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Unformatted text preview: UNDERSTANDING _ CULTURE AND CULTURAL DIFFERENCES There is a Zen story about a millipede that is stopped by an earthworlnki1 and strklid how it can possibly manage to walk with so many legs to coprdmate.t W131i; leg to ' ' ‘ ' ' k in a ditch trying to igure ou I merit, the millipede is lying on its bac , l-k th mi eds Visa-VIE ‘ . Many Americans have become 1 e at m p put in front of the next 1 ' It re. They know ' that they have no cu u culture. My White students often comp am I believe ' ' he came from. What they mean, , th and feel nothing about where t y ' - ilsothhltlgthey lack the kind of connection to a cultural heritage and community that the see among people of color and White ethnics—and they are Jealous. I that YWhen culture is alive and vibrant, it provides the kind of inner programmiig 0nd keeps the millipede walking along. It is alway; therEe)—muchf of thi:1 tté‘rineho Strive]: ' ' ' ‘ W en it ecomes ragme , , awareness. It gives life structure and meaning. ' h discusses a ' ' hat it can offer gets lost. This c apter . I a central part of what it 18 and w ._ I ' d It function m ' hat exactly 18 it, and how oes 1 number of issues related to culture. W _ . _ I d 'b mu ‘ ' ' finding it preferable to escri e g p the life of a person? Why are soc1al seientists l d. . 5 do ' ' 9 Along what cultura irnensmn difference in terms of culture rather than race. f i d l of ' ' Euro-Americans an peop e differ and in what ways do the cultures 0 ‘ . _ EbldlfjilashD What happened to White culture? Are the theories tlcliit Elli-gr? pilrgffeps : ' ' have suggeste . , ina , ' a1 hel in culture-bound, as some practitioners . ‘ :hzlfe suchpa fhing as multicultural counseling (1.e., a Single approach that cacii'i adpis: itself to the needs of many cultural groups)? Answers to these questions prov1 e a ter understanding of the ways in which culture affects serv1ce delivery. WHAT IS CULTURE? . . . . . and Culture is a difficult concept to grasp because it is so basrc t1: humali: 83:31:32: d or ' ' ' tures that its workings are se om ac n ‘ so intertwmed With our very na ' ‘ ' . r thought about by those who have internalized it. It is all-encompassrng, like wate 66 Understanding Culture and Cultural Differences 67 to a fish, so it remains largely preconscious and is obvious only when it is gone or has been seriously disturbed. Anthropological definitions point to certain aspects of it. Culture comprises traditional ideas and related values, and it is the product of actions (Kroeber and Kluckhohn, 1952); it is learned, shared, and transmitted from one generation to the next (Linton, 1945); and it organizes life and helps in- terpret existence (Gordon, 1964). I also like the notion of culture as the ways a people have learned to respond to life’s problems. For instance, all human groups must deal with death. But the rituals and practices that have developed around it vary greatly from culture to culture. How— ever, all these definitions lack something that would be particularly helpful for the present purposes—a more felt sense of how culture functions within the individual. To get at this, the concept of paradigm is very useful. Kuhn (1970) introduced the term paradigm to describe the totality of how a science conceives of the phenomena . it studies. He argues that sciences change over time—«hot through the slow accumula— tion of knowledge (as was always taught in high school physics) but through para- digm shifts. A paradigm is a set of shared assumptions and beliefs about how the world works, and it structures the perception and understanding of the scientists in a discipline. For example, in physics, when Newton’s theory of how physical matter op- erated no longer fit the accumulating evidence, it was eventually replaced by Einstein’s theory of relativity, which was a qualitative shift in thinking. The new paradigm was a radical departure from its predecessor and gave physicists a totally different way of thinking about their Work. Kuhn’s idea is very engaging because it suggests that our beliefs (paradigms) define what we perceive and experience as real. The notion of paradigm was quickly appropriated by psychologists to describe the cognitive worldview through which human beings perceive and relate to their world. Their paradigms, without people’s being very aware of them, tell people how human existence works—what is possible and impossible, what the rules are, and how things are done. In short, they shape an individual’s experience of reality. People think through their