Working Definitions

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I believe that diverse cultures are cultures that are different in their beliefs, practices, and culture. Each culture has their own set of beliefs and standards to the people in that particular group. Culture is part of individual identity and many identities make up every individual. Diverse cultures bring varying ideas and points of view that are very helpful to learn when becoming a well-rounded individual. Without an understanding of other people and other groups, prejudices are created and bias opinions of the culture are often made.

In from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, she brings up many great points about the dangers of being culturally unaware. One of my many favorite of hers being,

“the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

Many individuals make judgments about an entire culture based on the information they are given about a small portion of it. It is so important to learn all you can about the people and understand that just because many or some of the group does something, it does not mean the group should/can be characterized as being that way.

When referring to judge rulings in a court case, Aristotle wrote that judges will often have allowed themselves to be so much influenced by feelings of friendship or hatred or self-interest that they lose any clear vision of the truth and have their judgement obscured by considerations of personal pleasure or pain (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E.). This quote further acknowledges that people make decisions based off of their previous experiences and biases that they create. Biases and judgments about people based on their culture can create unfair situations and life experiences for individuals. It is important to look at things from all sides and consider the consequences of a bias decision made of personal pleasure or pain.

Biases can work in many ways. One can be to make unfair decisions and another can be to pity people based off information we perceive to be true.  A perfect example of this was when Adichie’s roommate met her for the first time. Adichie states that her roommate had felt sorry for her even before she saw her. This is so important to understand because there is so much more than what we read in textbooks about other places around the world. Her roommate created a representation of who Adichie was before she even met her and learned for herself. This view that her roommate had was largely because of a “single story”. Adichie explains this process as showing

“A people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again and that is what they become.”

People then become defined by one part of the culture rather than for who the individual is.

This concept is also prevalent when we talk about happiness and what makes a person “wealthy”. Aristotle brings up that,

“From this definition of happiness it follows that its constituent parts are:-good birth, plenty of friends, good friends, wealth, good children, plenty of children, a happy old age, also such bodily excellences as health, beauty, strength, large stature, athletic powers, together with fame, honour, good luck, and virtue” (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E.).

People who are not wealthy of have plenty of children can be happy. There is no definitive definition of what happiness is, and projection one’s definition of happiness onto another person to deem them as unhappy is unjust. Adichie said that “power is not just the ability to tell the story of another person, but the ability to make it a definitive story of that person.” The definition of happiness is a perfect example of the “wealthy white man” deeming an entire race of people unhappy because of a perceived living situation.

Aristotle continues the notion of power when addressing the issue of class. He says,

“Now to call a thing ‘greater’ or ‘more’ always implies a comparison of it with one that is ‘smaller’ or ‘less’, while ‘great’ and ‘small’, ‘much’ and ‘little’, are terms used in comparison with normal magnitude” (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E.).

This is important to consider because the two have to be polar opposites and are referred to as better and worse rather than equals. The comparison is binary. Aristotle continues to address this issue and says,

“Again, if the largest member of one class surpasses the largest member of another, then the one class surpasses the other; and if one class surpasses another, then the largest member of the one surpasses the largest member of the other” (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E.).

This idea shows us that there are class differences that are only differences because they are socially constructed. So many times we see people comparing themselves when they should be equals or not compared at all. Ethnocentrism should be shut down and stopped.

One of my absolute favorite writers is Maya Angelou. She was such an incredible writer and always made me think about what I wanted out of life and who I wanted to be. She said that

“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”

I have always loved this quote because it really shows us that we cannot grow as a society or as individuals when we hold on to prejudices. I also really enjoy her quote

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

This one also really has helped me in the past because she is really advocating for you to be your genuine self and not let what others think or say change how you feel about yourself.

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