After being asked to call, write to, or talk to at least three friends, family members, acquaintances, and/or colleagues and ask them what their definitions of culture and diversity are, here is what I found: I asked a friend of mine who is half Indian, half Pakistani what her definitions of diversity and culture where and she said: “I define culture as the norms of the current society we are living in – example what is “socially” and/or morally acceptable. Culture is dynamic like society. As society changes, so does culture. The culture that I grew up in differs from the culture in my home. My parents migrated from India and Pakistan before my birth. They brought their language, traditions, customs, clothing and values to America. Their culture is intertwined and heavily influenced by their religion. What my parents and their cultural defines as societal norms and what is socially acceptable is a part of my culture. My culture is also mixed with some of the societal norms outside of my home. I define diversity as varying cultures, nationalities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and races. I see diversity as differences – neither positive nor negative. It does not define us or our actions like culture. Aspects of diversity can dynamic (like socioeconomic status, but not race). Society does not dictate diversity the way it influences culture.” I also asked a friend who is Korean what her definitions were. She said: Culture is what one develops over their life time. This depends on their beliefs, moral and attitude on life, social interactions, family values and laws of one’s homeland country. Being diverse means that everyone is unique and different. This difference may be the economic status, race, ability level, gender, social class, etc. For the third and final person, I asked a friend who I believe to be of dominant culture. She said: “Culture is the way a person behaves or the beliefs they have based on where or how they were brought up. Diversity is the ways in which every person is different be if from race, culture, gender, or other more personal things that make them different.” I found it funny that the people who are seemingly more diverse culturally and in other ways from the dominant culture had much more in depth answers when asked the two questions. I think that unless you have taken a course on diversity and culture or experience it from the minority side, people have very shallow understandings of it. It seems to be very black and white to those who do not really understand it. Some of the aspects of culture and diversity that I have studied were included in the answers from my friends. The way my friends described culture was that it is something develops because of society and values of families and it is heavily affected by where you live or where your beliefs come from. Many times this can be a result of how they were brought up with-in the culture they were raised. I believe that family culture and dominant culture were also included in these responses. I really liked how my one friend stated that “society does not dictate diversity the way it influences culture.” I think this is very true. Society has a large effect on culture but diversity is more of an individual thing. I found that the way some of these things were explained by my friends who have firsthand experience really helped to give me a better understanding and ways to clearly define them. Despite having an understanding of them through taking courses, it was very difficult for me to put into words until reading some of these answers.
A major catastrophe has almost completely devastated the infrastructure of your country. The emergency government has decided that the surviving citizens will be best served if they are evacuated to other countries willing to take refugees. You and your immediate family are among the survivors of this catastrophic event. However, you have absolutely no input into the final destination or in any other evacuation details. You are told that your host country’s culture is completely different from your own, and that you might have to stay there permanently. You are further told that, in addition to one change of clothes, you can only take 3 small items with you. You decide to take three items that you hold dear and that represent your family culture.
The three items I would choose are:
- Our son’s first Christmas stocking. I would explain to people that this was special to me because we are Christian and we celebrate Christmas. Our son was born on Christmas Eve and when they brought him to us after his bath and vitals, etc, he was wrapped in a blanket and inside of a big red Christmas stocking that said, “My First Christmas.” This represents our son and our religious beliefs all in one.
- Our wedding video. I would explain that this was special to me because it not only represented our promise to each other but it also represented our relationship with people who were close to us. Almost every guest at our wedding can at some point or another be seen in the video. It represents our personalities and that fact that we like to have fun and enjoy being around people we love and care about.
- A family meatball recipe that has been passed down. This is special to me because it would be a piece of my family that I could take. It represents to me how important we always felt that family was. Being together with your family, enjoying good food and even better company. The love we have for each other is represented through something like this that can be passed down through generations.
If upon arrival I was told that I could only bring one thing, I think it would be my wedding video. This video represents many things about my family culture and the people who I hope near and dear to me. My son was in our wedding and although I would be upset to leave his stocking around, he would be with me and he is in the video along with many other people I loved who may not be going to the same place I was. This also represents the importance of family like the meatballs because they were all there to share the day with us and can be seen in the video.
I’m not sure I gained any insights about myself through this exercise. I did need to think about things that were important to me and decide which things to take but I always knew what was most important to me and the things I chose represent the thoughts I have always had.