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The purpose of this assignment was to interview someone who is more than 30 years of age and who is of a different race than oneself. Research on the person being interviewed ethnic background had to be conduct, in addition to, materials covered in class and previous experiences were compiled into 7-10 open ended questions that were discussed during the interview. Below you would see the seven interview questions that were discussed, the answers given, and a biographical piece that bring everything together.
Why do you think the term “Euro American” is not as commonly used a “White American” or “White”? White is easier, more homogenous, and more likely to support quick assessment. By saying Euro or European, you are conveying a sense of enormity that is too vast for quick contemplation. In our culture, speed and efficiency are far more important than accuracy.
Do you consider yourself to be privileged? If so, to what extent? Yes, but only as far as my race is concerned. My SES throughout my life has been low, and in my opinion, has effectively mitigated my white privilege on countless occasions. But there is no denying that being considered white has afforded me opportunities, accommodations, and entitlements that are out of reach for folks of other races and ethnicities.
As it relates to your country of origin, how do you express your sense of pride? That is difficult to answer. I used to be proud of my national heritage and that of my immigrant predecessors. However, as I get older it seems that my pride is more reliant upon things like my sense of accomplishment. George Carlin said it is silly to be proud of something that you have no control over, I agree with him.
In what forms have you experience discrimination? I have experienced racial discrimination in subtle and blatant forms. However, most of the discrimination I have experienced has been based on my SES, geographic region, or both. Additionally, most of the discrimination has come from other Caucasians.
How do you view opposing culture that is different from your own? I am mostly open minded and, in fact, greatly interested in other cultures on a personal and academic level. Something that I believe many Americans take for granted is our rich mixed cultural heritage and our proximity to some of the oldest cultures on the planet.
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How has the American system shaped your beliefs, attitudes, and values about your own culture? I recently watched a movie about Sicilian immigrants to the U.S., and marveled at how different and primitive their culture seemed compared to American culture. My grandparents were so eager to embrace American culture that the display of many elements of our home culture was frowned upon, by them. For instance, my grandfather insisted that Italian was only spoken to family members, and rarely in public. Fellow Italians/Sicilians and other outsiders were only to be addressed in English, and well spoken English at that. The system in America clashes with many beliefs, attitudes, and values of mine, primarily because they have been heavily influenced by my ancestor’s culture. The system in this country is meant to divide, institutionalize, and distract. My own values, as prescribed by my heritage, center on family, freedom, and vigilance. Because the system is so pervasive, and at times ultra-subtle, I guess it would be foolish of me to think that some of my values etc. haven’t been compromised.
Terms like “1 Drop Rule” and “passing as white” are considered foreign concepts only located in America, so how do you perceive these terms? Well, they actually aren’t solely American concepts. In Italy, for instance, skin color, eye color, and hair color go from light to dark from North to South. This is partly because of the multitude of wars and invasions that led to Africans, Persians, Arabs etc. occupying the southern portions of the country and interbreeding with the local inhabitants. As a result, Northern Italians look down on Southern Italians and garner the lion’s share of wealth, entitlement, and privilege. That is why some many Southern Italians came to the Americas. Many Americans assume that all Italians have a darker complexion; however, it is because lighter complexioned Italians were mostly well-off and didn’t need to immigrate. I perceive these terms as means for folks to dominate others. These terms are indicative the willingness of other humans to damage their own species, even psychologically, in order to maintain a greater claim to resources. The interesting thing is that people with darker hair, darker eyes, and darker skin make up the vast majority of humans on this planet. So in that regards, fairer people are, by definition, less human.
What I have learned from this interview is that the similar difficulties and issues are present in other cultures just in different forms. The person I interview stated he was on the low end of SES but being considered white has afforded him opportunities, accommodations, and entitlements that are out of reach for folks of other races and ethnicities. So it’s clear that being “Euro American” but being perceived as “White” grants privilege but to a certain extent. In the article White, Male, and “Minority”: Racial Consciousness among White Male undergraduates attending a Historically Black University, the study suggests that White male college students’ experience at an HBCU and perhaps more importantly, the students’ attitude toward their experiences, may influence their racial belief and understanding. This was interesting to me because he attends an HBCU and mentioned how he was interesting in others race on a personal and academic level. The study also suggested how the nature of the students’ dispositions towards their collegiate experiences may align with racial consciousness statutes that may include questioning White norms and privilege. The system in America rattles with many beliefs, attitudes, and values, which are presuming to different in culture. The system in this country is meant to keep outsiders at bay and if they dare to dwell deeper than what is expect their values, beliefs and even heritage will be compromise. Having a strong sense of self and perseverance is a part of the American system of success. Regardless of where one embarks on his or her journey the message is still the same “you have to be better than the person standing next to you”. This idea of competition along with this cry for psychological help is what is inflicting more harm than good on our American system. Being of Euro-American descent can be both a blessing and a curse depending on your environment, SES, attitude, and level of competence etc. This notion of class ranking and how if you are on the lower end of SES as compared to another who is on a higher end of SES is looked down upon within one culture. Interviewee showed me how much education and his culture plays a role in hunger for more knowledge. He wants to understand those of different ethnic race as long as they don’t belittle his. Being protective of what’s dear to us is human nature in its self but one can’t expect to help others until they help themselves. It seems that regardless of what ethnic group one is a part of it is important to understand one culture and begin to become familiar with others. We all have struggles and through a little effort in research one would find out how we are more similar than different.
Peterson, R., & Hamrick, F. A. (2009). White, Male, and "Minority": Racial Consciousness Among White Male Undergraduates Attending a Historically Black University. Journal Of Higher Education, 80(1), 34-58.
Stewart, T. L., Latu, I. M., Branscombe, N. R., Phillips, N. L., & Ted Denney, H. H. (2012). White Privilege Awareness and Efficacy to Reduce Racial Inequality Improve White Americans' Attitudes Toward African Americans. Journal Of Social Issues, 68(1), 11-27. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2012.01733.x