Psychology Case Study on Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism

Introduction

            Multiculturalism defines the existence, recognition and perpetuation of diverse cultural traditions in a particular jurisdiction usually perceived on basis of culture linked to aboriginal or alien ethnic groups. According to Lloyd (2008), multiculturalism can occur when a jurisdiction is established or expanded through integrating areas that have two or more distinct cultures. Multiculturalism can also occur when people from different cultures and jurisdictions from around the world immigrate into a particular jurisdiction. As argued by Erik (2012), multicultural ideologies as well as policies tend to be widely distinct with some advocating for equal respect among members of distinct cultures in a given society while others promote perpetuation of cultural diversity. An example of instances when policies advocate for perpetuation of cultural diversity is when people belonging to distinct ethnic, cultural or religious groups are described according to the group in which they belong. Multiculturalism that tends to enhance distinctiveness of various cultures is usually contrasted to various settlement policies including social integration, racial segregation as well as cultural assimilation (Sarah, 2012). This in return perpetuates two distinct and seemingly inconsistent strategies that have emerged through varying government policies addressing multiculturalism through varying perspectives. The first strategy concentrates on relationships as well as communication between varying cultures while the second strategy concentrates on promoting cultural uniqueness, which may sometimes lead to intercultural competition and conflict (Erik, 2012). This paper comprises of interview responses obtained from a member of a distinct ethnic group, which can be used to determine the strategy that multiculturalism has promoted, which may include that enhancing relationships and communication or that promoting cultural uniqueness. Understanding the strategy that multiculturalism has promoted will in return help in generating recommendations on how multicultural diversity can best be understood.

Interview on multiculturalism

            The person participating in this interview is a fellow student at the university. Unlike the interviewer that belongs to the White American racial category, the interviewee is of the Chinese descent, which comprises of one third of the total population at the university. She is a female student aged twenty-seven years that is currently studying education.

Interviewer: my main objective for engaging you in this interview is to help me obtain important information on multicultural diversity, which will in return enable me make recommendations on how the concept can best be understood. Please answer questions with complete honesty to ensure that the information obtained in non-biased and hence reliable. Kindly note that your identity will not be revealed and the information you provide will not be used for any malicious non-academic purpose. Also, you may stop the interview at any time if you are not comfortable or do not wish to continue giving further information.

Q 1: what does the word culture mean to you?

Interviewee: To me, the word culture refers to an aspect of life that is shared by members of a particular group and is usually transmitted among individuals and from one generation to the other through social learning. This means members of a common cultural group can have certain behaviors, values, symbols as well as beliefs that they readily accept without questioning or even having a second thought and they easily pass them between individuals through communication or even through imitation. Culture may be expressed through mode of dressing, architecture, religion, music, visual arts and ceramics. For example, Chinese culture is expressed through religion where most individuals practice Buddhism, Taoism as well as Confucianism. The belief in these religions is usually passed from one generation to the next, which limits other ministries, which include Protestants as well as catholic, to make any significant progress to convert people into their religions.

Insight: The meaning of the word culture as indicated by the interviewee concurs with what I have already learnt in class. From what I have learnt, culture refers to a complex social concept that integrates knowledge, beliefs, customs, art, capabilities as well as habits that a person can acquire as a result of being a member of a certain social group. This is similar to what the interviewee states in that she perceives culture as something that can be passed down among members of a certain social group.

Q2: how does your family influence your important life choices such as education, career, marital choices, religious or spiritual perspectives?

Interviewee: As a high school student in one of the leading schools in China, I thought I had enough capacity to prepare myself and take the ultra-competitive exams that would qualify me to join one of the colleges in the country. I also thought that I could pursue an engineering course so I could later secure employment in one of the leading engineering firms in the country. My family has however influenced these choices a great deal. First, my parents as well as my elder brother changed my perception about Chinese colleges. They insisted that Chinese colleges are usually uninspiring and most students are fond of cheating and they usually skip classes. This influenced my decision to study in United States rather than China. Although I had secured admission in one of the Chinese colleges, I easily turned down the offer and decided to come to United States. Secondly, my family was responsible for my ultimate decision to study education. They made me believe that thinking that I might secure employment in the leading engineering firms in China may just be an infatuation. They told me that the firms are usually very competitive and they only employ highly qualified people. As such, I resolved to study education, which, as they said, would easily usher me into the employment field.

