religion

religion

religion

religion

I do believe in a larger being. I feel like this is a rare view to have especially in my biology classes where many professors even make jokes about the concept of a God. I don’t try to push my religion on people but sometimes I feel like if I even say that I believe in a God when I am asked that I am ridiculed or thought of as being less intelligent by some of my peers or even instructors.
* * *

I am a Christian. And while I wouldn’t say I’m a devout follower, I would say I devote more time and effort to my faith than most of my friends. Not really any of my friends are aware of how religious I am or my outlooks on life. I find these difficult to share because they are very personal to me. I’ve learned that these things so dear to me can be used to hurt me, whether just being made fun or used to stereotype me.

* * *

Religion plays a major role in my culture. I have always been a regular churchgoer, thanks to my mom. We have lived in three different states since I was born, and one of the first steps after moving was to always find a good church. Outside of school, I spend the majority of my time at church, with church friends, or doing church related activities because they have become very important to me. My closest friends throughout my life have been people I went to church with. My religion helps to form my views and values of my culture.

* * *

I often find myself struggling to understand the culture of extremely religious people, specifically Catholics. I do not see why people consider the Pope to be such an important person.

* * *

One of the hardest things for me to share about with others is my Catholic culture. I was born and raised Catholic and have had many experiences that keep me part of the Catholic culture. I am part of a minority because most other Christians don’t like the Catholic Church let alone the American public. For example in class there were about six people in a row that said they felt weird or didn’t understand the Catholic Church. Heck even my friends question me for why I believe what I do just because it is a Catholic view. Like most cultures that are persecuted I feel like it all comes down to a misunderstanding of their culture. The Church comes off as an authority figure, but people don’t like being told what to do. I can understand this since I am also human and don’t like being told what to do. However, the American culture is all about free speech and being able to think how you like and express those thoughts. So, how does the church speaking its beliefs become something so terrible people need to seek to shut that down?

* * *

I think one of the hardest aspects of my culture for me to talk about is my religion, primarily because I am a Christian and have found that many people in Madison become very adversarial when it comes to speaking about religion. However, my faith is an aspect of my culture that I actively try to talk about and make attempts to step out of my comfort zone in order to share, because it is very important to me, and shapes my views about many common topics and, most importantly, guides the way I choose to live my life and many of the decisions that I make.

* * *

For the majority of my childhood, I genuinely wanted to be a pastor when I grew up.  I’m not sure when the changes started to happen, but now I am on the opposite end of the religious spectrum from where I was growing up.  I do not believe in God, and even typing this sentence is hard to do.

* * *

When meeting people for the first time, or when I’m in a public setting, I find it very difficult to explain or talk about my Catholic upbringing. I attended a Catholic school from kindergarten through the twelfth grade. I am neither ashamed of this nor I am a practicing catholic anymore. However, often times when I tell someone I went to a catholic school he or she automatically thinks I am a “Bible Banger” or that I judge other people based on their “loose morals.” I do not like this stereotype, as it is not the case with me, or the majority of Catholics.

* * *

I am Irish Catholic. In both the media and often times in popular opinion, being Catholic is negatively associated with strict behavior, close-mindedness, and controversy. Often times I find it hard to convey to people that Catholicism in meaning and practice may differ greatly from what it is believed to be, and that not all Catholics hold identical beliefs or conduct themselves in the same manner. Often times when I express to others that I am a Catholic Christian, I am met with skepticism (and sometimes criticism) about my beliefs as well as my personal conduct. While I am willing to explain what Catholicism and being a Catholic means to me, it is often difficult to successfully express and defend myself to others, especially if their own personal religious beliefs differ greatly from my own.

* * *

Catholicism has been a significant facet of my culture since I was young, and the difficulty of sharing the questions I have regarding the faith extends through difficulty sharing this part of my culture with the public.

* * *

Many people from my hometown are very Catholic and it’s hard to be respectful towards them when they believe things that are harmful to people and to society. For example, their stances on gay marriage and birth control. I normally avoid these topics when talking with people of these groups because it’s difficult to change people’s minds on these issues and discussions often end with someone being offended.

