Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What we think, and Why, the topic of Multiculturalism.

What we think, and Why, the topic of Multiculturalism. By Chelsey

Throughout the week, our classes have been discussing numerous definitions that have brought about many shared beliefs and difference of opinions, especially with the topic of multiculturalism.

The simple definition of Multiculturalism is the reality of many unique characteristics of different cultures blending with numerous societies around the world. The cultural exchanges made between societies and nations have revolutionized certain areas in the world. An example that I have experienced was the European influence of Philosophy. In my general college classes, it was recommended that we take a Philosophy class. I found it to be fascinatingly interesting. Also with the multiculturalism implement introduced by the European imperialism these great areas of expertise were established and recognized further: Psychologists, Sociologists, and Historians.

A good example of these cultural exchanges is something simple such as food. America is a prime example of different foods from other cultures. One of my favorite restaurants is Khan’s, which is a Mongolian Barbecue. Minneapolis provides numerous arrays of ethnic restaurants that tempt Americans to think outside the burger and fries box. There is an awesome Turkish restaurant on Snelling near Hamline University called Black Sea I am not the type to try new foods but I was wowed. An interesting thing to learn from our fellow social workers in Cuernavaca would be to hear from them what types of restaurants they have encountered or experienced!

Multiculturalism is not always welcomed or accepted. This has caused certain policies to be put into place around 1970 starting with varied countries and nations. Some examples of these policies include: government support for radio stations, news papers, and television stations in many minority languages. Another policy was the acceptance of religious and traditional dress in society, schools, and militia by other cultures. The education system has made sure to include its own policies on multiculturalism in a way that it “has mandated that the social work curriculum include content on cultural competence.” (Marsiglia, & Kulis, 2009, p. 75). We do this by recognizing and “celebrating the coexistence of multiple cultural identities” (Marsiglia, & Kulis, 2009) in communities and school systems.

How do these policies affect us in America? Does it bother anyone out there to have a few extra channels on your television that you can’t understand? It doesn’t bother me to have a couple extra channels to surf through to get to C.S.I. or my other favorite shows; I just keep in mind that it helps people from a diverse culture to stay in touch with their background.

Does anyone have personal opinions on people whose culture has them wearing certain clothing such as a Hijab in society? I find it interesting, and often wonder why Middle Eastern women wouldn’t want to conform to American society, but I understand that even outside of their country there are rules about women showing their hair. It also makes me wonder how we would be viewed in their country by not donning a Hijab, and the looks that we would receive. In context with certain barriers among cultures, such as languages, I find at times that I have no idea what others are talking about. For example, when I get a manicure it seems that many nail salons are operated by people from Asian cultures. Sometimes I am unable to communicate with the women doing my nails, and at times I can’t understand a question they are asking me and I feel stupid when I keep asking ‘what?’ until I can understand what it is they are asking me.

Are there certain areas or examples in the American or Mexican society that have caused you to take notice? Does this spark any personal opinions and stories from a time in your life?

Work Cited
Marsiglia, F.F., & Kulis, S. (2009). Diversity, oppression, and change. Chicago, Illinois: Lyceum Books, Inc.


  1. In response to your question about multicultural restaurants in Mexico, I have noticed a few trends. During my first two weeks in Cuernavaca, I had the opportunity to live with a family and they all expressed positive feelings toward the ethnic restaurants because they love learning about new cultures and trying new food! The majority of the restaurants are traditional Mexican; however, I have seen Italian, Chinese, American chains, Japenese, and Argentian restaurtants. There is an absense of certain ethnic foods (Caribbean), and during a conversation with an interns here, we discussed the possibilities of the absense of certain ethnic restaurants having a correlation with that culture being devalued in Mexico.

    During my time here, we have learned about the United States government, oppressive policies, and their effects on Mexico. It is easy to view the United States through a negative lens; however, the United States has a rich cultuture that I need to remind myself that I can be proud of. In response to your comment about women from the Middle East who continue to practice their traditions in the United States, I believe it is important for every person to be proud of who they are, where they come from, and their cultural traditions in order to teach other people about diversity and their experiences.

  2. Multiculturalism is a very good topic to discuss. I have also seen many different types of restaurants here in Mexico, but so far I have only eaten at a place with "Mexican" food (I put that in quotes because technically, all food here is Mexican, no?) and also at an Italian place. I did take notice of the menu at the Italian restaurant; although all of the titles of the food are in Italian, the explanations are in Spanish. I noticed this is the same in the US; the dishes must be explained in English. I am glad that countries do allow other types of restaurants, even if they need to translate the menu.

