One of the first topic that resonated with me from this class was the salad bowl concept. Like many other Americans and I, we cherish our roots. However, immigration and its laws have had conflicting beliefs over time. Out of these beliefs emerged both the melting pot and salad bowl concepts. The melting pot belief emphasizes that individuals of all nations become simply an “American” and their culture reforms into something entirely new. Prior to class, this was the only belief I was familiar with. I thought everyone was happy to be called an American and shared the bond of seeking opportunity.
However, during class discussion, that was not the case. Many students preferred the salad bowl belief, a concept I was not familiar with at the time. In the salad bowl model, different cultures are brought together—like salad ingredients—but do not form together into a single culture; each culture keeps its own distinct qualities. This idea proposes a society of many individual cultures. The melting pot theory negatively suggests that ethnic groups may be unable to preserve their heritage. Other students did not enjoy the process of assimilation coupled with costs and sacrifice.
While multiculturalism is still an extraordinarily complex idea with proponents and supporters, I have taken both viewpoints in stride. Going forward, I will use my knowledge of this concept when working on group projects and even in my future professional workplace. In both scenarios, I will be working with people from many different backgrounds. It will be important to respect their ideas and their cultural background while also promoting team synergy.
Furthermore, model minority is the idea in which a racial group is placed on a pedestal in comparison to other groups. The model minority idea predominately refers to Asian Americans. This minority group has the highest levels of educational attainment and high levels of household income in the United States among all minorities. However, that does not mean every Asian American does not need help.
Though model minority would seem flattering towards Asian Americans, the effects of this stereotype are harmful. The idea of model minority suggests that Asian Americans are a superior minority that is inherently more successful, more hardworking, more education oriented, wealthier, and more family oriented. However, saying these traits hold true for all Asian Americans is flat out incorrect. Model minority falsely groups all Asian nationalities under one umbrella that depicts success and the achievement of the American Dream. This is particularly harmful to Asian Americans because it erases cultural differences between ethnic groups and suggests that all Asian Americans are successful, intelligent and law-abiding individuals.
However, this way of thinking suggests that all Asians also hold the same cultural beliefs and values. This grouping of Asian Americans under a label of model minority renders the Asian nationalities that need help, invisible.
To help counteract this harmful stereotype, I can have talks with my friends and family to bridge sensible standards and expectations. It is important to shun perfectionism and just be yourself. Sometimes, reaching out to a friend who faces these challenges and being there for them can also help.
The final concepts and skills I strengthened from taking this class were understanding cultural appreciation and combatting cultural appropriation.
Cultural appropriation is the adoption of certain elements from another culture without the consent of people who belong to that culture. A deeper understanding of cultural appropriation I learned in class involves a power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been oppressed.
Additionally, culture is defined as the beliefs, ideas, traditions, speech, and objects associated with a group of people. Hundreds of different ethnicities make up the United States. Therefore, it is not surprising that cultural groups mix or learn from one another. However, appropriation is the unjust taking of something that does not belong to you. Dominant groups that unjustly take rarely go unpunished.
Cultural appreciation and cultural exchange are vital parts of any culture. Borrowing is not inherently bad. However, it becomes a problem when “appreciation” becomes an unruly fixation, when the “exchanging of ideas” are one-sided, or when cultures are reduced to a single or harmful stereotype.
At the University of Illinois, if I engage with a culture different from my own, I will listen to their stories and create a relationship with the different group first and foremost.
Then, if I plan to adopt a part of their culture, I will do it respectfully and hopefully make them proud.
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