* * *

I am hesitant to discuss religious beliefs. I was raised Catholic and was fortunate enough to go to a parochial school from K4 through eighth grade. Being that my city has three parochial schools and two public elementary and middle schools, it was almost the norm to go to a Catholic school, and I did not question the essence of the faith. The transition to a public high school was difficult for me and I was so close-minded about the different cultures people were coming from, that I almost did not give anyone a chance. While I still practice the Catholic religion, I questioned some of the ideologies that this religious culture encompassed. I am proud to be Catholic, but that does not mean I follow or believe in every single aspect of the religious culture, and I feel as though this is definitely misunderstood by people in the public—even listening in class while various students describe their encounters with the Catholic religion was frustrating. Usually, I choose not to disclose that I am Catholic or went to a parochial school for ten years because judgments about my beliefs, behaviors, or my expected behaviors are sometimes misconstrued. Yes, I do practice the faith, but no, it is not my only defining characteristic of my cultural background. I have three friends who are Catholic, but we have completely different viewpoints on various aspects of the religion. This has definitely made me realize how even within one similar facet of culture, people are dramatically different.

* * *

I have a difficult time sharing my religion with the people especially close to me. I was raised in a religious, Christian family, but upon the individuality granted to me in college have become non-religious. I find it difficult to dissent from my family in this way because I know it is something that is important to them, especially my parents. I feel like moving away from the way I was raised has disappointed them, and therefore it is something we rarely, if ever, speak about.

* * *

The aspects of culture that I usually have the most difficult time sharing with those closest to me are my faith in God and my political views. My view of God, what I consider to be a relationship with God, is the most intimate relationship I have and will ever have. I am in love with God and Jesus Christ, whereas my family is merely acquaintances with him. Having a relationship with God is about not just believing, (which is what my family does), it is also about following God. Because of this vast difference in beliefs that my family and I have, this makes it difficult to have a conversation.

* * *

The false notion that atheism correlates to a lack of a moral compass is the primary reason that I keep this part of my culture to myself. I expect that it is quite common for close friends to be similar in many areas, and many of my closest friends here on campus share my lack of belief in any religious doctrine. This doesn’t mean that we are right, but it does mean that I feel much more comfortable sharing this fact with them, and it has become a real part of our group culture.

* * *

The facet of others’ cultures that I find myself judging is religion. I am not opposed to people talking about their beliefs, as I enjoy hearing what different people believe and it is a way for me to learn more about other religions. What I struggle with is when a friend, or acquaintance for that matter, tries to tell me why their beliefs are better than mine. I do not consider myself a religious person, but it is the way I was raised. When I am at home, I often go to church with my family because that is what is expected of me.

* * *

Despite being raised Catholic and attending a Catholic school for nine years, I disagree with many things the Catholic Church preaches. All of my extended family is Catholic and many members of my family are exceptionally religious, making it difficult to share this facet of my culture with them. I believe in a woman’s right to abortions, extramarital sex, and gay marriage – three things the Catholic Church is strongly against. Many of my relatives would be shocked to hear my stance on these three topics and because of this, I try to avoid talking about these topics or simply remain silent when they come up in conversation. I am not ashamed of my beliefs nor do I look down on members of my family for having beliefs that differ from mine. Nevertheless, I know that discussing some of my beliefs would cause a great deal of drama and controversy within my family – something I wish to avoid, mainly for the sake of my parents. Even though I question many things about Catholicism, I still have faith and believe in a higher power.

* * *

I think the cultures I have the most trouble with once again tie into the religious category.  I often feel uncomfortable, or even annoyed, when I am exposed to, what I would consider, over-religious personalities.  It is not that I do not respect their beliefs.  It is more that I often feel irritated when it exudes from people in abundance and in multiple facets of everyday life.  Moderate amounts are tolerable, but if someone is exceptionally adamant about projecting their religious stance on to me, I find myself thinking judgmental thoughts. I have never expressed directly to another person that I think their religious beliefs are wrong or irrational, even if that is what I’m really thinking.

* * *

race/ethnicity

race/ethnicity

madison

race and ethnicity 2010: madison, eric fischer

red is white
blue is black
green is asian
orange is hispanic
yellow is other
each dot is 25 residents (data from 2010 census)

I don’t understand the segregation of people of different ethnicity at UW-Madison. Whites only hang out with Whites, Blacks hang out with Blacks, and Asians hang out with Asians. Even within Asians, they only hang out within their own ethnicity. Is it because they feel they are more comfortable within their own people? Is it because of their culture and can’t relate to the cultures of others? Is it the language barrier?

* * *

I have heard so many people say that Madison is the most diverse place they have ever been to, and for me it’s just a school mainly of white people. Going outside of the University’s limits is when you will start to see the diversity, but it is still very segregated.

