Due Dec. 27th
Joining the Army was where I had my first ethnocentric encounter. I am from a small town in Ohio and I didn't grow up poor but I didn't grow up rich either I was just your run of the mill middle class kid. My parents were divorced and my dad was disabled and wheel chair bound. I lived with my dad and grandpa growing up and play sports all though high school. When I first arrived to basic training and started meeting new people that I was going to go through basic with I tried to meet everyone and get to know everyone. There was one person in particular that just didn't seem to care to speak to me or any of the other Caucasian members of our platoon. Went through all of basic training this way never spoke a word to each other and I could never really figure out why this guy wouldn't talk to me or anyone else. Fast forward to getting to our duty station and this same guy ends up going to the same place I was not only the duty station but the same unit. We still hadn't spoken one word to each other. We get to our new unit and he ends up in my platoon and becomes my roommate. We are at the unit about and we still have not spoken to each other and we both live in a room no bigger than a prison cell. Well after the second week I notice that he does not have a cell phone so I ask if he has talked to anyone back home yet and for the first time he actually responded back with an answer and it was no. I told him that he could use my phone anytime to call and talk with his parents he thanked me and made the call. That really didn't change up our situation much he still only spoke when he wanted to call home and that was only once a week. We had been at the unit about a month and I had about all I could take so I just blatantly ask him do you have a problem with me or something because you don't ever say anything. He told me no I don't have a problem with you I said then why don't you ever talk to me and his response caught me off guard a little bit he said your from Ohio so you must be part of the KKK. I said what how do you even get that I said I am not part of the KKK and never will be. So I ask what even made you think that and he said well I'm from Kentucky and every white boy I know or have ever had to deal with all said that they were in the KKK. I said ok and now how did you get that I was since I'm from Ohio, he said that's what my grandpa told me that every white person in Kentucky and Ohio are all in the KKK. I said well that's not true at all if I was in the KKK do you think I would have let you use my phone. He said no and from that day forward we started to get to know each other and became best friends even to this day we talk about once a week. I think that his run ins with others and started to shift his perceptions of people and then it got reinforce from his grandpa giving him more information that wasn't correct. My advice for anyone that has to deal with a situation like this would be to keep a cool head and really just talk about it because as long as you can be cool and talk you can accomplish a lot with your words.
An experience I have encountered personally is the way people treat societies not known to them or of a certain group of people all based on false assumptions. A personal example is the way many Americans view the country of Afghanistan. The country is war torn, behind the technological times, slow on growth and economy, and lives the same way they have for decades. Unfortunately, this leads many people to believe they are not intelligent people. This just is not the case.
For the most part, Americans will typically judge others based on their own experiences. This is not central to Americans only, but to all people who have not seen other countries and cultures to understand many places live very differently. Americans typically get a good education, a formal education, we learn on computers now, and we have calculators and smart boards, televisions and projectors. Most Americans have options as to what they learn while growing up, what they study as adults, and the jobs they serve in after school is complete. While many countries also have these options, there are some countries such as Afghanistan that have different political, educational, and religious systems that have ways of life very different from our own here. This does not make Afghans any less of a people because they are different than ours, and it certainly does not make them any less intelligent.
After completing selection for a job, there was a female in my class, about my age, who is Afghan. While we went through training together, she was very intelligent, fun, outgoing, and overall one of the better students in the course. She did not grow up in Afghanistan, but her family did. There was an instructor, who like me, had deployed to Afghanistan. Since he deployed there, he thought he had seen everything the country had to offer. He made several remarks about how the people were stupid, smelled bad, had terrible manners, and overall had an extremely negative attitude towards Afghan people. What he had not realized through the entire speech there was an Afghan sitting right there in his class whom he had been scoring quite high throughout the training.
Some of the issues I found, were he had a very limited scope on the type of people he encountered. If you were doing a job dealing with scummy people in the United States, do you know what kind of people you would meet? The scummy ones. In his case, he did not understand their religious believes in regards to hygiene and health standards. They just live differently. He also assumed that because the people he dealt with were rude, that all Afghans were impolite. Again, he assumed incorrectly since many of their etiquette and way of life rely on taking care of their hosts and being good people to those around them. He thought because they lived in different ways than he did, that they were not intelligent. Again, this is wrong. Many of them are highly educated; many also speak multiple languages because of all the changes and invasions of the country.
Some of those experiences have really made me think about the way I approach people from different backgrounds. I think it has made me a well-rounded person when dealing with all the foreign people I have to in my career. I now really enjoy learning about other cultures and the way people live.
It is extremely important when meeting other people with a different background than you, to be culturally sensitive and understand just because someone is different, doesn’t mean they are any better or worse of a person for it. Sometimes those different experiences make a great team to work together from all the different perspectives.