Post 8

Discussion with an interracial couple:

My friend Jon is Jewish. He isn’t super religious, but a lot of the cultural practices in his childhood home were kept.  He is married to Cecilia, an Argentinian immigrant  who recently became a Citizen of the United States.  Cecilia is super fun to talk to when it comes to intercultural issues.  Her English is better than mine, but her accent and blunt, “tell it like it is” attitude often leaves me laughing.  Cecilia is a minority in many different ways, she is an immigrant, a female manager of a sporting goods store, and a professional mountain biker (a sport that is male dominated).

Some of the issues we talked about are the fact that although many of the people this couple interacts with have more in common with Cecilia than Jon, since she has an accent most people direct complicated questions Jon’s way.  She says, “its like people think I’m stupid.”  Upon further discussion she told me that often time customers at her store often ask to speak to a manager and she can tell that when she engages them they sometimes are taken aback or even ask to speak to someone else.  

Neither Jon or Cecilia’s families live close to them so their families interacting is rarely an issue.  They did have some issues when Cecilia met Jon’s grandmother, she was not happy he was dating someone who wasn’t Jewish.  

It was interesting to hear some of the stories from these two.  For the most part their experiences were similar to my experience with my wife, but race and culture has definitely played more of a role in their union.  I am grateful for the opportunity I had to have this conversation with Cecilia and Jon. Continue reading “Post 8”

Post 5

Privilege

I am extremely privileged.  I am an upper middle class, white male who has the opportunity to obtain a college education in a state school in the United States of America where I was born and raised.  I think all people should be given equal opportunity, but I can’t argue with the fact that some of the things about myself that I cannot control have indeed given me privileges that many of my friends were not.  I was raised in a household with two steady incomes.  My father obtained an advanced degree in Biochemistry when I was very young.  He has worked at the same job ever since and (with the assistance of my mother) was able to provide for my family.  I had a roof over my head and food on the table everyday of my childhood.  I shared a car with my sister in my late teen years.  I was able to work as a teenager and use that money for fun and to pay for a LDS mission.  I have been able to afford schooling at UVU with the assistance of my parents.  My wife and I can rely on our parents successes to help us in our life together.  I am so grateful for my opportunities, but I am harrowed by the fact that I have so many more than others in this world.

My privilege has lead to some cultural barriers.  One of my best friends was raised in the Navajo Nation in the Southwestern region of the United States.  It is insane to think of how different our childhoods were when we were born so close together.  When I was hiking and exploring the outdoors with my family as a 5 year old, she was playing on a dirty floor with her mom passed out drunk in the corner in a home where she never knew her father.  This friend has overcome adversity and has a much more impressive college transcript than I do.  Looking at our lives now, they look similar.  I know that she has had to work so much harder than I have to get to this point in her life.  I don’t know if I would have the strength to accomplish many of the things I have if I came from a similar background.

I am grateful for my privilege.  It is not fair.  I wish more people could have the privileges I have had in my life.  

Cultural Self Assement

This assignment has been really hard for me to find the motivation to get started on.  When it comes to my culture I feel like I am super boring. I am always trying to find new ways to add a little bit of diversity to my cultural self-identity.  Changing one’s culture is an amusing concept.  Culture is who you are, your beliefs and practices mixed with things you cannot control like race and gender. The following post is where I think I am at.  Hopefully I can keep this as objective as possible and report about the person I am, not necessarily the person I want to be.

I am Caucasian.  I am a man. I am straight. I am very fortunate to be middle class.  I am privileged. I sometimes feel guilty about it.  Growing up, I thought my family was impoverished, but I now realize that my family has it better than most of the world.  Racism was never a real issue in my life until late adolescence and adulthood, and I’ve been on the privileged side of most of the gender discrimination I have witnessed in my life.  I know I am fortunate, however, in the immortal words of Cat Stevens, “I’ve seen a lot of what the world can do, and it’s breaking my heart in two…”  I know where there is privilege, there is usually discrimination.

