Thursday, February 25, 2010

Social Contact Theory

This week we have been discussing contact theory and it's effects on our lives. In my group we talked a lot about how we were limited in our contact with people who are different from us. We go to a private Lutheran college which could leave out people of lower income and possibility people of other religious backgrounds. When reflecting on my contact list I noticed that most people I have contact with are almost mirror images of myself. In order to change this I am going to have to make conscious decisions about my actions. As a social worker you have to come to terms with your prejudices and try to change them. Having contact with various groups of people helps to do this. In our class PowerPoint we discussed the five circumstances prejudice can be reduced through contact. There must be equal status, pursuing common goals, have long enough contact to see humanity, have contact sanctioned by accepted institution and have the possibility for friendship (Allport, 1954 & Pettigrew, 1998). This was very helpful for me to learn and I will be able to use this to reduce prejudice in my life.

This week I had an interesting realization when volunteering at the East African Women's Center. On the way back to school I was able to debrief with a fellow classmate about the experience. I said how awkward I felt being the only one not understanding Somali and not being able to communicate. I often take my language for granted and in this situation I have been forced to realize that I am privileged in this country by speaking English. The way I feel for four hours of volunteering each week is how people might feel everyday in a country that does not understand them. I am able to leave the center and have signs written in my language and easily find a person that I can freely communicate with while they may not be able to do the same. I now have a little taste of how overwhelming and disheartening it is to be not understood and able to communicate. I think this is a really important to be understanding of people who do not speak the same language because they have the added stress of trying to get people to understand. As a social worker it would be important to figure out how they have been adjusting to the culture to be able to help them better. I am really glad I have been able to have this experience volunteering and would recommend others put themselves in this situation.

Elizabeth Patten

Allport, G. W. (1954). The Nature of Prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Pettigrew, T. F. (1998). Intergroup contact theory. Annual Review of Pstchology, (49), 65-86.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Valentine's Day Thoughts

Valentine’s Day… is it a day to be reminded that you are loved or is it a day to remind you that you are lonely? Well I don’t know.

My boyfriend sent me some flowers and a card. I really liked it and I was so happy. The flowers were so pretty and they probably cost a lot of money. The day went on and I really had a great day. Suddenly someone knocked on my door and the one I go to internship together with gave me a little pink bag with a card and some chocolate. I really didn’t expect that and I don’t know how to put it, but I think that things mean more if you don’t expect it at all.

Later that day I went to the movie together with my friends and of course we saw Valentine’s Day. It was funny to see all the balloons and flowers the girls had. There were no men walking around with any of those things. I think it’s funny that we ladies scream out for justice and want everyone to be treated equal. But we still expect our boyfriends, husbands and dates to pay for us and make us feel like queens and princesses. ϑ We want it all.

On a day like this I think that a lot of men don’t feel that they have the opportunity to give their date what they want. Maybe the people who are gay or lesbian make it a competition between themselves? Maybe to show who has the most money? And for women this day is all about getting a date or getting some flowers and chocolate.

I have always thought that a good Valentine’s Day for me was to get some get some flowers from someone who is gay, lesbian or a different sexual orientation than I am or that someone took me to a restaurant. After the movie I realized that your Valentine doesn’t have to be the “hottest” guy or someone with a lot of money. It could be your friends, your grandma, or your child. It just has to be someone who makes you feel good, one you like to hang out with or one you like to be quiet with. As long as you feel good around the person. Love has no borders. Only you decide what love is for you.

Love Camilla

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dose Health Care Care?

Does Health Care Care?