In regard to marital choices, my family does not have any problem if I would decide to get married to someone from a different race or ethnicity. They believe that all people are equal and should not be discriminated against simply because of their racial, cultural or ethnic backgrounds. While this perception was cultivated in us since childhood, it has influenced my view on marrying people from different racial or ethnic backgrounds. As long as long as we love and understand each other, I do not have any problem dating or even marring a foreigner. As such, I can marry anyone that I love irrespective of whether he is from my ethnic or racial background or not. Their impact on important life choices is no different when it comes to my religious perspective. My parents taught me that there is no religion that is greater than the other as long it teaches the correct doctrine. I am Buddhist but I cannot look down on other religions. Just as my worship to Buddha is solely intended to promote spiritual satisfaction, I believe that other people follow their religions because that is where they feel most comfortable. Although my parents influenced my initial choice for Buddhism, I have maintained loyalty to this religion because I reap a great deal of spiritual satisfaction from it. Otherwise, I would walk out and look for another religion.

Insight: the interviewee’s response in regard to family influences on important life choices concurs with what I have learnt in class. From what I have learnt in class, career, education and religious choices are often based on certain culturally specific aspects. People can make important life choices based on impacts instilled by certain society members depending on the extent to which they uphold certain cultural values.

Q3: what would you say is the mostly held misconception about people in your culture?

Interviewee: perceptions about other cultures are varied depending on the extent to which people understand others’ culture. Most people from around the world, I belief, have a lot of things that they think about people in my culture, which are not true. The most held misconception about people in this culture is the generalization that they are known as

‘Chinese people” and that the language they speak is Chinese. However, this is just a misconception given that there are no people known as Chinese or anything like Chinese language. China has fifty-six ethnic groups, one of which is the Han Chinese, which constitutes to the main Chinese ethnicity. Also, the language that people in China speak is known as Mandarin Chinese, which constitutes to the main language spoken in the country. Practically, there are several other dialects spoken in the country, which distinguish each city around the country.

Insight: the interviewee’s response pertaining to misconceptions about people in her culture concurs with what I have learnt in class. From what I have learnt in class, it is obvious that people from diverse cultural backgrounds have unique attributes that distinguish them but which may be misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Q4: have you ever been subjected to racism or prejudice? If yes, in what form?

Interviewee: I have not directly been subjected to racism or prejudice, but indirectly, I have. I experience jokes, comments as well as criticism on a day-to-day basis from cross-cultural friends and colleagues at school. Some of my colleagues at school make comments like, “if you think United States is not good enough, then you can go back to where you immigrated from”. Others make jokes by calling each other “communists” while I sit there silently watching them laughing. A colleague in my class once said, “If you are a narrowed eyed foreigner, raise up your hand” meaning that if anyone is a foreigner from China he/she should raise up his/her hand. Although I have not encountered any serious prejudice apart from the occasional jokes and comments, I always find it challenging to make it through the negative prejudices that I experience each day. This makes me realize that being a Han Chinese in a foreign land is not easy.

Insight: the comment that the interviewee has made in regard to racism and prejudices concurs with what I have learnt in class. It is obvious that people tend to perceive their culture as being better compared to others, and hence, they tend to look down on others.

Q5: in your opinion, what can be done to eliminate racism and prejudice?