paradigms, not about them. “I’ll see it when I believe it” is an accurate description of how beliefs can give form to what is experienced as “real.” People also grow emotionally attached to their paradigms and give up or change them only with great difficulty and discomfort. Having one’s paradigm chal- lenged is experienced as a personal threat, for ego gets invested in the portrayal'of how things should be. Having one’s paradigm shattered is akin to the chaos of psy- chosis. When the world no longer operates as it “should,” one feels cut adrift from familiar moorings, no longer sure where one stands or who one is. Culture is the stuff of which human paradigms are made. It provides them con— tent—their identity, beliefs, values, and behavior. It is learned as part of the natural process of growing up in a family and community and from participating in societal institutions. These are the purveyors of culture. In short, one’s culture becomes one’s paradigm, defining What is real and right. Diverse cultures, in turn, generate different paradigms of reality, and each is pro- tected and defended as if a threat to it were a threat to a member’s very existence. From this perspective, it is easy to understand why the imposition of a Northern European cultural paradigm onto the lives of people of color—who possess and live by very different cultural paradigms—is experienced so negatively. i i i 53 Chapter 4 CULTURE VS. RACE IN THE DEFINITION OF GROUP DIFFERENCES B f on learn about the various dimensions along which cultures cfliffer, 1:21.22:- fiil (Edetzke a short digression to discuss difficulties w1thhtlt1)e concljp}: 1:11:12; cups on ' ' ' n to distin uis etwee I ingly Of'1&th33:12::Sfaeflizftfhldfivfaifiirlsor exampleg, when they refer to tribal the basm icfhin the broader racial category of Native Americans as staparate :5 0 _ groups Wh m hasizing cultural differences in defining group i entity .p groups} tbizyl ar'e El oi: hysical ones. I have followed a similar practice here by using Posed to h10 ogfljiic flour; and culturally diverse clients to describe human diveriity. tern-ll sue as time defined in chapter 1 as any distinguishable people whos; memmigsl Elfilalificagrggfure and see themselves as separate and different from t e cu maqu'hzlem hasis is on shared cultural material as a basis. for i‘den‘pficatciplr:.urIlpailsl not likely that the concept of race and its usual break-dorsal mg: iizgricisgianmerican s will ever disappear. It is just too deeply ingraine in _ 1 - 1—Conce twm Edgigy Rather, its importance as a social—as opposed to a bio ogica p increasmgly be Ballillphs::l:e:ls. problems with the concept of race, which'Healey (12.95) definlel'ie: gifiriiolsirted inbreeding population with a distinctive genetic heritage . ' ' s alwa s 0 Physical anthropologists have shown quite concluswely that wile; lie mm 3;” . . . a d distinct differences among t e r . ' I ' been assumed to be clear an . h . S mUCh mnablhty m ' ' t it appears that t ere is a clear or distinct at all. In fac , A . mu S. For physical characteristics within rac1al groups as theref 112111501151: amp thSical " toseeaw1earray051 I xam le it IS not uncommon I _ aClal (featufies hmong individuals who are all constderfid members. of pfiileoflghom ‘ ' has been so muc raCia muting . - u . It is believed that there I re no lgii;olfy that today groups that may have once been genetically distinct a 3 3 n er distin uishable. I I t I 't can no 0 The? term mega has become so emotionally charged and politiCized that 1 longer serve a useful role in scientific discuss1on. _ imultaneoufly - Racial categories have been used throughout U.S. hiistori:L1 to :aCial Pontics For ' ' hite privilege, an con se . ress eo le of color, juStlfY W er gifmplepUlg Census classifications of racefhave chanlgectlhreygpllaéirlllyl :21? “gyth , . . e a t. In 1890, or examp e, I _ decade from 1889 to the presen _ 3, The Black Mulatto, Quadroon, Octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, agild Eidfiplerican 20003Census tracked the following racial gfioups: FWh-ite, Jaggeafiese Korean ' ‘ ' Indian C inese, i ipino, , I ' , Indian or Alaskan Native, ASian , _ h a, In addmon, ' ' " d Guamanian or C amorro. i tnamese Native Hawaiian, an. ' or as liiiispanichaitino group membership has become :1 bseplgrate ream?) fctlijiflgic 13:1,“ f more than one racra ac groun . I has the acknowledgment 0 I . ' ' aranel interest in regard to such redefinitions is the fact that they seenirgpspd demand changes in immigration restrictions passed by Congress. ing as threats by for entry into the United States from groups who are perceiyaeS _ the White establishment results in reduced immigration quo . Understanding Culture and Cultural Differences 69 0 Defining race biologically and genetically opens the door for pseudoscientific arguments about intellectual and other types of inferiority among people of color. 