I experienced something similar today in class. The state mandates a day of cultural awareness in state curriculum and my classmates and I were divided into groups as assigned a topic and a cultural group: Latino/Latina, Jewish, Asian/Chinese and African American.
The day was full of stereotypes and most of the class agreed privately that the assignment itself was racist. Most of the students are not white however the instructors are. One instructor even assigned some students into a category that they themselves did not identify with but she thought they belonged in, so to remind them that they were underclass.
My suggestion that they should include White as a category was laughed off then ignored. As if being white is more normal than being otherwise.
My topic was communication. During my presentation I stressed that when communication with ‘X’ people, it’s important to remember that they are in fact PEOPLE and that no one likes being label a minority. Something which brought on a distinctly unhappy face from our instructor.
I don’t think drawing lines and distinguishing an unspoken hierarchy is in any way helpful to anyone except the dominant power group. And mandating that minorities become “culturally aware” is farcical at best. Especially since in our line of work the most demanding and vocal clients will not come from any of these groups but instead will be bigoted white Americans.
Stressing our similarities would have done more good. Here we bang on so much about “Oh I’m this” or “I’m that” and I was the same. Then I went overseas and was kindly and sometimes not so kindly reminded that I was born in American, I was educated in America, I work in America, I watch American television, I eat American food, I wear American clothes and that I am in fact American. This outlook is opposed by certain Americans who believe themselves to be more American than others. They are the ones writing the curriculum and paying for the anti-racism training. Again so to remind other that they are underclass.
The idea of the melting pot has been done away with because it implies assimilation and an eventual oneness. The salad bowl is now the preferred metaphor for American society. And we all know some people like certain vegetables more than others.
I’m glad people are starting to realize this. And I enjoyed reading your post.
Comment: Such a long comment deserves to be made into a post.