As a child, I was never allowed to get toys at the grocery store and it seemed money was all my parents talked/argued about.  To the credit of my child self, my parents were definitely strapped for cash for the majority of my early childhood. This was due mainly to the fact that my father was working on a PhD until I was about 7.  The fact that such education was even an option means that we were financially better off than most.  Not until I was a teenager did I really come to appreciate the fact that my family always had food in the refrigerator/pantry, a sturdy roof over our head, money for utilities, and even multiple vehicles.

As a straight boy, active in the predominant religion (Latter-Day Saint/Mormon), growing up in a suburb in Utah County, I was perfectly normal.  I grew up in the then small town of Cedar Hills, Utah.   For many years town hall was in my Aunt’s basement.  Everybody knew everything about everybody else in town.  Although the majority of my ancestors came to the United States from countries like Spain, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and France just two or three generations prior to my existence, most of the cultural differences between these European countries and Utah County had been diluted in my parents’ generation.  This being said, we still celebrated a very German Christmas, and my mom occasionally carried on conversations with friends in French. 

Although Cedar Hills, Utah is no cultural “melting pot” like big U.S. cities like New York or Los Angeles, I remember being exposed to a couple of unique cultures growing up.  We had a couple of sets of Latino neighbors, one family from Brazil, and another from Argentina.  We had a special relationship with these neighbors because my father speaks Spanish fluently, something he learned as a missionary for the LDS church in Peru.  Most of the cultural differences I observed with these families were the fantastic dishes they would serve when we shared meals. 

Later in life as I made more friends I was introduced to greater cultural diversity.  I met friends from different sects of Christianity, atheists, and even Buddhist.  I also met friends who came from single parent households, and relied on government support for their meals and other needs.  I even met friends from neighborhoods where the homes were the size of my church building and the families had employees who lived with them.  As I reflect on my own impressions upon meeting some of these people, I am ashamed to admit that I thought that something must have been wrong with those people who were less-fortunate

For this assignment I will spend a little time focusing on my exposure to people of differing socioeconomic class from my own and different views on Gender. 

Socioeconomic Status

As a child, I always assumed that rich people must be smart and beggars must be dumb. The more of the world I have seen I understand that this is not the case.  It is true that the majority of the wealthy people that I have met have had significant education and are, for all intents and purposes, smart; but as I have met more people in my travels (mostly in the United States), I have come to realize that there are so many more factors that determine the socioeconomic status than just intelligence. 

One individual in particular comes to mind.  For this assignment I’m just going to refer to this person as Sam.  Sam has a degree in mechanical engineering from a respected university in California.  Sam has designed, built, and patented many complicated inventions both for the military, and recreational use. Sam should have the “American Dream” sort of lifestyle.  He is extremely intelligent and at one point a hardworking and diligent employee, and a loving husband and father.  Last time I saw Sam he was living in a tent, guarding a crop of marijuana the middle of a patch of land off of Highway 70 near Quincy, California.  Sam has made some poor choices when it comes to drug use and his finances.  Patent disputes, heroin use, and failed lawsuits left Sam nearly destitute and angry.  Does intelligence equate socioeconomic status, not in Sam’s case. My experience with Sam is definitely not the norm for someone with his background.  It is normal, however, for a smart young African American student from the intercity to be dirt poor regardless of how smart they are.  I don’t have personal experience with this sort of situation, but I know that overcoming these hurdles can be nearly impossible.

Gender

Growing up in a rather conservative, Latter-Day Saint household I was exposed to very traditional gender roles.  The man of the house is responsible for earning money and providing for the family.  The woman’s responsibility was primarily for the children and the home.  Women are to be submissive and sympathetic of the man as he fought hard for his earnings. Although there is some merit to this family model, I am so incredibly grateful for the exposure to cultural differences when it comes to gender.  As a child I assumed that if someone didn’t fit my stereotype for their gender, they must be homosexual.  I have had several examples of strong, independent women in my life.  I have also witnessed men who do a better job of taking care of children and maintaining a warm and loving household.  I know now that these personality traits don’t reflect their sexual orientation, it is just who they are.  Three individuals, in particular helped open my mind to a broader gender reality; one was my favorite teacher from high school, the other a close friend, and the third, my wife. 