0 The social reality of race in the United States does not conform to the existence of five distinct groups. Rather, only two bear any real social meaning: White and of color. The notion of the great melting pot, for instance, was, in actuality, only about melting White ethnics. The myth was never intended to apply to people of color. For White ethnics, upper mobility involved discovering and as- serting their group’s whiteness as a means of setting themselves apart from and above the groups of color who perpetually resided at the bottom of America’s social hierarchy. When they first arrived in America, various White ethnic groups were met with prejudice and scorn and were merely tolerated because they represented a source of much-needed cheap labor. In time, hOWever, as they acculturated into the system, they discovered that they could progress most quickly by identifying themselves as White and by taking on the prejudices against people of color, which Were an intrinsic part of White culture. For all these reasons, it has become increasingly compelling to set aside the term race as a distinguishing feature among groups and to turn to cultural differ- ences as a more useful and less controversial yardstick. THE DIMENSIONS OF CULTURE Cultural paradigms define and dictate how human beings live and experience life. Brown and Landrum-Browu (1995) describe the dimensions along which cultures can differ. They refer to these differences as dimensions of “worldview.” The con- tent and specifics of each vary from culture to culture. It is because of these differ— ences and our natural tendency toward ethnocentrism, which assumes everyone else views the world in the same way we do, that cross-cultural misunderstanding occurs. Brown and Landrum-Brown enumerate the following dimensions of culture, which are also suminarized in Table 4-1. - Psycbobehaw'oml modality refers to the mode of activity most preferred within a culture. D0 individuals actively engage their world (doing) experience it as a process (being) ing (becoming)? Axiology involves the interpersonal values that a culture teaches. Do they compete or cooperate (competition vs. cooperation)? Are emotions freely ex- pressed or held back and controlled (emotional restraint vs. emotional. expres— siveness)? Is verbal expression direct or indirect (direct verbal expression vs. indirect verbal expression)? Do group members seek help from others or do they keep problems hidden so as not to shame their families (help seeking vs. “saving face”)? , more passively , or experience it with the intention of evolv— Ethos refers to widely held beliefs within a cultural group that guide social in— teractions. Are people viewed as independent beings or as interdependent (in- dependence vs. interdependence)? Is one’s first allegiance to oneself or to one’s family (individual rights vs. honor and protect family)? Are all individual group members seen as equal or is there an acknowled ged hierarchy of status or power (egalitarianism vs. authoritarianism)? Are ha rmony, respect, and 70 Chapter 4 ' ' ' trol nd dominating them (con d others valued over controlling a deference towar a 'nance vs. harmony and deference). . i _ - Egisifillogy summarizes the preferred ways of gaming knowledge and learn . . . . . ni_ ' about the world Do people rely more on their intellectual abl'lEClCS (cog 1n ' . a u - S tivge processes) their emotions and intuition (affective processpes, v1 e , , - - intuition), or a combination of both (cognitive and affective). ' bers adopt. Are ' ' ' of reasoning process that group mem _ _ . Logic “waves the kn“Cher one way or the other (either—or thlnking)? Can mul issues seen as being eit ‘ _ i I ? or is tiple possibilities be considered at the same time (both and thinking) . . . , thinking organized around inner consrstency (Circulaié). My IS What is real lture views the nature 0 rea 1 . _ Ontology refers to how a cu . _ I l D I there a level of d (obiective materia ). s 1 what can be seen and touche ‘ I _ . _ a re bOth grillity that exists beyond the material senses (subiective spiritual). Or a . . . . 