I was going to write about immigration and how discrimination might affect it but, after some searching, I could not find any current articles on the subject. In the process of looking I did find an article that is relevant to the current debate of public health care and discrimination. With new technologies being developed, more is being learned about genetics. We are becoming better at being able to look at a person’s genes and understand the information that is carried within the genes. Specific genes that attribute to health problems can be pinpointed and found in a person before any physical effects are visible. How we use this information is what is important. There are already several cases in which health insurance companies have discriminated against people because of a specific gene they have. If this becomes a more consistent policy, it is possible that a whole race of people might have a hard time getting health insurance or even a job simply because they carry a gene that creates a higher risk of a certain health issue. This has caused several people to even withhold information or refuse tests that could help their health because the fear of what their insurance companies and employers will do. “The first, much-anticipated benefits of personalized medicine are being lost or diluted for many Americans who are too afraid that genetic information may be used against them to take advantage of its growing availability” (Harmon, 2008). So even if a public health care system is created, this issue may arise as another obstacle to get around. Technology can be useful but all societal factors must be considered before full implementation of the technology is carried out. It would be unfair to deny a person health coverage simply because they may have a genetic predisposition for certain diseases. If we are attempting to give equal health care to all people, separating and labeling groups of people due to their genetics will only do the opposite and destroy any chance of equality. I have a feeling that genetic tests will be used as just another way to justify the oppression already in place throughout society. These are some of the factors to consider when looking at social policy and understanding the ways it can be used for good and bad.

Harmon, A.(2008, February 24). Insurance Fears Lead Many to Shun DNA Tests. The New Times. Retrieved February 13, 2010, From en=b9977c2d397372ee&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=a ll

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Being pulled over by the police

By Catharina Furnes

This Saturday I went to a friend’s house in St. Paul. We had a great night, and she gave me a ride back home after midnight. After driving for a couple of minutes a police car came up behind us. Not realizing it was us he wanted to talk to, we tried to get out of his way but he kept following us, putting on the lights and siren and we stopped He walked to our car and asked for drivers license and registration. He told us that we took a wide turn and that we were driving on a red light, which we were not. When he saw my friend's drivers license he said that registration is not neccesary. He asked how long we've been here and told us to drive safely and have a good night.

My thought after this went back to the article we talked about in class the other day about the numbers of people being stopped by the police in New York City (Herbert, 2010).

I wonder if he would have given us a ticket if we weren't white women from Norway. There was obviously a reason why he felt he had to stop us, and for some reason he let us go very easily. Would the same thing happen if we were two African American men? Would he give us a ticket for what he meant was driving on a red light? He just looked at us, did not do an alcohol test, did not look at all the papers he should have looked at and he did not give us a ticket. After the dialogues and lessons we've had in class it made me think that this was discrimination and that I was lucky to be a white girl in this situation.

It also surprised me that it seemed like he made up a reason to pull us over. I know that you can't do random check ups in the States so I feel like the police just made up a reason to do it. In Norway the police can stop whomever they want and do random alcohol tests or whatever they want. I believe that this can prevent a lot of traffic crimes.

My conclusion is that I do believe that we got of easily because we are white girls, and maybe also because we are Norwegian. I do not believe that this would have made any difference to the police in Norway but on the other side I don't think they would have pulled us over in the first place. If they were driving next to us and saw us driving on a yellow light I do not think they would care. The only reason why they would have stopped us is that they had a random check, and they don’t do those if they are driving. The way they do it is that they park their car somewhere and pull over random cars to either check that the driver has a drivers license or do an alcohol test ( I find it interesting that American police have to have a reason to pull someone over. I think random checks make people think twice about drinking and driving because they know that there is a chance that they’ll be pulled over even if they drive “carefully” ( (This link gives a lot of interesting facts about Norway and how we do things, but the two last paragraphs are about drinking and driving).

Herbert, B. (2010). Jim Crow Policing. Opinion. New York Times. 2/1/2010
Are the Olympics a good way to decrease prejudice?
By Stephanie Nelson

