SWK 280 Augsburg Blog

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Keys to Understanding

 Halima Adan
                                                       Keys to Understanding  

            I have had the privilege of having experienced both western and non-western cultures; however growing up with mainly a non-western culture with its values has shaped my assumptions of everything that’s outside my culture.  I was taught to value, respect and take care of my elders. For example when our parents, elders or other relatives need care we are responsible to care for them as just as they took care of us in our earliest stages of life.   I was taught to never speak back to, not only elders, but to anyone who’s older than I.  Even something as small as addressing elders by their first name is seen as extremely disrespectful. Because of this many younger Somali people address any elder as aunt or uncle, grandmother or grandfather. This cultural rule has even made it difficult for me to address my professors by their first name.  Throughout my years in schooling I have struggled with balancing my Somali culture with the American culture.  Therefore I have developed the assumption that westerners do not care for their elders. I have come to this conclusion by observing many elders being put into nursing homes.

            In the article “Cultural Assumptions and Values” by Stewart, Danielian, and Foster (1998)” the authors state “what is an assumption for one individual, or for one culture, may be a value for another individual or for another culture” (158) Having said this, it is clear to me that the assumptions I make are fully coming from my cultural teachings, which have given me a very narrow vision.  What I was taught to value is “karma”, which means,  “What you put out is what you get back”. I was told that if I took care of my elders now, when I reach an age where I need assistance, I will be helped out by the younger ones. So when I came to America and saw elderly folks put into nursing homes I immediately thought that they didn’t take care of their own elders and therefore they received “karma”. My assumptions have led me to look at the elderly and the younger generation of America differently.

            I have recognized that making a broad assumption about everyone from a culture that is different from mine is dangerous.  This is because we lack knowledge about the unseen and implicit differences in each culture.  Along with my assumptions came a certain judgment of negativity placed upon others that tended to make my own culture be superior to another culture. What I failed to realize is that my view of the western world was based on views of that culture only.   I forgot to  I forgot to assess my own culture as well. I see that if one looks deeply, there are people of my culture who don’t have the same view regarding “elders” just as there people of the western world who highly regard their elders. With regard to how elders are treated, the perception of the world from the way I viewed it became very narrow.  That is why I needed to go out of my bubble to see the differences and similarities within each culture and how these relate to values and behaviors.  In the reading (Stewart, Danielian, & Foster, 1998) I learned “a frequent objection made to efforts to analyze any culture is that people differ from one another in many ways, even within a culture, and any attempt to describe a people according to broad generalizations, such as cultural characteristics, results in a stereotype” (158). 
            In conclusion I have learned that regarding culture and people in general there’s more to it than the eye can see. We should reflect upon our own behavior and values, so that we won’t be negatively blinded by the narrow views to which we hold so tightly.  By seeing that, at the end of the day, no one person’s view is necessarily better than another’s.  The key to solving many issues that plague us internally and externally is to try to understand others. This will benefit you individually, as well as your community.

Stewart, E. C., Danielian, J. & Foster, R. J. (1998).  Cultural assumptions and values. In M. J. Bennett (Ed.), Basic concepts of intercultural communication: Selected readings. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, pp. 157 – 172.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Social Construction

Social Constructivism-

In fifth grade my teacher, Mr. Erickson, was instructing us about the food chain. He told us it is necessary for one species to kill another as a means of survival, it is the "natural order" of things. He made his way from the bottom to the top in as much detail as possible. Insects seemed to be at the bottom, while animals such as the tiger were at the top. Then, after making his way to the top he drew a figure of a human being at the upper right hand side of the food chain. He then made a statement which had a profound impact on me. He said, "human beings are not necessarily part of the food chain, but exist outside of it because of our ability to think." Is it possible that we inhabit the Earth, along with everything else, yet exist independently? How could this be?