3 levels of reality experienced (spiritual and material). .th. a culture IS it Cloak- 0 Concept of time involves how time 18 experienced w1 1n . determined and linear (clock—based)? Is it defined in £61211th11 to spec1f1c events ' ' ‘ ' ' 'tive (cyclica )? t-based ? Or Is it experienced as repeti - 0 Shillept of slelf refers to whether group members experiefiiceIthepgiiyliigsself). separate beings (individual self) or as part of a greater co ective -><Xb=.. ‘ ‘ - - lrural perspectives. 1n . C nselor superv1510n. Cross Cu I 95) on (Eds), Handbook of Multicultural Counseling c ‘ drumvBrown, J. (19 N te: From Brown, M. T., 6: Lan I 3.2-". Ponterroto, J. M. Casas, L. A. Suzuki, 8c C. M. Alexander (pp. 263—287). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Understanding Culture and Cultural Differences 71 In relation to these dimensions of worldview or culture, each society evolves a set of cultural forms—ritual practices, behavioral prescriptions, and symbols—that support them. For example, a given culture stresses the doing mode on the first dimension. Certain kinds of child-rearing techniques tend to encourage directed activity. Parents differentially reinforce activity over passivity. They also model such behavior. Cultural myths portray figures high on this trait, and moral teach- ings stress its importance. The group’s language likely favors active voice over passive voice. What makes a culture unique, then, is the particular profile of where it stands on each of these dimensions combined with the specific cultural forms it has evolved. As will become apparent shortly, the dimensions of culture are not totally inde— pendent. Rather, some tend to cluster. In relation to ethos, for instance, beliefs con- cerning independence, individual rights, egalitarianism, and control and dominance tend to occur together in the belief system of a culture, as do interdependence, honor and family protection, authoritarianism, and harmony and deference. Such clusters tend to be mutually reinforcing. It will become clear that certain cultures share a number of dimensions. For example, the cultures of color in the United States have many dimensional similarities and, as a group, differ considerably from Northern European cultures. Finally, it is important to note that each culture generates a unique felt experi- ence of living. The quality of life differs in tone, mood, and intensity. The same is true for the kind of mental health issues that members must face as well as the emo- tional strengths they develop. A very dramatic example of this occurred many years ago. I was a graduate student running a personal growth group for students at a multicultural weekend retreat. The students who showed up for my group were all White, with the exception of one young Latino man, who was really there to spend more time with one of the young women in the group. Such groups seldom at- tracted non-White participants because it was the belief of most students of color that it was a “White thing” and something that “Whites really needed.” “As for us, we don’t have any trouble relating to other people.” The group was quite suc- cessful, and it did not take long until people were sharing deeply and talking about feelings of disconnection from parents, isolation, and loneliness. At a certain point, the young Latino man could contain himself no- longer and said, “I don’t under— stand what you are all talking about. I am part of a big extended family; there is always someone around. I can’t imagine feeling alone or isolated.” Only after that did I realize that what I had thought to be the “universal malaise” of loneliness and isolation was, in fact, a cultural experience and an artifact of the Northern European lifestyle. COMPARING CULTURAL PARADIGMS IN AMERICA M. Ho (1987) compares the cultural paradigm of White European Americans to those of the four cultures of color on five dimensions, which overlap extensively with those of Brown and Landrum-Browu. It is worth reviewing these in some de- tail to appreciate the breadth of difference that does exist. It should be remem- bered, however, that these comparisons speak in generalities and may not fit or apply to individual group members, especially those who have acculturated. In . i i l i 72 Chapter 4 . . . . f addition each of the five “racial” groups describeddiis; in acéppgityhngfigetfipfipd , 61' W1 . b run 3 whose cultural content can 1 _ _ _ numemfbsr :Ifratfnplep Manson and Trimble (1982) identified 5l2 fedegally Eggs St'aneflS,I\lativre “entiiies” and an additional 365 state-recognized In 1an , [112 each with its cultural uniqueness. NATURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT four cultures of color—Asian. Arnericaps, Native Afrlr’ieiiliiiilirs; f ' Americans and Latino/a Americans—as livmg in harmony wt ’3 them A Idwell1 