As many of you know, the opening ceremony of the 2010 winter Olympics was held Friday February 12th in Vancouver Canada. While watching this ceremony I began to wonder whether or not the Olympics provide a good way for people to become more accepting of diversity. This ancient tradition at least brings diverse people together geographically. Over 3 billion people from 160 different countries watched this year’s opening ceremony. 96 countries were represented in the ceremony itself ( This week in class we have been learning about theory. I began to wonder whether a theory would support the idea of the Olympics helping to promote diversity. Gordon Allport’s Contact theory (as described in Marsiglia & Kulis, 2010) seemed like a good place to start. Contact theory has 5 main criteria:
1. Individuals interacting with one another must be of equal status.
2. They must be cooperatively pursuing common goals.
3. They must meet long enough to see each other’s common humanity.
4. Contact has to be sanctioned by an institution that is accepted by everybody.
5. There must be a potential for friendship between individuals.
At first glance it seemed as though the Olympics were the exact opposite of this. Athletes and fans from different countries compete against each other. Stereotypes of who is best at each sport may be reinforced and lead to no new understandings of different people. When I continued to think about it however, I saw a possibility for contact theory to apply. The Olympic Games require a vast amount of planning and cooperation between countries. During this time there is plenty of opportunity for diverse people to get to know and respect each other. There is also a good chance that just being at the Olympics together will provide similar opportunities for people to work together. Athletes and spectators alike have plenty of opportunities for contact with people different from themselves. Even the opening flag ceremony gives people a chance to learn a little more about different cultures. Although this may not always be the case, I think the Olympics provide a great atmosphere for people from different backgrounds to know each other and decrease their prejudice.

Marsiglia, F. F., & Kulis, S. (2010). Diversity, oppression, and change: Culturally grounded social work. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books, Inc.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Health Care Reform

Thoughts on health care reform and social workers.
Alycia Dahlen

Oppression and inequality can take many shapes and forms and in The United States, we have a lengthy and torrid history of discussions on equality. From same-sex marriage to the overhaul of the health care industry, more than ever is our attention turned toward the distribution of rights and resources.. The current political climate in our nation is riddled with discussion on equal access to resources and the rights to health care. What is perhaps most interesting about the health care debate is that it effects everyone. As a general rule, lack of access to vital resources is generally reserved for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the oppressed. However, now those who hold the power – the white, middle class, employed Americans – are finding that they too are struggling with obtaining proper health care. Marsiglia states that, “oppression often manifests itself as the deprivation among certain groups of needed material resources.” (Marsiglia 2009) He goes on to explain that in order for there to be oppression, one party has to benefit from the oppression. In this case, the health care providers, who are denying people their benefits, make a profit at the expense of an individuals health. It is also stated in the text that the “oppressed are perceived as socially and morally deficient”. Much of the health care debate has centered around the idea that proponents of universal health care are looking for a handout and need to earn their benefits. This cultural script is both incorrect and harmful to the millions of citizens without adequate access to resources. The need for quality health care at an affordable price is a need that transcends race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and age. As future social workers, it is of the utmost importance that we become aware of the problems that face our potential client base. As advocates for social justice, we must be informed and attuned to adverse policies that effect the populations in which we work with. The National Association of Social Workers, or the NASW, has done a great job of rounding up information and resources regarding the current health care debate. This information can be found at:

More information about our current health care climate can be found at:

Is your health care deal better than the house plan?
Obama: I'm not giving up on health reform
Health Care | White House

Works Cited

Kulis, Stephen & Marsiglia, Flavio F. (2009) Culturally Grounded Social Work: Diversity, Oppression, and Change. Chicago, Illinois: Lyceum Books, Inc.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

First Impressions

By Kelsey

After the Augsburg All-Nighter last weekend, a couple of friends and I were hanging out in the dorms. There was a fairly constant stream of people coming in and out, many of whom we had never met before. At one point we were introduced to two guys. They immediately smiled and said "Hey" to me, then as they looked at the faces of the two friends I was there with, they adjusted their greeting to an enthusiastic "Hola" followed by an awkward loss for words. Apparently 'hola' was the extent of their Spanish knowledge. After exchanging an understanding "look" my friends announced "We are not Mexican. But Kelsey is", intentionally leaving the two guys confused and uncomfortable.

