Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Norms and Values

This week we have started to delve into the influences of our own cultures and the roles they play within our lives. There are numerous ways in which individuals can express their personality—it comes down to where they have learned these characteristics. In our text, Diversity, Oppression, and Change, it states “Cultural norms are values and beliefs that influence the attitudes and behaviors of members of different cultural groups” (Marsiglia, 180). You can learn these norms from your parents, relatives, professors, friends, coworkers or any other individual in your life. One can infer that it is sometimes up to the individual who is expressing a chosen behavior to decide which values to hold onto.

There are numerous norms within my life that I have held onto while growing up. I was always told to be polite when first meeting someone—a handshake was a must. I was always told to be on time when meeting someone—punctuality was something you had to take into consideration. Holding a steady job was a must—doing the best at each task would ensure this. When going out you should be presentable— you should always check your appearance before leaving your home. While reading these norms that I was raised with one could assume that my home was a strick one. These tasks were all normal to me because they were values that have been passed down in my home. They were tasks that I saw my parents doing so I learned them at a young age. I never thought of these tasks as something that have been passed down because they are things that I do on a daily basis.

This week in class we had our reflection on our heritage due. By doing this assignment I can see numerous aspects of the values in my family that I express today. I came from a small, but bluntly honest, Italian family. There are several little things that my grandparents did that I can see within my own life. My grandparents lived in a small town, Palermo, Sicily, and always found the little things to be the most rewarding. My grandparents were people who loved to go to markets and bring home something new for dinner, which always was a production in itself. Although I don’t cook a whole 3 course meal each day I love to go to the local farmers market and learn how to cook something new to go along with my pasta. Did I mention pasta is a huge staple in my life(another thing that has been passed down from my grandparents)? I was also named after my grandmother, Sarah Amato, which is another value you can see within my family. You can see this in numerous families across the world with having names be passed down through generations. It is a traditional that will be around for centuries to come for hope of not losing touch with their ancestors.

This week I have learned not only about diversity and inequality but the aspects of what make up who we are as individuals. There are many things that I have taken in my life for granted without ever looking at where the root of them started. I now have a new respect for my grandparents and traditions that they wanted to keep in the family. I hope to pass along in my own my heritage in order for my children to see the life that our ancestors lived.

By Sarah

Rothenberg, Paula. "Oppression." Race, Class, and Gender In The United States. Eighth Edition ed. New York: Worth Publishers, 2010. 151. Print.


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  2. The role of culture in norms, expectations, and social interactions has been extremely important to my personal experience in Mexico. Like many of my classmates, immersion in Mexican culture has both helped me to better understand many aspects of a culture with very different attitudes, behavioral norms, and beliefs, but also understand aspects of my own culture that I had previously taken for granted.
    For example, while punctuality is also a common and seemingly taken for granted norm for me as a Minnesotan, the same norm does not exist in Mexico. Thus, many of us have had to adjust to “Mexican time,” in which it is not seen as rude to show up 15 to 30 minutes late to a meeting or engagement. By being aware of our own norms and how these differ from those of many Mexicans, we have been able to view such things as punctuality with a different lens and learned to relax our expectations. With Mexican culture emphasizing human relationships, closeness, and “personalismo,” many Midwesterners have we have had to adjust ourselves to the unfamiliar culture expectations others here have for us—specifically greeting people with a kiss on the cheek, and formal introductions and closings before and after speakers. Thus, not only has this experience helped us to learn about expectations Mexican clients may bring with them to our future work in social work, but it has also opened our eyes to the expectations, norms, and values we as social workers from the United States might also bring to the interactions.
    Whitney Traut

  3. I can relate to you when I was writing my heritage paper. The readings that I did for that paper, really inspired to look more into who I am and appreciate the small traditions and values within my culture. I don't attend the New Year celebration as much as I do anymore. I use to think laugh at the old traditional music in my culture and honestly I still do. I feel quite guilty for not really realizing how important these old songs are to my parents and elders. Now that I realized how important these small things are, I just want to throw myself in my culture and learn more and more.

    I think it’s amazing that you are able to hold onto the small values within your family. Personally I think those small things within your family are very important to who you are and what your background are. The results that I got out of this paper are almost the same as yours too. I definitely have more respect for my culture and the traditions within in my culture. Sometimes, I do feel guilty for the traditions that are lost within my culture. I do hope that people are able to hold on to small things within their families and cultures.

  4. When I was writing my heratige paper, I really came to realize that I hadn't really questioned why or how I think about certain things. Most things I realize, were very culturally ingrained in my value set. A lot of what I carry with me actually comes from my fictive family which is very Latino. They are predominatly Catholic so I still hold some of these value deep to heart. I really enjoed your comment, "There are many things that I have taken in my life for granted without ever looking at where the root of them started. I now have a new respect for my grandparents and traditions that they wanted to keep in the family." I completely agree. I hope to always cherish my roots and be proud of who I am. I took for granted my family history as well that has been passed down onto me.

    Nice post! (BTW, this is Natalie Kro)

  5. The act of actually learning norms is a completely unconsious process. There are so many norms that I know I have, but am not exactly sure how I picked up on them. I think society has alot to do with what is considered "normal". Like as Sarah has mentioned, shaking one's hand when greeting someone, or being prompt for a job. These are actions that have been ingrained in our families and cultures, which feels like a way of life. I see that I also have norms within my family such as if there is an issue, my family will sit down and discuss what has happened and what could be a possible solution. We also have a norm that everyone must particpate in keeping the kitchen clean. It does not matter if you were not the person who did not make the mess. If you go by the kitchen and there are dishes out or the garbage is full, it is then your duty to dispose of the garbage and put the plates where they need to go, either in the cupboard or dish washer if dirty. These are the norms in my household, but everyone has different expectations. The weirdest thing is it seems like I can distintly tell that I have norms, but why do I feel it is so difficult to point out aspects of my culture.
    It is funny because I feel every person has culture ecept me, and it is just because they do things differently, like cook, particpation in religous activities, and so on. On the other hand, others may think of me in the same manner and believe that they do not have a culture. I know some people would feel that it is quite peculiar that I do not feel that I have a culture, especially being that I am an African American woman. Black people have to have a culture, right? Well it my case I have been around numerous people and never really living with my biological family. I feel that I have grasped onto another culture, but I cannot quite depict it. Norms and culture intertwine when it comes to me explaining the two concepts and even though there are some things I feel I am lacking, everyone is different; I do not have to fit a certain mold, which is the coolest part about culture.

  6. I think the assignment about our personal heritage made us all think about our family accentors. I actually never put much attention to my family roots in Mexico, but I was always wondering why my family from my dad side has light skin and blonde hair while my other side of my mom’s family has darker skin color and black hair. I have the darkest skin color of all my four sisters and since I was little they call me “prietita” (brown) as my nickname. Prietita though doesn’t have a negative meaning to it, it’s a nickname given to appreciate the skin color of someone and I know that when they call it to me they mean in it in a caring loving way
    Writing the paper helped me understand the historical roots of my family from Mexico. Learning how different the Mexican culture is to the United States. The paper also made me reflect my experience living in the United States and in Mexico. Family expectations of each culture are different. My family from Mexico did not expect me to better myself and pursue higher education. They expected me to get married at an early age of twenty or twenty-two at most. This was the custom in my ranch in Mexico where my family is from. Though now a lot of things have changed. I see girls going to school and pursuing higher education than ever before. Times are hard still though but I like seeing how much it has changed.