The teacher.  Sally is an incredible influence on my life.  She is a middle-aged single mother who many assume is a lesbian because she is fierce, strong, and does not back down from anything or anyone.  Sally entered my life at a very critical time in my life, junior year of high school.  Not only did I learn from her curriculum, I learned from her example of what a woman could be.  She rides a Harley Davidson motorcycle when weather permits, she now instructs and coordinates other teachers, and still fills the role of loving mother.  Sally is truly an inspiration of what it can mean to be a woman.\

A close friend.  I have lots of friends, but none quite like Don.  Don is the man!  Don is a loving husband and father of 4.  Don’s wife is the primary “breadwinner” in the house.  Don can often be found cooking, cleaning, gardening, or taking care of his grandchildren.  I met Don when I was 19 years old.  When I first met him I instantly felt his warm and compassion for others.  We share a common love for music, in particular 60’s and 70’s folk/rock music.  Don has spent the majority of his adulthood being the primary caregiver to his 4 children and multiple grandchildren.  Don helped me understand that men don’t have to be macho to be straight.  This has helped me with my personal identity because I have been able to embrace my own personality traits that are more feminine.

My wife.  My wife is amazing.  I am so grateful for the people in my life that have helped prepare me to be with my wife Jessi.  Jessi is a strong independent and successful woman.  She is currently supporting me financially so I can finish my degree at UVU.  When we started dating a huge topic of discussion was feminism.  Until I met my wife I only really had one friend who I considered a feminist and it always sort of had a negative connotation in my mind.  After spending the majority of the past 5 years with my wife I now consider myself a feminist and understand the ins and outs of what feminism means to me. 

As I continue down the path of life I am constantly meeting new people from different cultures.  It is interesting, as I have considered this assignment and gotten some of my thoughts down, I don’t feel as boring as I did at the beginning.  I know I still have lots of room to learn and grow. As I have embraced several people that are close to me from the LGBTQ+ community I look forward to learning more about their perspective in life.  I hope to do some more travelling with my wife once I get my degree.  I know if I apply some of the principles I have already learned by bumping shoulders with people who are culturally different from myself, and this class, I can more easily communicate and hopefully adopt some more beneficial beliefs, practices, and ideas.

Post 4

When this class first began I thought we were just going to provide service for refugees and maybe learn a little about their countries.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the in depth look into different cultures and the many customs, values, and schools of thought that surround us.  I really enjoyed learning about the Chinese perspective of harmony.  It never occurred to me that many of the things that I get frustrated with in my own culture can be tied to the paradigm of peace.  Fully devoting my life to harmony probably is not the best course of action for me, but learning how to apply aspects of harmony to my existing paradigm of thought will definitely help me lead a happier life.  

“English Only” Laws & Service Learning Update

“English Only” Laws

Diversity and inclusion is vital to the American experiment.  Having an official language for an area is important.  I have been to several cities all across the the United States.  From what I have observed, the way that our country currently approaches language is pretty good.  I lived in an area in California for a while where the signs were both in English and Mandarin.   In areas where there is a high concentration of ESL folks or people who prefer to speak a language other than English it is appropriate for signs to be bilingual.  It is important, however to have an official language as well.   Some regions of the U.S. have attempted to pass “anti-bilingual” laws.  It is ignorant to expect all people to only speak the official language of a region, or even speak it at all.   When it comes to operating a business it is important to have signs or employees that are in/speak the language of the region.

