Exploring the Relationship of Identity to Diversity Beliefs and Values Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Cook/Identity/Page Number

Of "Identity" to Diversity


Tyler Cook

Self-reflect on how your family affected your beliefs and values. Describe at least two specific examples from your memory. Also include reflections on how your family shaped your views, and how that affects your feelings about diversity-related issues.

Self-Reflections on Childhood, Family, and Family Attitudes about Diversity

In self-reflecting on how my family affected my present beliefs and values, and my current attitudes about diversity, my main recollections are of being from a relatively well-off family, but of also of being surrounded as a child by other families that were less well-off, and sometimes of diverse ethnic backgrounds. I am a Caucasian male, and was raised in a series of small Midwestern areas where there were many families with lower-than- average incomes, although my own family was fortunate enough to not be one of them. Still, I feel that based on that background, I know something about life on both ends of the social spectrum; that is, what it is like to live like a poorer person (having spent much time in my childhood friends' homes) and also what it is like to live as a wealthier one; that is, in the environment provided by my own family.

My family and I lived on two different Midwestern farms before we moved again, this time permanently, to the small village of Magnolia, Ohio, the place where I spent most of my childhood and all of my adolescence. This area is predominantly white and German or Italian-descended, although it also contains a few minority families of various backgrounds. German is part of my own ethnicity, along with English; Irish and a bit of French; although English and German take the load if it. For as long as I can remember I attended Sunday school and church at a tiny Christian assembly not far from home, but I no longer attend church regularly, as I did when I was younger.

My childhood friends were generally from poorer backgrounds than my own (although children tend not even to think about such differences) and a few of them were also of different, or mixed, ethnicities. e.g., one Caucasian parent and one parent of Hispanic background; a white father and a Filipino mother, etc. I also had a good friend, named Larry, who was African-American. He was my closest friend from the ages of about 8 to about 9 1/2, when his family moved away.

My parents (and their parents before them) are, and always have been, very hard-working; open-minded, individuals. My family, as I recall, has always been open-minded about issues of diversity and equality, treating everyone exactly the same and (it seems to me) never even noticing, except maybe in passing, people's skin color, social class, etc. Racial or class differences were never even topics of conversation at my home. As a result, that is also how I am today in my own attitudes about diversity. I also realize, however, that many, many others of my class and/or ethnic background are not this way at all. Today, however, I am certain that my religious and family background, and my own family's open-minded attitudes about others, including my own childhood friends, had a very strong influence on me.

Another positive childhood influence on my current attitudes about diversity was sports. I love sports, and always played a lot of team sports wherever I lived, since I was old enough to hold a baseball bat, basketball or football. I played varsity baseball and basketball in high school. Playing sports as a kid or adolescent is a great "equalizer," I believe, especially in childhood. Sports offer constant lessons and "reality checks" about "not judging books by their covers," so to speak. One learns at an early age that how well-coordinated one is, or how well one throws or hits a ball, has nothing whatsoever to do with one's appearance. I also learned in sports not to judge "geekiness" "by its cover," since at my high school, a skinny, totally geeky looking guy with thick glasses was our very best hitter.

According to Habke and Sept "Cultural differences are not the sole influence in intercultural interactions. Factors relating to group identity and intergroup [sic] behaviour [sic] also need to be considered." Clearly, there were various cultural, ethnic, class, and other background differences between various members of our high school baseball team, but we never paid attention to them. We were intent on one thing only -- winning games, and we needed everyone working together as a group so we could succeed at that goal.

Also, according to the Child Development Institute article, "Stages of Social-Emotional Development in Children and Teenagers":

The adolescent seeks leadership (someone to inspire him), and gradually develops a set of ideals (socially congruent and desirable, in the case of the successful adolescent). Eriksson believes that, in our culture, adolescence affords a "psychosocial moratorium," particularly for middle - and upper-class

American children. They do not yet have to "play for keeps," but can experiment, trying various roles, and thus hopefully find the one most suitable for them.

I believe, particularly in the case of my own childhood and adolescent experience, that playing sports with teammates of all ethnicities and backgrounds helped to shape my mature attitudes about diversity today. For example, in high school we had a baseball team captain who was multiracial, and other team leaders of various ethnicities. And, while it is true that playing sports at those ages (or playing at anything) is not "for keeps," many of the attitudes and values I developed during those times are ones that I have maintained, permanently, in combination with attitudes about diversity learned from my family.

Similarly, when I was growing up, our family never even talked about divisions like rich or poor, black or white, brown, Asian, Native American, etc. They obviously knew my best friends were from poorer backgrounds, because they knew all my friends' parents in such a small town. I'm sure they also saw that when my friends (of various appearances and colors) came home with me after school, some were too hungry (wolfing down the milk, cookies, and apples like there was no tomorrow), and most also weren't wearing the newest, or even "gently worn" shoes or clothes. But they honestly didn't care. The only things I remember my parents caring about were my friends' having good manners at our house (no swearing), and if I went to a friend's house for dinner, that I ate a "well-balanced meal" and not too much junk food.

II. Describe your current personal sources of cultural programming other than your family (e.g., the most important influences in your identity at present). Include a brief description for each, and describe why each is important to you.

My current sources of cultural programming, for better or worse, include my best friend (Erik); my closest work friends (Sandy and Rich); and my girlfriend (Jennie). My best friend Erik is mostly white but part Cherokee (1/8 Cherokee, I think). His appearance slightly reflects that, although it doesn't seem to be a very deep part of his deep personal identity. We share a lot of the same sports and other interests, and as far as I know, he is, like me, free of ethnic prejudices. He has very much of a "live and let live attitude," which makes him very relaxing and comfortable to be around. Erik gets along fine with everyone and everyone gets along with him. He is important to me because our friendship is close, he has a great sense of humor, and we enjoy partying and doing lots of other things together. Also, our girlfriends like each other, so the four of us go out on weekends.

My closest work friends are Sandy and Rich. Sandy is a warm, supportive person, of middle age, who was extremely kind and helpful to me when I first started working with at my current workplace. However, as I have gotten to know her better, I have found she does have some ethnic prejudices that bother me. I know this based on various remarks she has made about blacks and Hispanics who work with us (and in various other departments of ours). Also, she was really angry last spring, because her "pride and joy" nephew, Dylan, was not admitted to OSU, his first choice of college, "because of all the minorities." We heard about that for weeks!

I do not reject Sandy as a person or as a friend based on these statements of hers, but truthfully, it does make me think less of her overall, and it even makes me question her intelligence in ways I did not at first. She is perfectly nice to everyone at work, at least to their faces. But then she will say prejudiced things about them to others.

Rich was hired after me, so I trained him, like Sandy had trained me. He is my age and a very fun-loving guy.…

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