nvironmdnt whereas European Americans prefer mastery ovteli ature. fin the former the felationship is one of respecting and co-exrsting vlvi 1:8 act: I-l)1r t e bein s Dare seen as part of a natural order and, as such, mufst11 ive rrepmre fullmZIrlid nofiiritrusively with other aspects of nature. To destroy‘a e 0:311; Views ' y rt of oneself. On the other hand, European American cu _ 1 it IS to deStrc’JY a pa su erior to the physical environment and entitled to manipu ate ?uI:::lf:::Iglsb::CfiE The world is a resource to be used and p-lundeizded. In Zita? tile cultures of color see the component parts of nature as alliv: in 1:2:55011 being ' ' —to be related to respectfully and respon51bly. Great va u p five come spmt tt ntive to what nature has to offer and teach. Out of such a perspec _ the :‘b‘iioai-rsesuch as the Native American idea of ‘Turtle Island, a myth t?:tny::irsspir— ' habitants of the continent as an interconnected system 0 1 c— ponhumanhm 1 characters. A “mastery” mentality results in envrronmenta pra IFS and attic eWPrfawa logging, strip mining, and oil drilling as well as the impepus flcre such :lS human slavery, which exploit “inferior” human beings or 0 material gain. Ho classifies the TIME ORIENTATION ' er~ There is great diversity among the five cultural group: in .rethEd bto Epirptfiyatpion ' nd experience time. European Americans are ‘omina .1317 h en are all fair: the future. Planning, producing, and controlling what wi app bit vague aififacts of a future-time orientation. What was and what is arguigv::: Americans nd subordinated to what is anticipated. At the same time, b on time and :iew time as compartmentalized and incremental, and as such, emg being efficient with one’s time are posrtive values. ' - ' . r both Asian and Latino/a cultures are described as past—present oriented Fo , to be alive and influenc- ' ' ' ' ' stors and ast events are felt . hlsmry IS a hvmg entity. Ame p bly into and defines the present. Both ' ' ' d as resent— Native Americans and African Americans, in turn, are charalpterizend flop] With oriented Focus is directed toward current experience of the ere a , ing present reality. The past flows impercepti less attention to what led up to this moment or what Wlll begomleO p: 1:13: a, £23121} d di tinct from European American culture, the cultures 0 co _ “ b 85km” a'n S infinite continuum and find it d1ff1cult to relate to the White o if he Um: la: 'an on time. Interestingly, each of these groups has evolved a Eer‘rn to 65:21:; ” I $210221?” sense of time: “Colored people’s time,” “Indian time, Asran 1 , 1 Understanding Culture and Cultural Differences 73 and “Latin time.” Invariably, time becomes an issue when non-Whites enter institu- tions where European American cultural values predominate. Lateness is often mistakenly interpreted by Whites as indifference, provocative, or symptomatic of a lack of basic work skills. PEOPLE RELATIONS Ho (1987) distinguishes European Americans as having an “individual” social focus compared to a “collateral” one for the four cultures of color. Individual be- havior refers to actions undertaken to actualize the self; collateral behavior involves doing things not for oneself but in light of what they may contribute to the survival and betterment of’family and community. These differences, in turn, become a basis for attributing value to different and opposing styles of interaction. For example, European Americans are taught and encouraged to compete, to seek individual success, and to feel pride in and make public their accomplishments. Native Amer- icans and Latino/a Americans, in particular, place high value on cooperation and strive to suppress individual accomplishment, boasting, and self-aggrandizement. Having pointed out this shared collateral focus, it is equally important'to under~ stand that the four communities of color differ significantly in their communication styles and the meaning of related symbols. Native Americans place high value on brevity in speech, while for African Americans, the ability to rap is treated as an art form. It is considered impolite in certain Asian American subgroups to say “no” or refuse to comply with a request from a superior. Among Latino/a Americans, deferential behavior and the communication of proper respect depend on perceived authority, age, gender, and class. And the same handshake can be given in one culture to communicate respect and deference and in another to show authority and power. WORK AND AcTivrrv On the dimension of work and activity {similar to Brown and Landrum-Brown’s psychobehavioral modality), European