Graduates should be able to demonstrate multicultural awareness, knowledge, skills and ability. In meeting this competency, students should demonstrate their knowledge of. . .
- Their cultural heritage and how it affects identity development, world views, values and assumptions;
Notes: Theory course – identity development. What do I know about my own white heritage? How has being white affected my own development? How does studying the history of other cultures promote positive development in students? What do I think I know about the world that would be very quickly contradicted by someone of a different cultural background? Cross Cultural Communication course – Multicultural course in winter.
I don’t know any other way to approach this competency than to share some of my personal information with regard to my history and beliefs. The links to generations beyond my parents are sparse, so it has been very difficult to determine my racial background. I have grown up calling myself a “Euromutt.” Both grandmas mentioned England, German, and Polish ancestry. But no one knows for sure. On mom’s side, I recently learned that my great-great grandmother was Native American, making me 1/16th Native American. But apparently this was something of a family secret, so no one in my family during my lifetime has rejoiced in our sharing of Native American blood. The fact that I am white, with little definition of what that whiteness originates from, has left me feeling devoid of racial heritage. I only know what it means to be white on the basis of being part of the majority race in the United States. While it is important to understand what whiteness means in this country today, it would be nice to also know where I came from, and how my ancestors contributed to the development of this country. I have always felt that knowing the truth about my ancestry would sicken me and expose ugliness with regard to racism, discrimination, and oppression that I can hardly fathom. But I still need to know. I would like to view my existence in the context of how I came to be. Then I could spend the rest of my life trying to right the wrongs of my ancestors in my own little ways as part of defining who I am in this world. Without that, I am just a random being full of opinions with no historical knowledge of self.
I don’t know when and where my ancestors immigrated from. I don’t know what generation American I am. I never heard of a language spoken by my family other than English. These simple facts, while not obviously revealing, also lend to my identity. My cultural practices have been fully assimilated into whatever it is to be American, without any concept of a cultural heritage before being American. Until I finally was able to do some traveling, I felt that Americans were a culture-less people. I now know that this isn’t true. However, many of the materialistic, lazy, unhealthy norms of American culture were the very same parts that I thought made us culture-less. I suppose that is because I always linked culture with positive beliefs and action. But much of what makes up American culture is negative in my eyes, and often dangerously arrogant and abusive to other countries in the world, as well as the underrepresented populations of our own country. My own creation of cultural practices as an adult seeks to defy the standard cultural practices of Americans. Since I don’t have an ethnic culture from my racial heritage to base my identity on, I feel the need to constantly redefine who I am in relationship to American culture, since that is all that I know.
The films Skin Deep and The Color of Fear greatly influenced my understanding of how Americans struggle with issues of race and ethnicity. In addition, these films gave me new perspectives on what it means to be white in American – not only what it means to me to be white, but what my whiteness means to others as well. For Multicultural Competency course term paper, I chose to view these two films for a second time. I had already watched them during the Cross Cultural Communications course. However, this time I watched the films with my wife, Kaori. Kaori is a Japanese citizen with American residency and I am a white American who has always lived in Oregon. During the process of comparing and contrasting the films themselves, we had discussions where I noted the differences and commonalities present due to the racial and cultural lenses through which Kaori and I viewed the two films. One of the most interesting realizations is that, although Kaori and I come from very different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, we both have grown up in very racially homogeneous environments – Kaori in a 97% Japanese Japan and myself in a majority-white Eastern Oregon. Therefore, we shared many of the same challenges with regard to growing up without exposure to racially and ethnically diverse populations.
Document: The Deepness of Color and Fear paper
During my Globalization in Higher Education course, I participated in a learning module called “What’s Up With Culture.” I enjoyed the exercise and wrote the following paper explaining how I would use the module during orientation for the students I advise prior to their departure to study abroad in New Zealand. During this project, I learned that culture defines what is normal and acceptable behavior; English being used in other countries is tied to a very different culture than the English we speak in America; and it is beneficial to prepare students to understand in advance of departure the differences they will experience due to culture.
Document: What’s Up With Culture?
I have included very few handouts in my portfolio. But this one I needed to share because it taught me a lot about how racism can exist in white people who do not believe they are racist. I learned that confronting my own internalized racism is a potentially painful process and that whether I like it or not, I am benefiting every day from my own white privilege. The paradigm shifts in this handout are profound and deserving of extensive discussion.
- Systems of privilege and oppression and groups and individuals who are different from self;
Notes: Cross Cultural course – Highlight film: The Color of Fear. Theory course – white privilege. How does my cultural history provide privileges to me that are not available to members of other cultural backgrounds? Who is being oppressed and how? How do privilege and oppression appear in the university environment?
Prior to joining the CSSA program, I had learned a lot about the history of oppression and how people continue to be oppressed today. However, I had never encountered the concept of white privilege. I now understand that at the same time that I am benefiting from the privileges granted to me by virtue of being white, others are being denied opportunities as part of a greater unbalanced system. I am still struggling to go beyond the base awareness of privilege and oppression toward a course of action that will influence change in those with whom I make contact. It is not enough to just be aware. However, I believe I have taken a crucial first step toward a heightened sense of place in America that provides me with a vantage point from which to view the actions and attitudes of those around me. When an opportunity arises for me to speak out and help someone else understand how their behavior may be perpetuating oppression or thoughtlessly extending privilege, I can feel confident that I understand the systems of which I speak. Much of what I have learned can only be expressed through my future actions as those actions are informed by my learning.