 

Service Learning

I have not started my service learning yet.  I was hoping to talk to a couple of the folks in the class and jump in on one of the ideas that have been presented discussed. I really like Ella’s idea of self image boosting.  I hope to either work with her or do something similar.

Chapters 3 & 4

In chapter 3 we learn about cognitive complexity and knowledge.  This is a huge part of my life.  I often time feel like I am hyper-aware of how I am being perceived.  In chapter 3 we learn that it is just as important to understand how our strengths and weaknesses are perceived as it is to understand those same strengths and weaknesses in the first place.  When I communicate with people who may be from a different culture, I try to pay attention to how my lack of knowledge about them might affect our communication.  Sometimes I feel like I try too hard and the other person might feel like I am patronizing them.  I see this a lot in other people too.  One of my best friends is from Utah and a recently out gay man.  It is interesting to me that when we are hanging out and we meet new people together, almost the instant the new person finds out my friend is gay they try to “casually” work into the conversation someone they know that is gay.  My friend is nice and polite to the individuals, but when we are alone we sort of laugh together at the fact that that person wanted so badly to be perceived as an ally that they try to “gay drop” (a term my friend uses) a friend into the conversation.

 

In Chapter 4 the main thing that I kept thinking about was the lens through which I view the world.  I know that my experiences have shaped the way at which I perceive the things happening around me.  For example, If I had no idea what sporting events where.  If all I had ever seen in my life was hunting, war, and survival, watching a game of rugby would be super confusing.  If I had no concept of recreation, and I happened to see a giant man go sprinting full tilt and tackle another man, I would think that they were in some sort of battle to the death.  Since my lens includes experiences I have had cues such as uniforms, the ball, the pitch on which they were playing, and the crowd tell me that they are there to have fun and compete.  

I was unable to attend class on the day we watched Babakiueria.  I watched it online and thought it was a funny, but telling satire on some of the documentaries I have seen in the past.  It helps me, as a white, middle-class, male understand to some degree what some minorities might feel like.  I have always thought of myself as educated and inclusive, but I know I am naive in many places as well.  It is interesting to look at “my culture” through a different lens.   Many of the things that we think of as “normal” could be completely bizarre to an outsider.

Me, Myself, and Chapters 1&2

Intro:

My name is Eric Erickson.  I am a 25 year old husband, outdoor enthusiast, concertgoer, conversationalist, Mormon,h specialized interest in backpacking, mountain biking, snowboarding, fishing, and rock climbing.  I try to care for our environment as much as possible and I believe that a life outdoors is a life well lived.   I grew up here in the Wasatch Mountains.   I currently work for Recreation Equipment Incorporated (REI) where I help outfit, educate, and inspire people to play in and respect our public lands. 

All my life I have enjoyed meeting new people with different sets of beliefs and values.  I am excited by the opportunity to take this class and learn more about different types of people and cultures.

Chapter 1:

Chapter 1 has some interesting insights pertaining to self assessment.  It is important to understand my own cultural characteristics in order to understand others.  If I can recognize some generalizations or stereotypes that others might have regarding me, then I might think twice before making assumptions about other people and their beliefs.  It is just as important to understand the false things people might believe about me as it is to understand the true things.   One of my favorite phrases I’ve heard is, “facts are facts, but perception is reality.”  What this means to me is that something might be one way, but if I perceive it another way that is my reality until my perception is changed.  In a cultural application, if I assume one thing about another person, in my mind that person has that characteristic until I perceive a different thing.  It is so important for us to seek knowledge before making assumptions.

Chapter 2:
 The main thing that stuck out to me in chapter 2 is how different cultures view man’s relationship with nature.  Growing up in Utah I was taught to respect the land and leave places the same or better than I found them.  In the majority of mainstream Western Culture, it is believed that nature is dominated by man and we are to control and use the land.  I had the opportunity to grow up with some very close friends from the Navajo Nation.  I love the way that they respect Mother Earth.  It is important to understand their relationship with nature when communicating with them as to not offend them and close off further communication.