Taking a Cultural Plunge

The bisexual pride flag.
The bisexual pride flag. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For my final assignment in my Cultural Diversity class, I had to take a cultural plunge. This required me to learn about a culture that is very different than mine. The cultural plunge is designed to help you learn about a group of people you know little about and to help lessen anxiety. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to be around people you are not familiar with. This can happen with whole groups of people. For example, growing up in a homogeneous environment can make you feel uncomfortable when you have to move into a diverse environment. You may not know how to act or you may have misconceptions about other cultures. A cultural plunge forces you to adjust to a new environment and confront prejudices you may have. It’s a great way to learn about people.

My choice for the assignment was to explore bisexuality. I’m including the link to download the power point presentation:

Cultural Plunge Presentation

It was fascinating to learn about bisexuality and pan-sexuality. I really enjoyed my Cultural Diversity class as it is a reminder that we cannot trust our assumptions of a culture based on one or two people. Meaning that culture is diverse even within one group of people. We tend to make generalizations about people based on our experiences in the past. The example I use in the presentation is assuming that feminists hate men based on dealings with women claiming to be feminists. It’s not fair to paint a group of people as all the same based on meeting a few people who claim to belong to that group. This happens sometimes when tourists travel oversees. When you travel over sees, you tend to be an ambassador for your country, even though you don’t represent everyone in your country!

I really feel that the categorization and classification that our brains use to remember information does not work with people. Racism and prejudice is built on these processes. I think it’s important for us to try and resist the judgments and assumptions that we have when we meet new people. We are bound to make them, but if we question them each time we make them, we begin to train our brains to put less credibility on these judgement. Plus, this allows us to change our perspective if we find that we have made a wrong assumption.

 

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Supreme Court Decisions

English: The Supreme Court of the United State...
English: The Supreme Court of the United States. Washington, D.C. Français : La Cour suprême des États-Unis. Washington D.C., États-Unis. ‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Høyesterett i USA. Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today The Supreme Court decided that genes that occur in the body naturally could not be patented. This is good news for people who are suffering from genetic diseases and looking for less expensive treatments. competition may now occur among pharmaceutical companies with genetic treatments. While it does me less money, pharmaceutical companies can still hold patents for genes that they create in a lab, known as synthetic genes. In my opinion, this was a good decision as it opens up availability of certain treatments and this means that there will be lives saved thanks to the ruling.

There are other rulings coming up, but probably the most anticipated rulings are on California’s Prop 8 law and the Defense of Marriage Act. Both of these cases are controversial, but I don’t think they should be. These cases are about civil liberty. We should all agree that people have the right to their own pursuit of happiness. Even if religion or philosophy disagrees, this country guarantees our right to be who we are without other people telling us what to do. This belief is apart of libertarianism, but I think it is a belief we can hopefully all agree upon.

Gay marriage’s main opponents are Christians and I understand their argument. I do not agree with it, because I feel it is forcing their views on all of us. If churches decide they don’t want to marry gay people, I think that should be their right. But the court-house cannot make that judgement. It must treat all people the same regardless of who they are. Even if the majority of people decide to vote to pass a law against a civil liberty, that law is unconstitutional. The constitution upholds the majority right to pass laws, but it also protects the minority’s rights and all civil rights. African-Americans would not have had the right to vote nor would have segregation been defeated if it had been put up to a majority vote.

If we now start to decide that The People can take away rights from others, we begin on a path that is a slippery slope. What’s to stop one group of people from wanting to restrict the rights of another group? What kind of example to we set to the world about freedom in general?

Prejudice

I am struck by how powerful negative messages can be when they appease entitlement or false beliefs. Just thinking about the concept of believing in a superior religion, sex, or ethnicity feels strange to me. Biology and genetics have been used to try to prove a superior type of human, namely the white man. One can say this is out of ignorance, but there must be more to it. When Europeans first discovered the African content, they saw the native Africans as  inferior.

Religion, philosophy, and science have been twisted by man throughout history. This is why I believe it is important to be a skeptic. Even so, skepticism is not fool-proof. After reading Even the Rat Was White: A historical View of Psychology, by Robert V. Guthrie, I learned that even psychology has a racist past. Science is not protected from false ideology or false belief. I shouldn’t be surprised I suppose. I learned a lot from the book about where psychology started, an account that you do not usually find in the typical psychology textbook. In part this is because we don’t like to remember the negative experiences of the past.

I feel that the most important message from the book is that diversity is crucial to a healthy society. Now, this is not literally stated, but the book shows how science was stymied from racist assumptions. The attempt of a  lot of white scientists to “prove” the inferiority of African-Americans is likely based on their homogenous upbringing. I would hope that most people today would be appalled at such a notion as one race being inferior. When a person grows up in a homogenous environment, they can form judgements or beliefs that are inaccurate or false. That is why I think diversity is so important and why I am happy to see the U.S. population changing in a more diverse direction. Hopefully that will lead to a more diverse representation in government and the private sector.

Racism, homophobia, and sexism still exist in the U.S. and the world. However, diversity presents us with an opportunity to reduce prejudice. I think that part of why racism was so strong in this country was due to old beliefs based on white superiority. It was also supported by beliefs about heredity being stronger than environment and that European white heredity was superior to other ethnicities. The history of science is not pretty, but that is due to white men who twisted science to fit their own beliefs. Thanks to the effort of African-American men and women, psychology made an important shift away from racist beliefs. You should really read Even the Rate Was White if you want to learn more about the contribution of African-Americans to psychology.

I believe humans to be naturally progressive. Most of us want to grow and improve ourselves. While some do not like societal change, we really don’t have that choice. Society shifts and changes naturally. We can change and improve society through progressive values. What was so inspiring to me about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was his inclusive language. He wanted everyone to come together and fight against injustice. After all, equality is ingrained in the constitution of the United States, even if back then it meant equality for white men and no one else. We can decide to interpret the constitution as proclaiming equality to all people no matter who we are.

We cannot help who we are or who we love. More and more people, specifically of the younger generations, believe this. That is the hope we have to eliminate prejudice. While it may take time, I believe it is possible to live in a world without prejudice and discrimination.