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.
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.