Tag Archives: Ethnocentrism

What Will My Generation’s Version of Racism Be

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself sitting in a coffee shop. While working on a project, I couldn’t help but overhear a couple of older gentlemen talking about immigrants. Now, I currently live in Ottawa, Canada, so their discussion about immigrants was probably a bit different than I might have heard if I were in a coffee shop in a different part of the country, but more notably, the conversation would have likely been different had I been in an coffee shop in the USA.

I’m going to overgeneralize for a second, so I hope you’ll stay with me.

For the most part, younger generations are less racist than older generations. My guess is that this is because younger generations grow up having people from different ethnic backgrounds around them all the time. For instance, when I was in high school, it was normal to see people from very different backgrounds. There were people from China, India, the Middle East, Brazil, a whole host of European countries, and many more. If we rollback to the previous generation, scenes like this weren’t as common.

So, for generations like mine, it’s normalized to grow up with people who look different from you. In previous generations, this wasn’t the case. My guess is that this contributes to some of the latent (or otherwise) hostility that we typically see from older generations.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my generation in comparison to generations past, but the true purpose of this post is a juxtaposition of the generations to come. As I said, it seems that past generations had a harder time than mine digesting the mix of cultures. For kids growing up today (in certain countries), it’s abundantly clear that there are people who look different from them and it’s just normal to grow up and be friends with people like this. My question, what is it that my generation will have a hard time with that future generations will see as natural?

I’d like to think that I and my generation will be able to handle whatever comes our way in the future, but I’m sure that’s what previous generations thought. As a result, it seems to me that there will likely be something that some folks from my generation have a hard time handling. Will it be something like what we see in the Men in Black movies? Meaning, will we coexist on Earth with beings from another planet? If that were to happen, it’s quite plausible that there’d be an echo of what’s happening now.

The next time you see someone being ethnocentric, consider the possibility that you might be exhibiting a similar behaviour in years to come.

That Which Is You — Is Me

Last month, there was a big hullabaloo when Al Gore sold Current TV to Al Jazeera. A great majority of that outrage (at least from what I could tell) stemmed from the fact that Al Jazeera is an Arabic news network (or to that’s their perception). Note: the criticism of selling to an oil-backed company was far more substantiated. While that might have been how the network started, they report on far more than just Arabic news. There’s obviously more going on here than ethnocentrism and people who don’t want news about the Arabic world, though.

The obvious answer would be that some Americans are still fearful of people who look different from them. Notably, Americans are fearful of the people who look the same as those people who were part of the tragic events of 9/11. Is this reasonable? Is this fair? Is it fair to loop in 23% of the world’s population (that’s almost 2 billion, by the way) because of 19 people? Now, to give people some credit — it’s not all their doing.

To be more specific, people are subjected to these “us-them” perceptions if/when they watch the news. When was the last time you saw a TV program where a Muslim person was the protagonist — where a Muslim person was the hero and not a terrorist. This is unacceptable.

Did you know that there have been more terrorist-related deaths as a result of a white person committing the act of terrorism?

There’s one more thing I want to say on this matter and I hope you give me some leeway on it. As I watch the unfounded vitriol directed at Muslims and people with brown skin, I can’t help but think of Black people and the civil rights movement. Of course, I wasn’t alive during the events that led to the movement, but from what I’ve heard/read about it, it seems to me that some Americans treat brown-skinned people the same way that they treated black people back then. Don’t get me wrong — I know that there were plenty of unspeakable acts committed against black people back then (that aren’t necessarily happening to brown people today).

I’m sure I’m not the first person to draw the connection between what happened back then and what’s happening today. It’s just disappointing to me that this kind of stuff still happens. When will we — as a species — see: ‘that which is you — is me.’

Statistics Without Context Are Useless

In preparing for the classes that I teach on Tuesday, I was re-reading the assigned chapters in the textbook yesterday. This week, we’re covering cross-cultural management. A few pages into the chapter, I was dismayed to read the following:

“Here are a couple of positive signs: 2008 saw record numbers of foreign students (623,805) studying in the United States and US students (241,791) studying abroad.”

Does anyone know what’s wrong with this? After reading this paragraph, I took to Twitter to respond. Let’s go to the tweets!

 

 

 

 

To summarize: statistics without context are useless.

To better contextualize the numbers offered in the textbook, the author would need to tell offer some numbers on the recent number of foreign students studying in the US and likewise, US students studying abroad. That is, are the numbers trending up? Downward? Was this year an anomaly?

More importantly than earlier years, would be to fully contextualize it by offering percentages. Is the percentage of foreign-born students studying in the US higher than it was last year? What about for US student studying abroad?

Simply offering these absolute values is, in a sense, misleading. It conveys to the reader that foreign study is trending up, when in fact, it could be on the decline. By having more students studying (in general) there is a higher number of students who could study abroad. And that’s why it’s important to have percentages (in this case). In some cases, percentages won’t be helpful. It really all depends on the question you’re trying to answer or the information you’re trying to convey.

Note: for those interested, the quote comes from Organizational Behavior, 9th edition, page 103.