A cultural self-assessment is a way in which you can examine your own identity. When we have a greater understanding of who we are and how our culture has influenced and shaped the way we think and perceive others, we’ll be more readily able to understand our personal biases and assumptions, some of which can be dangerous or damaging. Being more aware of this identity can help us fight and correct biases and assumptions. It can create a more accepting and tolerant environment. This is an ongoing process, as these cultural identities are deep-rooted and can be difficult to change.
I identify as a white, middle-class, female. I grew up in an average sized town in the southern U.S. state of Arkansas, where the majority of the population was also white. The town I grew up in was home to the Wal-Mart headquarters, so the corporation did bring in people from all over the world to work there, and it has grown in number and diversity over the years. I grew up speaking English and am fluent in it. English was the language spoken by the majority of people I knew and grew up with as well. My family was religious and identified as LDS for part of my childhood, but in my early teen years they decided to stop attending and were no longer involved in the religion. I continued to keep going and was actively involved in the religion up until last year. Now I don’t associate myself with any religion at the moment. I am an able bodied person. I don’t have any physical disabilities that hinder my movement or freedom. I also don’t have any intellectual disabilities and consider myself privileged to be attending college and doing well in it.
In examining cultural groups different from my own, I’ll choose gender and race to use as comparisons.
Gender: I do believe that discrimination against women exists at the hands of men in the world we live in today and I’m an advocate for equal rights among men and women. Looking at history, it’s easy to see that women have mostly been subject to men. We definitely live in a “man’s world”. In my life, I personally have not been at the receiving end of major discrimination as a woman. But at times, I do feel like I’ve had to play down my intelligence or play down assertiveness to feel more accepted by men, mainly in the workplace. In my personal relationships, I often wonder if I’ve been unlucky in love because of my ambition, independence, and career goals and afraid that I may come off too strong in those situations and men end up feeling intimidated. (If this is the case, I know I’m a whole lot better off without those kind of men in my life). I feel like women have been generally painted in a submissive light and if they don’t fit that role, if they are too “loud”, too “outspoken”, too “ambitious”, too “outgoing”, too “determined”, they are not feminine enough and therefore they aren’t socially acceptable. They’ve been told to sit down and be quiet. Unfortunately, in our current political climate, I fear women’s progress may slow down and that discrimination against women will continue to rise. When the very leader’s of our own country seem to have little regard and respect for women, I think many men will feel like that’s a free pass to also treat the women in their life in a similar way. Luckily, I have felt empowered by my own parents, family and friends. I’ve been taught and raised that it’s ok to be a strong, independent woman and that I shouldn’t rely on men for everything in my life. I also recognize that there are many good men out there who respect and support women and also seek for equality among them. I think there are more similarities between men and women than we may realize. We both hope, dream, and want better lives for ourselves and our families. I believe when men and women work together side by side, with both respecting what the other has chosen to do with their life and abilities, we’ll have a more peaceful and productive society.
Race: Race is a difficult subject to talk about. In an article I recently read, it said that we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about race though. It’s ok to recognize and celebrate our differences. We can do so without being disrespectful and fully believing and supporting equality among the races. The article also talked about the dangers of being “color-blind”. Many white kids are taught by their parents to not see color. But being blind to color can also blind us to our privileges as a majority group. I definitely grew up with the “color-blind” mentality, believing that everyone is equal. I also feel like I’ve been blind to my privilege. This is a new concept to me and I’m still learning more about it, but it’s something I hope to continue to explore so that I can understand race differences better and how I can assist in the fight against racism and prejudice. Coming from a southern culture, with a lot of family still living in the south, I’ve heard a lot of racist and prejudice comments and beliefs about African Americans in particular. Unfortunately, those shaped a piece of me, though I actively fight against those notions. I know they absolutely aren’t true and are just perpetuated stereotypes that are meant to harm and repress African Americans. I’ve also luckily had the chance to work with and personally get to know several African Americans in serving an LDS mission, and through those experiences I’ve seen how we work, love, and live like one another. Yes, there are cultural differences, but those can be learned and celebrated. There’s nothing to fear in things that are different.
My knowledge about these groups and the differences between them, has come from my family and the media (books, movies, music, news, etc). I believe our earliest opinions of others who are of a different gender or race come from our families. Their opinions and beliefs become a part of your home culture, and though it may be wrong or misinformed, those beliefs still influence your own beliefs for some time, a lifetime for many. Once you gain independence and start looking more to the media for opinions and ideas, your viewpoint can change or your beliefs may be solidified. I found a contrasting idea of the majority portrayal of women in the media with that of my family. My family always emphasized and encouraged independence and education, while the media emphasized that a women’s worth was placed mainly on her physical appearance and beauty. These two beliefs are still conflicting and although I do place a very high value on education and independence for myself, I also find myself placing a very high emphasis and belief in the fact that physical beauty still means something in our society for women and this has a significant, negative, impact on me still. As far as race goes, I feel like the media, especially movies and TV shows perpetuate and solidify race stereotypes; that African Americans are poor and uneducated criminals, that Asian Americans are smart and nerdy, Native Americans are stuck in the past and are only good for running casinos. These stereotypes are exactly that, they’ve caused damage among these people and have closed our minds to the truth. I also appreciate that the media, particularly through social media, has taken an step in recognizing and pointing out discrimination against African Americans in particular, which has spurred the Black Lives Matter movement. I believe this movement is often misunderstood and that many fight against it because they don’t recognize or even realize their privilege. It’s been all too easy to turn a blind eye to discrimination that has continued to happen in our country.
Through this reflection, there are areas of improvement I recognize in my own life. I truly wish I could erase all bias and prejudice from my internal, core values and beliefs. To help achieve this goal as much as possible, I would like to learn more about white privilege, what exactly that means and what it looks like and it’s influence on our society and culture. I’d also like to learn more about advocacy. I’d like to say that I’m an advocate and provide opportunities for those who may not usually have it to speak out. I’m also very interested in gender studies and how to live better in a “man’s world” and in what ways I can change this perception to make it a “man’s and woman’s world”. How can I fight sexism in a productive way?