Interviewee: racism and prejudice are negative as well as hostile concepts that generate inappropriate attitudes, feelings, impressions and opinions about others. These concepts need to be eliminated, failure to which they will continue perpetuating a great deal of discrimination against members of any minority group. One way that racism and prejudices can be eliminated is by creating a prejudice-free zone in our immediate environment. People can create time and share the pride of their heritage with others. This can create an opportunity for people to understand what they do not know about others’ culture and subsequently cease prejudicing against them. People can also be taught about the negative impacts associated with stereotypes. This may help them to be mindful of their language and hence stop making stereotypical jokes and comments against others.

Insight: from what the interviewee has said regarding how racism and prejudice can be eliminated, it is obvious that it concurs with what has been taught in class. People prejudice against others because they are ignorant about cultural diversity as well as severe negative impacts that prejudicing against others can cause.

Q6: have you ever felt that people make mental health judgments about you or others in your culture based on cultural misunderstanding?

Interviewee: personally, I have never felt that people make mental health judgments about me but I have felt that they make similar judgments about people coming from areas such as Hiroshima as well as Nagasaki in China. Owing to the popularly documented effects associated with past bombing incidents that occurred in these regions, people assume that Chinese citizens coming from these areas may have been affected by these incidents in one way or another and hence have sustained poor psychological health. My impression pertaining to these judgments emanates from funny comments that colleagues at school make concerning people from Hiroshima as well as Nagasaki. For instance, students ask colleagues coming from these two areas if they get scared when they hear cases of bombing in United States. Such comments are however an indication of cultural misunderstanding because people living in these two regions are not necessarily those that encountered atomic bombing and neither are these regions marked as atomic bombing-designated areas.

Insight: comments made by the interviewee in regard to mental judgments made concur with what I have learnt in class. Lessons learnt in class state that cultural misunderstanding can perpetuate faulty mental health judgments by misinterpreting other people’s behavior as an indication on mental instability.

Q7: if there is one concept that you could explain to other people about your group to help them understand and deal with your group better, what would it be?

Interviewee: colleagues at school tend to think that students belonging to the Chinese racial category are dumb and hence cannot defend themselves even when they are looked down upon. One concept that I can explain to help them understand us better is that most of our unspoken rules emanates from Confucian teachings. According to the Confucian teachings an individual is usually defined on basis of his/her relationship to the wider society. As such, his/her actions, irrespective of whether they are positive or negative, are perceived to reflect not only the individual but the larger group. As such, modesty as well as humility is perceived to be excellent traits that can promote wellbeing of the larger society. This explains why bragging as well as loudly touting is usually looked down upon and hence unacceptable.

Conclusion

            The interview involving a fellow student belonging to the Chinese racial category has helped generate important lessons relating to cultural diversity. From what I have gathered from this interview, culture is an important concept that defines beliefs, attitudes and opinions held by members of a particular cultural group and can be associated with certain cultural values. Cultural background has an important role in influencing people’s important life choices including the type of career, education, marital partners and religions they choose. Despite the fact that every culture might have distinct characteristics that might distinguish it from others, people tend to have misconceptions about others’ cultures. This often results to prejudices that might promote aspects of discrimination if not addressed properly. As such, it is important to teach people about other’s cultures as well as encourage them to be mindful of their language, which would eventually eliminate prejudices. It is also obvious that promoting cultural diversity can help eliminate possible cross-cultural conflicts and prejudices. It is thus important for people to recognize that each culture has its unique characteristics that may not necessarily be related to those of another culture. On this note, it is important to understand that people from China exhibit unique cultural attributes that are based on their cultural background. They thus need to be accepted for who they are and be respected for the cultural concepts they uphold.

 

References

Erik, C. (2012). Revisiting Multiculturalism and its Critics, The Monist, 95(1):29-72.

Lloyd, W. (2008). Multiculturalism and Ethnic Pluralism in Sociology: An Analysis of the Fragmentation Position Discourse, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, 40(1):611-1009.

Sarah, D. (2012). Defending Multiculturalism: A Guide for the Movement, McGill Journal of Education, 47(1): 129-711.