Americans, Asian Americans, and African Americans are described as doing—oriented compared to Native Americans and Latino/a Americans who are characterized as being-becoming. Doing is an active mode. It involves initiating activity in pursuit of a given goal. It tends to be asso- ciated with societies where rewards and status are given on the basis of productivity and accomplishment. But even here, there are differences in motivation. European AmericansI work and activity are premised on the idea of meritocracy—that hard work and serious effort ultimately bring the person financial and social suc- cess. Asian Americans, on the other hand, pursue activity in terms of its ability to confer honor on one’s family and concurrently to avoid shaming them or losing face. African Americans fall somewhere between these two extremes. Being- becoming, in turn, is more passive, process—oriented, and focused on the here and now. It involves allowing the World to present opportunities for activity and work rather than seeking them out or creating them. It is a mode of activity that can eas- ily be misinterpreted from a doing perspective as “lazy” or “lacking motivation.” 74 Chapter 4 On a recent trip to the Sinai in Egypt, one of my traveling companions was a hardworking lawyer from New York City, clearly high on the doing dimension. After spending several hours visiting a Bedouin village, he could barely contain his shock at how the men just sat around all day. Our guide, himself a Bedouin, suggested that they were not merely sitting but were thinking and planning. He explained, “There is a lot to think about: where to find water, missing goats, perhaps a new wife, maybe a little smuggling.” This did not satisfy the lawyer, however, who said: “I don’t understand how they can get anything done without meetings. Give me six months, and I’d have this whole desert covered with condos.” One last point: Activity and work, whether of the doing or becoming variety, must occur in the context of other cultural values. For example, in many cultures, work does not begin until there has been sufficient time to greet and properly in— quire about the welfare of one’s family. To do otherwise is considered rude and in- sensitive. In White European American business culture, such activity would be seen as lazy, wasteful, and the shirking of one’s responsibilities. HUMAN NATURE This dimension of culture deals with how groups view the essence of being human. Are people inherently good, bad, both, or somewhere in between? According to Ho (1997), African Americans and European Americans see human nature as both good and bad and as possessing both potentials. But, for each, the meaning is quite different. In African American culture, where all behavior involves a collateral focus-—or what Nobles {1972) calls “experiential c0mmunality”—good and bad are defined in relation to the community. It is laudable if it benefits the community and bad if it does not. Thus, human nature is seen as existing in the interaction be- tween the person and the group. European American culture, on the other hand, sees good and bad as residing in the individual. Freud’s view of human nature is an excellent example. The in- stinctive urges of the id are seen as a negative force that must be controlled. The ego and the superego are assigned this task and, as such, play a positive role in con— taining baser drives. In addition, Freud hypothesized a life instinct that is balanced by a death instinct. Thus, the two sides of human nature—the good and bad—are seen in constant opposition and conflict. Ho describes Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Latino/a Americans as sharing a view of human nature as good. This tendency to attribute positive mo— tives to others has at times proved less than helpful in interaction with members of the dominant culture. Early treaty negotiations between Native American tribes and the U.S. government are a case in point. Tribal representatives entered these negon tiations under the assumption that they were dealing with honest and honorable men and that whatever agreements were struck would be honored. By the time suf- ficient experience forced them to re-evaluate their assumptions, it was too late and their lands had been stolen. Similarly, in the workplace, when members of such groups exhibit helpfulness, generosity, and caring for their fellow workers (behavior that follows from an assumption that others are basically good), they are frequently viewed as naive, gullible, and in need of “smartening up.” ...
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