According to our book, social constructivism is, “the theory that individuals actively construct knowledge and ideas about reality and themselves through social processes and experiences” (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009, p. 85). Human beings congregate and socially construct language, and then give names to objects in the phenomenal world. Human consciousness divides the world by discrimination through language. We are then deceived by our mental "constructs", and believe there is inherent separation. In fact, we are not separate from the world, we are a part of it. We could not survive, and would not exist, were it not for everything else. Without the sun, rain, farmers, workers, and grocery stores we would not have food to eat that creates our bodies. This is also the case with mental conception. How would I know what to write if language didn't exist prior to me writing?

President Obama could not be president if there were no people to preside over. I could not be a student in Diversity and Inequality without any instructor. Both the teacher and student, or president and citizen, are dependent on one another for their identity; they are interdependent and part of a whole. However, because we are human beings with the ability to conceptualize, we differentiate the teacher from the student, overlooking these are fleeting identities which have no inherent existence. This is not theory, but reality prior to conception. We are given identities because society agrees on their meaning through social constructivism. Would you consider yourself a pedestrian when sitting in a classroom? Eggs could not exist without the hen. Rain could not exist without the clouds. There isn't a place we can gaze where interdependence doesn't exist. We are the sum total of all experience, mind and body.


Marsiglia, F. F., & Kulis, S. (2009). Diversity, oppression, and change. (p. 85). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books,


Posted by BEAU.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Reinforcing Gender...

A twenty six year old man was attacked outside his local McDonalds because he wore pink shoelaces. While dining at the restaurant with a friend, the two began to get verbally attacked. The verbal abuse soon escalated into a vicious attack. Two men proceeded to beat the victim while yelling anti- gay slurs, leaving the victim with two black eyes, and a cut on the nose (http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/wpix-gay-brutally-beaten-in-greenwich-village,0,1736566.story ) .
This unfortunate situation illustrates how strong the world puts an emphasis on gender. While reading the section regarding men and masculinity, the book stated how men feel the need to prove their manhood. It could be express through competitiveness, aggression, and toughness ( Marsiglia, Flavio Francisco., and Stephen Stanley Kulis. "Men and Masculinity." Diversity, Oppression, and Change: Culturally Grounded Social Work. Chicago: Lyceum, 2009. 146-47. Print.).
Gender is something that is created by a society. Being masculine requires men to not participate in any feminine activities; these concepts need to be demonstrated daily. Wearing pink shoelaces was seen as being inappropriate nor was it an acceptable cultural symbol and the offenders were determined to make the victim suffer for his action.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Disabilities and Discrimination

BY Katrina - SWK 280
Discrimination comes in many different shapes and forms. In a couple different class periods we have touched on the subject of people with disabilities facing discrimination. I found an article on abcnew.com about an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who was denied communion. According to the article, when the Rev. Phil Henning was questioned about his motives he replied that the boy had “the mental capacity of a 6-month old.” He also said he didn’t have sufficient knowledge of Christ. The family argued that Catholic doctrine doesn’t require a specific level of knowledge. The boy’s grandmother said that he had been preparing for months for his communion.
In my opinion, telling a child he cannot participate in a religious milestone because his disability does not allow him to be “smart enough” is absolutely horrific. I think this is in every way possible a form of discrimination. First communion is a ceremony that symbolizes acceptance but the church community. They are rejecting this boy’s desire to become a part of the church and take a step closer to his relationship with God.
According to Douglas C. Baynton’s article, Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History, “In recent decades, historians and other scholars in the humanities have studied intensely and often challenged the ostensibly rational explanations for inequalities based on identity-in particular, gender, race and ethnicity. Disability, however, one of the most prevalent justifications for inequality, has rarely been the subject of historical inquiry.” I think we as a society need to question ourselves as well as those in power to ensure everyone is getting equal opportunities.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Social Contact Theory

Celia SWK280

Earlier this semester I got a position as coordinator of Paso Doble, a culture and language exchange program, at Pangea World Theater. The objective of the Paso Doble component is:
1) To connect the Latina/o immigrant community and potential allies
2) To strengthen those relationships through bilingual and cross-cultural conversation exchanges; English and Spanish language-learning support; and gatherings focused on social justice and immigration issues.

