Ethnocentrism is Everywhere

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Ethnocentrism is Everywhere Ethnocentrism is a commonly used word in circles where ethnicity, inter-ethnic relations, and similar social issues are of concern. The usual definition of the term is thinking one's own group's ways are superior to others or judging other groups as inferior to one's own. Ethnic refers to cultural heritage, and centrism refers to the central starting point. So ethnocentrism basically refers to judging other groups from our own cultural point of view. Even this does not address the underlying issue of why people do this. Most people, thinking of the shallow definition, believe that they are not ethnocentric, but are rather open minded and tolerant. However everyone is ethnocentric, and there is no way around being ethnocentric. Ethnocentricity cannot be avoided, nor can it be willed away by a positive or well-meaning attitude. To address the deeper issues involved in ethnocentrism calls for a more explicit definition. In this sense, ethnocentrism can be defined as: making false assumptions about others' ways based on our own limited experience. The key word is assumptions, because we are not even aware that we are being ethnocentric. Westerners have a binary conflict view of life (right or wrong, liberal versus conservative, etc.), and we try to impose our "win or lose" perspective of life on situations in other cultures. As a result, we do not understand how they experience life, that trying is a basic element of life. There are many, many examples of such differences in meanings that make life experience so unique for all the human groups around the world. For example, English has tenses built int... ... middle of paper ... ...nk people should be "friendly"? Once we realize that we are not understanding, we are now in a better position to seek more valid and balanced understandings. If we appreciate that their life experience can be as valid for them as ours is for us, acknowledge that we may be misunderstanding, and ask them to help us understand, most people are more than willing to help us understand better. Perhaps no one can ever have complete understanding of another people, without fully experiencing everything they experience. However, this does not mean we cannot develop a functional understanding, to interact successfully with others. Like other life skills, practice at every opportunity helps us develop our abilities to catch ourselves being ethnocentric and asking good questions to better understand others' cultural behavior.
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