There was a lot going on during this interaction, most of which requires a fair amount of reading between the lines as well as some context, So I'll break it down a bit :)


Seems like an innocent enough greeting right? The guys who used it may have even thought they were showing how accepting and cultured they were by greeting my friends in "their language". The issue here is less about their attempt to utilize the only Spanish word they knew and more about how quickly they needed to put them in to a "ethnicity box" and how all-encompassing that label was. It was clear that the first thing they saw when they looked at my friends was a flashing neon sign that said "LATINO". Later I thought to myself that I should have played along and greeted the two guys with a friendly "Hej" or some other European hello, following their theme of greeting people in their presumed native language.

"We are not Mexican, but Kelsey is".

My friends felt the need to point out that there weren't Mexican for a couple of reasons (neither of which is because they have a problem with the country or it's people):

1. They aren't. One is from Guatemala and the other is from Columbia. Both of those countries have distinct identities their own history/culture/traditions. Much in the same way that many people view Africa as a country rather than a continent made up of 47 separate countries, there are people in the U.S. who assume every Latino is from Mexico.

2. They are well aware of the negative stereotypes towards Mexicans and Mexican Americans that exist in the U.S. and didn't want those assumptions to be directed towards them. As a white person, I never have to wonder if someone I just met is questioning my citizenship status, my ability to speak English, or wondering whose job I stole.

The last part of the comment where they said "but Kelsey is", was a joke in reference to the amount of time I spend in Mexico (which is a lot!).

I think this interaction really exemplifies how a comment that can seem so harmless to the person saying it can come across as insensitive and culturally incompetent to the person they are speaking to. The word "hola" communicated a lot more than just "hello" in this case. Even if the guys who said it had the purest of intentions and "didn't mean anything by it"(classifying them as 'fair weather liberals according to Merton's typology of discrimination*) they immediately pushed my friends into defense mode. It's one of those scenarios where intentions are pretty irrelevant since the end result (ie: how they made the other people feel) is the same anyway.

"Reducing Prejudice." Minority Studies. Delmar College, 17 Aug. 2007. Web. 9 Feb.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell--Paige Onstad

As I have been reading the newspapers looking for articles that discuss discrimination in some form one issue has caught my attention. The United States government is taking another look at the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and whether or not it should be abolished or kept as is. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is the law that states a person serving in the military that is gay or lesbian does not have to tell anyone of their sexual orientation and no one is to ask. Adm. Mike Mullen, who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff set forth his opinion that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.”[1] As I read more about this issue I began to wonder what people not employed in the government or military thought so I turned to the letters to the editor section.

The issue of whether or not repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would have negative affects on the military was brought up in two opposing letters. One man gives his opinion that repealing the law would be “catastrophic for both the military and the nation — especially in a time of war.”[2] He didn’t go on to give any reasons for his thinking; he simply left it at that. Another man wrote in to say that he thought the repeal would help the military to become more unified and more effective. This man went on to tell a story of how a teammate of his had been slipping in performance and confided in the writer that it was because he was hiding his sexuality from the team and felt as if he was trying to live as another person. Once the teammate came out to his team his performance began to improve and the writer feels that the same could possibly be true for the military. Both of these are great examples of the opposing sides and the differing opinions of people living in the United States. After all of the discussion we have had in class about discrimination I wish I could know more about why the first man thinks the repeal will have negative effects. I’m not going to try and speculate about what his reasoning may be because he has had different life experiences than I have that have shaped his way of thinking and also his prejudices. As I thought more about why he didn’t give more information it made me realize that I also should think about the prejudices I have and then try to figure out why I hold those views. Are there specific reasons? Were there experiences that happened in my life to shape my opinions?

An activity we did during class called Four Corners also made me take a look inside myself and ask hard questions. The four topics posed to us were; a time you experienced discrimination, a time you discriminated against someone, a time you interrupted discrimination, and a time you witnessed discrimination, but didn’t intervene. The topic of a time I discriminated against someone is the one I find applicable to this blog because it’s not only about recognizing a time I did, but also why I discriminated against that person or group. I think that is a question people should ask themselves when they find themselves holding prejudices or acting in a discriminatory manner. Some may have a solid reason, but what about the views that don’t? After writing this blog and looking back on Four Corners I am going to try and ask myself that question.