The class activity about becoming understanding, adapting, and appreciating the positionality and identity of my class mates opened to my eyes to appreciating the cultural differences of the people that surround me every day. During this discussion, I learned the importance of becoming more culturally sensitive and found that I was able to learn how to comfortably discuss cultural similarities and differences with my peers.
My positionality starts with me being female. My extremely conservative, extended family believes that I am “asking for it” based off of their judgements of the clothing I choose to wear. What I wear is based on my confidence and the weather outside. It is never based on a need for negative attention from men nor am I asking to be attacked especially with the recent sexual assault cases that have come up over the past year. Before the class discussion of our positionalities even began, I found myself stereotyping my peers and assuming differences between us that would cause me to have a difficult time communicating with them. Once we started sharing, I began seeing the similarities I had with a lot of the girls who felt the same way about being female and with a lot of the white students who has been told they had no culture because they are “just white”. Of course, I struggled to relate with the students who discussed their race and how their last names didn’t exactly portray their ethnicity, but I soon understood how important it is to start listening and stop assuming. Though we had those differences, listening to everyone’s little stories helped me to realize how easy it is to communicate with people that may not be super similar to you without any awkwardness. We all had something to write down on that placard which, right off the bat, was one similarity.
Not adapting communication to others during this discussion really stood out. Some consequences that may occur if I had chosen not to listen to the rest of the students or share my experience would be that everyone else would struggle speaking to me and I know that they would have been uncomfortable sharing their stories if I had been prejudice towards them. I know that I felt closer to the people that talked about their cards than I did towards the people who stayed quiet and didn’t share what they had to say. I asked myself if they were just shy or if they felt like their placard wasn’t relevant to anyone or if they just did not care to hear about anyone else’s positionality. Your ascribed identity is what others see you as and if they cannot comfortably communicate with you because you are stereotyping or assuming certain characteristics about them, that may change, and you could go from a nice stranger to a judgmental person that nobody wants to affiliate themselves with.
A lot of my time was spent listening to each and every person so that I could develop a knowledge of their positionality and how it had been taken out of context so that I understood what they were going through. I had to develop mindfulness and realize that I wasn’t always going to be able to relate to every student’s story. Finally, I had to develop skill by speaking to my partner about their identity and how it effects the way they live their life. Putting myself in their shoes and trying to feel what they felt really helped me understand that we all come from such different places and being empathetic in a situation like that makes you easier to communicate with.
Now that I have sat through the discussion, I feel that I can walk into a room of 15 strangers and understand that we are similar but not too similar and different but not to the point where we can’t get to know each other and communicate effectively. Now, I plan to ask people about their ethnicity in a polite way rather than asking something along the lines of “What are you?” in an awkward way. I also hope to become more immersed in different cultures so that this won’t be my last experience. This entire assignment really brought me out of my shell. I was forced to become more culturally sensitive and my eyes were opened to the differenced in the culture of my peers. We truly are a diverse group of people and I never would have been able to experience that without this assignment.
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