It is common around the world to hear comments about national personalities or ethnic traits. For example, in the nation of Azerbaijan, the Azeri people are said to be “traders” – people who like to buy and sell. We also hear stereotypes like “Asians are very studious” or “Africans are very hospitable”. Some think that the French and Italian are very romantic, but the British are very reserved. Irish are expected to have quick tempers etc. How do you characterize different ethnic groups in your native country?
Often we are proud of our ethnic or national heritage or traditions. But is it also possible to be stifled by a cultural heritage or common trait? For example, would a very friendly, emotional Brit feel bad if someone said “Brits are so reserved”? Do you sometimes feel a negative effect of ethnic stereotypes? Give examples from your life or the lives of others.
There was a movie called “White Men Can’t Jump”. The title is a negative stereotype. Perhaps the thinking goes in this progression: “black men are great jumpers”, “black men jump higher than white men”, to “white men can’t jump”. How are these three statements different? How true are these statements? For example, if you can find a black man who cannot jump very high and a white men who can jump very high, does this invalidate a general statement? Are such general statements useful or not? When are they useful and when are they not useful?
What do you think of training in cultural sensitivity? For example, Americans are told that Japanese are less physical in their friendliness – they usually will not want to be hugged as a sign of friendship. Is this a helpful bit of cultural sensitivity or a confining stereotype? Do you like foreigners to study your native culture and try to be sensitive to how your habits and customs are unique? Explain your answer.
Institutional racism is systematic and can even be unconscious. For example, the entrance exam for a college might be written by whites. The ways of speaking or thinking give advantage to other white persons but a disadvantage of a black person. Can you give examples of institutional racism in your native country or in this country? Is there a collective responsibility to solve racism? For example, if I say, “I, personally, do not discriminate against people because of their race”, do I then have no responsibility for the systems in my nation that may be racist?
There were some famous court cases in the U.S., where a white person successfully showed that there was “reverse” racism – that kept him/her from getting a job or position in college simply because he/she was white. Do you have sympathy for this position or not? What do you think of affirmative action?
Contrast these two statements by Paul in the Bible:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
“One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons. This testimony is true. For this cause, reprove them . . . .” Titus 1:12