I found myself applying many of the theories we learned in class to this project. The one that I found most relevant was Gordon Allport’s Social Contact Theory, which states that prejudices is reduced when people of diverse backgrounds communicate under equal status, are potential friends and have shared goals and activities (Rothenberg, 2010).

In Paso Doble this is put to the test when we pair one member of the Latina/o immigrant community and one person who self-identifies as an ally, for Spanish-English conversation exchanges. This dialogue and cultural exchange is further facilitated through monthly meetings in which all pairs come together for social justice and language workshops. At the beginning of the program the participants were a little intimidated by each other, but now it seems they are already on the path of making lifelong friendships. I believe that if we all make an effort to get someone we don’t know a lot about, we will begin to reduce prejudices and respect each other as humans.

Rothenborg, N. (2011). Continuum of Cultural Traits. Social Work 280

Nature vs. Nurture; Appreciating the History of a Culture

Allison - SWK 280

Having a Native American speaker in class last week was a very interesting lesson for me. Her story telling method of teaching caught my attention and made me more curious about her life. I took from what she told us about her life that she is a very wise woman with a lot of knowledge in her heritage. The speaker described that the best way to appreciate the Native American culture is to understand their history. The more people understand any group’s history, the more they can appreciate what that group’s ancestors went through to be where they are today. I thought it was interesting that even though the speaker had been raised by a European American couple, she still recognized her Indian traits, not only physically, but mentally. Once she learned more about her heritage, she could relate to her Indian way of living, a lot of her life was given meaning. She understood the reason why she had struggled in school was because her heritage caused her to learn through storytelling. For example, she learned that as an American Indian person she may have learned better if her teachers had used story telling rather than more standard educational methods. I think this is a great example of nature vs. nurture. Despite her being raised in a dominantly white environment, her Indian traits were not completed covered up by her white upbringing. I think all people should have a chance to learn their own unique cultural heritage. This helps increase self understanding and appreciation for one’s own culture.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

MN Recidivism in Incarceration



As I was leafing through the Star Tribune about a week ago (4/14/11) I came across an article that described how Minnesota leads the nation in incarceration recidivism. This issue is important to me so I took a second glance at it. Since we recently spoke about disparity levels I made an attempt to piece the puzzle together.
According to a new study Walsh reported in the Star Tribune, 61 percent of Minnesota’s prisoners released in 2004 went back to a correctional facility. By comparison nationally there is only a rate of 41 percent (Walsh, 2011). The Commissioner of Corrections Tom Roy went on to challenge the study by stating. “Combining technical violations like use of alcohol with statistics on new crimes is inherently misleading”. I questioned the statements made, especially after taking Social Work 280 and discussing disparities.
Immediately I began to think critically of the arguments and statements as to why we have the problem of increase in recidivism. A few things in the article troubled me. The first is that Minnesota is predominantly a white state and a majority of people incarcerated are of a minority group. Is it possible that micro-aggression within supervision is a contributing factor to recidivism? Also, could the conditions of release be unrealistic? As an educated able-bodied white male I am well aware of the white privilege I carry. However as I have a criminal record, I know how hard it is to fulfill the conditions of release. These conditions are that the person must find employment and a place to live within 30 days. This is very difficult, since jobs are scarce. It is hard to be gainfully employed especially with a tarnish on your record.
I would ask Mr. Roy how he expects people who are released without access to a great deal of resources to find an address, afford a car to get to work, or find a job within the 30 days given. As the second largest piece of the Minnesota budget is allocated to supervising and housing people in correctional facilities behind social security where are we going wrong as a state? I firmly believe this may be due to disparity and micro-aggression, as well as the difficulty in release conditions. It is difficult to find a decent job or place to live due to a criminal record especially if one might face racial micro-aggression or other forms of discrimination. Overall I think that it is deeper than recidivism. I believe it is a disparity problem along with an intolerance of people with a criminal record.

Walsh, P. (2011, April,14). Minnesota leads nation in recidivism. Start Tribune,
p. B4