    When I was at the airport before I actually came to Mexico, I instantly noticed the multiculturalism. In Minnesota, all signs are only written in English. Then, when I got to the Texas airport, all the signs are first written in English, and then in Spanish underneath. This made me realize that although I love Minnesota, I wish that we included other languages on our signs, if only to be more accepting of different languages. In Mexico City, there are actually quite a few bill boards that are written only in English. Although this puzzled me at first, I have since learned that usually the rich people of Mexico learn English and it is also considered "cool" to drop in English words during a conversation. This is unlike any multiculturalism I have seen in the US,because in my experience, US citizens believe their culture is the best. I think it would be very interesting to look at the different levels of tolerance in different countries. I feel as though the US does not have a very high tolerance, and I am thankful every day that most Mexican citizens are accepting of me, even though I am clearly foreigner.

  3. When you mentioned women wearing Hijaabs and how we may view them or they may view us reminded me of the cultural context here of wearing shorts. When I was packing to come to Mexico a close friend warned me that people do not often wear shorts and if they do they are children or just trying to get attention. So, I didn't pack very many shorts and instead chose shorts or pants. Now that I'm here I've noticed that it is very true that many people don't wear shorts or even tank tops. There are times when I really just want to wear shorts and a tank top because it's so hot, but then I think about the culture and how I find it very important to respect the culture I am living in and at times I agree with Deidre's train of thought that the U.S. could do a bit more to respect the cultures of others. It's a bit of a big jump to go from clothing to larger issues, but it is always something to think about. Little things may add up to big things and change can always start out small.

  4. For me, multiculturalism means an appreciation and valorization of the various traditions and practices found across cultures. I’m reminded that culture extends beyond the visible clothing, food, and language to also include values, beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of a group of people (the cultural iceberg). I see one of the most important aspects of multiculturalism as valuing the differences and understanding where they come from.

    In Mexico I think multiculturalism is not valued in the same way that the United States claims to value various cultures. Especially evident is the under appreciation and discrimination of the indigenous community. While these people have inhabited this region for years, there seems to be little appreciation and knowledge about the indigenous beliefs about time, space, and land, concepts that ground their world views. Further, Mexico tends to be fairly homogenous in that most of the population is Mexican and there are fewer immigrant groups than are found in the United States.

    Finally, in response to the question about wearing a hijab in the United States, instead of asking “why don’t Middle Eastern women want to blend into US culture by not wearing a hijab?” we should maybe be asking, “what about US culture influences women’s decisions to wear or not wear a hijab?” A multiculturalist approach should challenge us to not just look at the clothing choice, but also at the values that underlie the decisions we make. Further we should be challenged to think about how dominant culture oppresses others and limits the decisions and expressions of non-dominant culture.

  5. The concept of multiculturalism certainly is not easy to define as already mentioned. It all comes down the an intertwinement of different ideas, customs, traditions, and whatever one considers to be pieces of their culture. Food is an important piece of culture and it is interesting how it can connect two "different" cultures. The things that cause or begin interactions between different cultures and creating a greater sense of multiculturalism and diversity are important to consider. It is important to note the advancement of technology and how we are becoming truly more global and how this is changing our concept of multiculturalism. We have more access to more information, what is going on around the world, and in general being able to be in contact with practically anyone in the world. Due to this advancement of technology and access to communication and information, we are becoming even more multicultural, and the opportunities to be confronted and in contact with those from cultures different from oneself are ever increasing. This is very exciting, but it must also be acknowledged that problems are created from this as well. The manner in which people are communicating and connecting is changing, and perhaps intimacy is as well. But in the sense of multiculturalism, all we have to do is click on our mouse, and we can find ourselves in other worlds, learning about things "foreign" to ourselves. It can be something used to empower oneself and others or oppress and continue to discriminate as well.

  6. I found it really interesting that the education system mandated cultural competence be a part of the social work curriculum. Because cultural competence is such an important piece in the work that social workers do, it surprises me that it hasn't always been an established part of the curriculum's foundation. It makes me wonder how effective we could have possibly been before, without it.
    As a side note, I also have been to the Black Sea restaurant off of Snelling and I agree with you wholeheartedly: their food is delicious!