Week 3 – Culture and Diversity

GB is a Gen X-er.  She is a community organizer.   She is a single mother.  She has two boys that have beautiful long hair and she has a tween-ish daughter.   The father of the children is Native American and is involved with the children.  GB is fluently bilingual (English-Spanish).  She is Latina/Native American.  This is what GB says:

“Culture for me is Passion & traditions:  what I love to do and I want to do as much as possible, values: what I believe in and fight for; and identity: how I define who I am, without labels…I hate labels!!!”

“Diversity for me is respecting everyone’s own values, traditions, and identities…with no need to accept, judge, nor exclude.”

 Thank you for letting me be a part of this G!!!

 GB

……………………. 

Stacey is a Gen X-er.  She is the president of our local AEYC affiliate.  She works at a local Community College, directing the Child Development Center.  She is biracial (European-American/Asian-American.  She has a young adult daughter.    This is what Stacey says:

“I believe that culture encompasses the distinct ways that people classify and represent their experiences. I believe that every single thing one does is related to culture.”

“I define diversity as any way any group of people can differ significantly from another group of people — appearance, sexual orientation, status, a person’s level in an organization, etc.”

 Hope this helps!

Stacey

…………………….

Ora is also bi-racial.  She is a Boomer.  She is my mentor.  She refers to me as “Doc”.  These are her thoughts:

Hi Doc,

Sorry, my computer was on the blink yesterday. You have asked two interesting questions here.

Here goes:

CULTURE:  I believe culture is the way of living that a specific group of people have been able to create through their arts, intellect/beliefs and numerous products that were continually passed on to the succeeding groups of people.  This is accomplished through the various educational systems (mental/physical) used for the children, grandchildren and all new comers to the group.

The United States’ culture can be questioned because it is made up of a specific group sent here from another country. That group did successfully transmit the home beliefs to the people, however, I feel the U.S. is one of the few “countries” that does not have its “OWN” culture. It was, and still is, being formed through the cultivation of the minds of people coming here from other countries and their beliefs, morals and education used as part of the foundation of the “American” culture. My own mother is full-blooded Indian (Native American) and my father is Negro (African – American). Does tacking on the word “American” make me ONE or is it the fact that we were all born in America and educated?

ETHNICITY: Is a “group” of people that share the same ethnic and distinct culture. They share the same history, language and related lineage????. Whoa! a little confusion here huh!  In reality, I guess I would be Indian-African taught to be American????

This is such a perfect “Greg Uba” question to open up wonderful, confusing, head scratching and frustrating confusion. I’m 70 years old and now wondering who the hell I am. (smile) 

Keep it up Doc,

Ora

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The three responses above reflect different parts of my professional life.  GB is the newest friend, and politically, quite similar to me.  Stacey is outspoken and dynamic.  Ora is the one I have known the longest by far. 

To begin with, I would like to reflect upon Stacey’s dynamic and outspoken nature which goes against the Asian part of her heritage – pointing out that deep culture does a far better job of accurately describing who we are than surface culture.  Deep culture also is relevant to GB.  I remember when I was first introduced to her sons (with the long hair), I referred to them as daughters when I next spoke to GB.  The surface culture of what it is to be a boy was in conflict with the deep culture of their indigenous family – in which boys wore long hair.  Ora also defies surface culture.  Some people would say that she has a disability – MS.  But Ora remains an active and enthusiastic individual.  I never think of her as being disabled – or even with differing ability.  She remains someone that has shaped my trajectory in ECE.

GB’s definition of culture was expansive and inclusive.  While it touched on tradition – it felt personal and active and dynamic.  Stacey likewise defined culture in expansive terms, saying, “…every single thing one does is related to culture.”  Ora, the Boomer, describe culture a bit more traditionally – indicated the relationship between culture and larger group identity.  She added an intergenerational component of culture that the Gen X-ers left out.  I thought that was notable.  Ora went on to expand upon her thoughts of culture as it relates to the United States.  She describes American culture as still being in progress, as new immigrants continue to arrive.  Ora made reference to generational vocabulary, identifying her father as Negro and mother as Indian.  Finally, she made an astute observation as to what are the ramifications of adding the word –American to one’s identity – questioning what exactly it is that makes one American.

GB describe diversity almost as if it were a verb – describing it in terms of active respect for others.  I was impressed with her comment, “with no need to accept, judge or exclude.”  This last part of her definition respects culture as something that stands alone, not needing validation or approval from the dominant culture to exist.  GB describes diversity in an inclusive manner.  Stacey, the academic one of the three, chose a more traditional language to describe diversity.  By including appearance, she opens the door for us to examine diversity in broad physical terms that expose our –isms.  She included the less commonly recognized characteristics of diversity – including status and “level in an organization.”  Ora took a route beyond diversity, challenging us with her profound words, “I guess I would be Indian-African taught to be American.”

When this assignment invited us to ask our friends these questions, I purposefully chose those friends that were also colleagues.  I wanted to share with everyone the amazing good fortune that I have had to work with progressive, enlightened and thoughtful people.  Because they, for the most part, chose quite broad and inclusive definitions of culture and diversity, I wouldn’t say that they omitted anything.  Their language, by being expansive, leaves it to us to imagine what is included or excluded.  Specific mention of such attributes as status and values (diversity) indicates to me an understanding of the complex nature of identity.  Notions expressed such as passion, and representation of experience provide for an inclusive and personal descriptions of culture.

I am proud to name GB, Stacey and Ora as colleagues and friends.  I believe that they represent a diversity of culture and identity within the child care and family services system.  And while their definitions of culture and diversity differed considerably – their understanding of the concepts is apparent and, I believe, quite powerful.

I would have liked specific mention of gender – as it happens to be a focus of my anti-bias crusade – but each of these individuals has actively contributed to the inclusion of men in the lives of children in some way.  I thank GB, Stacey and Ora for joining me in this assignment.  I did receive a message from Julio, who very much wants to contribute some thoughts, but life happens…  I hope to speak about mi sobrino, Julio, at some point in this course.  And my really militant friends elected to remain silent on this one.

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4 thoughts on “Week 3 – Culture and Diversity

  1. eceastewart says:

    Gregory,
    I always enjoy reading your very insightful blog entries. I did not mention the generation that my participants were included in and it makes sense to point this out. Now you have given me something additional to think about in regards to the definitions I received from my family, friends and colleagues. Thank you.

  2. Gregory,

    Thank you for sharing your friend’s responses. I enjoyed reading Stacy’s comments because I feel exactly the same way about culture and diversity. I think that the way we live our life, our reactions to different people or events etc. all stem from our own culture. In addition, I think that each person has his own culture. While, he/she has been influenced by family, surroundings etc., I think that the way the person chooses to act is due to his culture of being. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful words!
    Andrea

  3. Great post here, Gregory. I like how one of your interviewees classified culture as every experience a person has, since ultimately it is the lens in which we view all of our experiences. That was powerful for me in my own understanding of myself, my children’s lives as a multi-racial family, and in understanding previous generations’ choices that can trickle down and affect others.

  4. gregory uba says:

    Hi there colleagues! I have been very fortunate. At one job I had, we regularly had conversations around topics such as this… for fun. Los Angeles is one of the diversity capitals of the world. It’s wonderful!
    When I train on diversity, I sometimes ask people to think about it this way – Your experience and comfort with diverse people can be measured by the people that you have invited into your mother’s home.

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