In the Cross Cultural Communications course, I kept a journal of reflections on encounters with books, films, and people who were different from myself. In order to fully answer this competency, I would need to provide a journal of my encounters and development over the entire three years in this program. But that is not possible, so this journal chronicles my journey during one term as a snapshot of my growth process. I learned during the creation of this journal that I come in contact with people different from myself much more often that I had previously thought. Eventually I found it necessary to pick and choose from a variety of cultural experiences during the term in order to keep the journal at a manageable length.
- Ways to challenge and support individuals, groups and organizations to maximize multiculturally sensitive and appropriate practices; and
Notes: How do I deal with a student who makes a racist comment? How do I meet the student where he or she is at? What are larger organizations doing to promote diversity in a way that forces people to confront their own belief systems? What support is on this campus (and others) for people who have experienced intolerance (or blatant racism/sexism/etc.)? What practices have I engaged in that have resulted in supporting someone from a different cultural group? What have I learned from my courses that would help me to support a student who needs my help (whether that student be a victim or a perpetrator)?
I do not claim to have an answer to this complicated portion of the competencies. However, I have found ways to challenge and support others in my personal, as well as profession, life. For instance, when a couple of students in my office area were sharing jokes with one another within earshot of everyone else in the office, one of the students went too far by telling a racist joke. There were times in my past when I would have just let this slide because there weren’t any non-white people in the room, and it is easier to just ignore that behavior than to confront it. But as an ally of all underrepresented populations, I deemed this an appropriate opportunity to advocate for my absent peers. I approached the students and quietly told them that their joking had become inappropriate within the professional office environment and that I was offended by what had been said. There was a quick apology from the students and no harm done to my relationship with them. My intent was not to try and confront their belief systems, but to help them understand that their words are being heard by others and that they could cause offense to people like me, even if we are of the same race. It is my hope that saying something to these students was more effective than just keeping quiet. I needed to challenge them to be more sensitive by letting them know when they had crossed the line and potentially damaged the positive, inclusive environment that I seek to maintain in my office. In my personal life I have been challenging friends and family to not use the word “retarded.” It has become such a habit to use this word for so many people that it is easy to forget how hurtful the word can be if heard by certain community members. I have simply told friends and family that we shouldn’t use that word anymore, and then I give them a nudge when they use it. It is more of a lighthearted way to help shape positive language than a heavy-handed scolding for not being P.C. Other than these two examples, I believe that my involvement with diversity initiatives on campus at OSU has provided me with numerous opportunities to support my many multicultural peers.
I had the privilege to work with a classmate to develop a presentation on the CAMP program at OSU. I learned that students from migrant family backgrounds have this wonderful federal grant program available to help them with the transition into college. However, I also learned during the process of gathering information, that an individual’s racial identity is very personal, and I must be careful when approaching the topic not to come with any assumptions. The person we interviewed was offended by my use of the word Hispanic, even though I thought I was using the correct terminology. This person preferred the word Latino. However, after presenting our findings to the class, another student pointed out that other people may not like the word Latino and may choose to identify through the use of yet another term. I need to remain aware that the personal nature of racial identity is not always something people are comfortable discussing with acquaintances. If a person is comfortable with having the discussion, then I should be careful not to make any assumptions, and just listen to and learn from what the person chooses to share.
Document: CAMP Program Presentation
Following is another handout that I felt the need to share. The Iceberg Concept of Culture is something that I often think of when meeting people from cultures that I know very little about. I have learned that only a very small amount of cultural information is available to me on the surface when meeting another person. Deep down within that person’s identity and experiences there are many more cultural awarenesses of which I am completely unaware. We are all shaped by culture at levels far below who we appear to be on the surface.
- Areas of personal and professional growth in improving one’s own multicultural competence.
Notes: What am I doing in my personal life to enhance my multicultural competency? Multiculture course in winter. Working with international students. Can I identify experiences that have led to my own growth? How do I create a path in life that intentionally leads me to opportunities for cross-cultural encounters?
Being married to a woman from Japan has provided me with constant opportunities to improve my multicultural competence. However, just as I can never come to completely understand Japanese culture, multicultural competency can never be fully achieved. Becoming Multiculturally competent is a process that will continue throughout my life. The choice comes from whether or not I choose to allow myself to be vulnerable enough to experience meaningful change and open enough to leave my comfort zone and truly learn. I could choose to shut myself down at this point and attempt to block out multicultural issues and stunt my own growth in this area. However, I have allowed the multicultural floodgates to stay opened for me, and there is no stopping the learning process now.
For another snapshot of my multicultural growth over time, I present to you my initial and final statements from the Cross Cultural Communications course. I learned a lot that term, and it is evident by contrasting these two papers. I discovered the importance of 1. advocating by listening and learning; 2. being attentive to the various subcultures that are present on a daily basis; and 3. recognizing that the more I learn about other cultures, the more I realize just how little I really know – and that’s ok.