From the day I was born, I was already at an advantage. I was Caucasian, brought home to the suburbs and raised in an upper class family. My home was in a safe neighborhood, I had the luxury of education opportunities, I was kept safe and secure by my family (away from anyone and anything different) and lived in a beautiful bubble with people just like me until my early twenties. I never knew any different way of living and really did not know very many people who were not like me. Now I understand that these so called advantages have actually put me at a disadvantage in life. At forty years old I am paying the price for the so called advantages of living with privilege. Never having the chance to have social contacts with diverse groups of people has made me less knowledgeable about these groups and people and probably has lead to me having some prejudicial preconceived notions. "A person's beliefs can be modified by that person coming into contact with a category member and subsequently modifying or elaborating the beliefs about the category as a whole" (Schiapp, Gregg, & Hewes, 2005).
The social contact theory "...particularly its principles and the conditions it sees as necessary for reducing prejudice and segregation, contributes important insights to the culturally grounded approach." (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009, p. 72). I had never given this theory much thought until Dr. Rodenborg asked our class to keep track of all of our social contacts for a few days and make notes about the individuals we encountered. After looking over my three days of contacts with individuals, I was shocked. I only had contact with someone else different from me while I was at my internship or dealing with utilitarian contacts. Outside of those areas, my contact with different types of people were limited. The survey made it apparent that the people whom I shared the most contact were basically just like me. We all had been apart of the elite advantaged group because of our race, social class, educational opportunities, and sexual orientation. Sadly, this sheltered group that I am a member, will always be at the real disadvantage. None of us will have the true understanding of others without attached preconceived notions and stigma.
What this survey showed me was how limited my life is with regard to having diverse people in my life. Did the so called advantaged world that I grew up in really offer me the best life scenarios? The survey assignment enlightened me to the fact that my social contact with different social circles only happens at my internship, truly making me the person with the disadvantage. I have lost out on opportunities to meet people who were not like me throughout my life. These different people could have broadened my life experiences, beliefs, and offered me the chance to learn about others. Isn't it ironic that the world in some ways considers me to be the one with the advantages and yet I feel like those advantages have allowed me to "follow a principle of homophily" and "...develop social bonds with people that look and act like themselves" (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009, p. 72). All of the advantages that others are envious about, I question about the damage they have caused.
Many of my classmates at Augsburg have a diverse group of friends and seem to have social contacts with different types of people. These people all have an advantage compared to me. They will have cultural knowledge and experience to make them well rounded individuals who are comfortable with diversity. Our classmates in Mexico are having the opportunity to create new social contacts with people in a different country to help strengthen their cultural awareness. I am jealous of these life experiences these people are receiving, and am sad that my only chance to engage in diverse social circles happens on Mondays and Fridays while I am at my internship. Wait, maybe I am wrong, I do need get gas tonight.
Schiapp, E., Gregg, P. B., & Hewes, D. E. (2005). The parasocial contact hypothesis. Commincation Monographs, 72(1), 92-115.
Marsiglia, F. F., & Kulis, S. (2009). Diversity, oppression and change: Culturally grounded social work. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books, Inc.