Gossip girl life, Mcdonald and KFC everyday, you are looser if you don’t have Apple stuff,low cut shirt girls .etc.
What am I talking about?
These are the fat, juicy stereotypes that people had and have on Americans-more specifically, white Americans. Past three summers that I had in the Unites States, I have been consistently participating in the Intercultural Communication class at UMD. It is the best, unique class you cannot meet any other school. As you can tell from the name of the class, it has its focus on helping student communicate inter-culturally. Little bit about the class, it is provided in the fall semester and summer session. Usually total number of the class goes up til 35-40. At the registration period, only half the class is white American and other half are culturally-diverse students from different countries or cultures. Fun of this class is it does not require any textbook material nor boring memorizing information type of exams but ask each student to go on “dates”. This date asks one-on-one hangout time minimum two hours at least 5 times. After you hangout with peers from different cultures what you need to do is to video record for three minutes about what you learned about the person.
First few days there is little tension around the room because it is dang SO hard to come out from comfort zone and just walk to the person who look different from you and ask to hang out with you. There are so many reasons that it is hard besides it just needs a lot of gut itself, for example, different skin color or the appearance immediately brings us specific stereotypes on the person. As soon as I see white skin people in the class, it is hard to not assume they would like mc and cheese, have Netflix account and owe nothing but dozen pairs of black leggings. We, human beings, are so arrogant and indifferent, we assume others with a single story or just a tiny fragment of information on the culture. Some we are well acknowledged of but some we do with not even recognizing it. So that is the first thing we do in class for couple weeks. For an hour and half, we throw any stereotypes either we heard, saw or thought about the cultures. And then the people who are from the culture talks what they think about the stereotypes that was thrown. It is not to offend or attack anyone but to let everyone realize the prejudice and discriminate against many-sometimes stupid-stereotypes.
So as for the very first class discussion time we talked about white American stereotypes. Many were negatives including common image of giant,fat people sitting down at the Mcdonald gobbling two Mcchickens and coke with french fries. As for the country that is king of fast food, there were lots of criticism on greasy, salty,high calories and cholesterol condensed processed food culture. Also, one guy from Ethiopia threw a questions whether they-white americans- think western’s individualistic culture is better than eastern family-oriented culture. This question was driven from the thought that they are so independent from the family and have their own boundaries. From some cultures that are familiar with hugging, smiling, kissing on the cheek as an expression of greet, such as Peru, Oromia,etc, american’s protected life that usually do not allow others touching them or if do, considered as sexually attracted interest is very odd and weird.
Before I came to United States, I also learned in the class the difference of cultures in western cultures and eastern cultures. One of the biggest different is family tie or bond between people. Asians flock together especially it is pretty common to live with parents even after they get married because it is one of the way to show respect. Also it is from the thought they had since they are child that it is now themselves who need to take the responsibilities of their parents who raised them and fed them whole life. However, as soon as white Americans graduate college, they become another individual who don’t belong to the family that much. It is assumed normally that the person move out when they turn 20 or even early. But what I have seen is quite different. It is true that many white american friends move out when they are considered as adult, but it is because they are ready to start their own life, sometimes create new family they belong as different role not because they don’t belong to their parents. Moreover, seeing many of my friends getting married right after college, I could feel the desire for creating family of their own which means they prioritize family than their works or jobs.
We were able to talk freely about what we think about other cultures because the classroom is the safe place. We understand it is not to attack anyone but to face the reality and understand each other better by taking and getting rid of stereotypes that cause many problems in our society. There were so many things we talked about other than couple I put up on this post but I just want to make it clear that no one knows everything in the world. Even we spent almost two hours talking about the one culture and 35 college kids sharing opinions and their stories, it does not tell everything about the race or the culture. Stereotypes exist because of the reason but also it reinforces the negative side which is not necessary.
Before we complain about the unpleasant stereotypes from people and rather saying rude words back, we are on the phase to act more civilized human being. Being humble and just take single story as a single story. You cannot judge one unless you have met everyone, EVERYONE in the culture and experienced everything there.