric, such as making proclamations out loud opposing the sale of dog meat and refusal to enter into any markets selling dog meat. Ethnocentrism is a reaction to cultural differences where we are intolerant of these differences and judge the differences from our own cultural perspective. If these individuals had been raised in southern China, I’m sure they’d gladly eat dog meat, as it is a good, inexpensive source of protein, and it is a cultural norm.

Another example of food from this trip that reminded me of how culturally bound we are, was the selection of snacks available at the Wangfujing Snack Street in Beijing. Each evening on Wangfujing Street, the snack vendors set up in a long row of open air stalls, selling quick and cheap eats to the throngs of people who go to this popular shopping district. The vendors sell meat or tofu skewers, stir fries, soups, candied apples, and such.

A number of the vendors selling skewers, in addition to meat and tofu skewers, sell silk worm pupae, starfish, gecko, seahorse, scorpion, grasshopper, and other insect skewers.

Now, I must admit, that while I found this interesting, the thought of eating these foods was not appealing to me (I stuck with the tofu skewers). My national cuisine doesn’t involve the intentional eating of insects, thus my social location influenced my food choices and desires. About 60% of the world’s population eat insects, which are a readily available source of quality protein. But, having grown up in the U.S., where insects for the most part are not a part of our culinary culture, I was not at all delighted at the thought of munching down on these snacks. However, I also recognize some of the problems with the U.S. food pyramid.

Maybe it’s time for those of us in non-insect eating cultures to get over our phobia. Insects are touted by some as the answer to the global food crisis, being a less energy intensive way to gain access to a high protein food source. However, in order to do this, we non-insect eating cultures must change how we perceive these foods. How is this accomplished? One answer, promoted by Dutch scientist Arnold van Huis, is to offer food tastings and cooking classes integrating insects into the menu. Here is a blog entry discussing how one of these events went: eating bugs to save the planet.  If we expanded our diet to include insects, our food repertoire would be much richer. In her “Girl Meets Bug” blog, Daniella Martin lists 38 insects that are readily available to and edible by humans:  edible insects. She also includes some tasty looking recipes. Cricket stir fry or Bee-LT anyone?

Author — Jean L.