* * *

The main facet of culture I struggle with is ethnicity. This is due to the area I grew up in because I grew up in a small, rural, mainly Caucasian town. Internally I struggle with seeing the traditions, customs and views others have because I myself haven’t experienced them. The biggest hindrance for me is the lack of knowledge I have. Sometimes I get scared or feel fear because the culture I’m experiencing is different and change scares me. I mean what if I offend them or don’t like the new experience or even violate my cultural views to try something new? It scares the heck out of me!

* * *

My mother’s grandparents were born in Italy and immigrated to the United States. Because they were immigrants and did not have a lot of money, my mother lived with them throughout her childhood and many of their beliefs, values, and traditions were ingrained in her and passed onto me and my siblings. Many of our holidays are centered on Italian food and traditions, and my family had a large role in the Italian community. There are also many values and beliefs that I was taught about family that come from growing up in an old-fashioned family. Generally, I try to ignore my Italian culture, except for the food, because most of my family has ethnocentric ideas about being Italian, and I believe that no one is better than anyone else. However, thinking about my past and who I am today, it has been so ingrained in me as well; I cannot get away from it.

* * *

By the time I entered high school, I realized how much your ethnicity makes a difference to people based on your skin color. My school was 99.9% white with nearly a handful of students to represent each minority. My school was very racist; you couldn’t go a day at school without hearing the n-word. School administrators and teachers seem to ignore this blatant racism. I also couldn’t go a day without someone joking about my race and ethnicity. I understand to an extent that this ignorance weren’t necessarily their faults, because most of them have never met or seen an Asian in person but only on television, which only further caused assumptions, and stereotypes. Even certain teachers would also like to point out the skin of my color, where I was verbally attacked based on my background. My entire life I tried to break stereotypes. For instance, when people told me that Asians can’t play basketball, I played for my varsity high school basketball team even though there were times when I was on the court at away high school games where the entire crowd was chanting “chink”, I strived on and rose above it. These are things that I do not like to mention and talk publically to really anyone, because I don’t like the attention and I don’t want any sympathy. That was in the past, you learn from it and move on.

* * *

I am Black. My culture is African American. For me, this means being a minority in a still predominately White driven society. I have been told many times that I don’t “act Black”; whatever that means. I am and have always been proud of my heritage but I don’t allow the color of my skin to dictate how I should act or be perceived by others.

* * *

It’s a struggle for me to truly be myself here in Madison because I feel as if I’m being judged every day by the way I look, act and speak. My freshman year I was the only black woman on my floor.  Someone on my floor asked me to come into a friend’s room so that she could give me a new name. When I asked her what she was talking about, she stated that my name was not black enough and needed to be changed to something more “ghetto.” I just looked at her and called her a racist and walked out the room.

* * *

Do African American people find the term “black” offensive?

* * *

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but some facets of other people’s everyday culture that I struggle with judging are their race and ethnicity. Although I know enough to not display it externally, I still sometimes feel uncomfortable with others who are different than me. As I said, I’m rather ashamed to admit this, and I would never say it out loud to anyone. I think that the reason I feel this way is that I grew up in a really small town in Wisconsin, where all but a few students in my high school were Caucasian, and because of this, I never had experience with other cultures until I came to Madison. I don’t have anything against those of other races or ethnicities, but I sometimes worry that I don’t know the appropriate way to act around them. For example, should I use the term African-American or black? Is one ruder than the other?

* * *

Expressing aspects of my culture in public is a lot different especially being in a college that is predominately white. I believe many white people already have preconceived notions about African-Americans because of the negative attention we receive in the media and I am always afraid that anything I say or do will reflect that negativity. For example, when celebrating a birthday many African-Americans will sing the “Traditional” birthday song and then break out in Stevie Wonder’s version of Happy Birthday which consists of singing, clapping and stomping your feet. In the comfort of my own home I have no problem participating in the “black” birthday song, however in public, especially around people of the majority it makes me uncomfortable because I feel like they are judging and stereotyping. Many people instead of inquiring about Stevie Wonder’s version of Happy Birthday and why we sing it, they will stare or move uncomfortably and sometimes both.

* * *

During the in-class activity “Stepping Forward and Back,” I stepped back when I saw other white females standing still. My family is part Native American, something that would not be obvious by looking at the color of my skin. Stepping back made me feel a bit awkward because I wondered what the other females who looked like me would think, as I appear to be of only European descent.

* * *

In public, I have difficulty sharing my ethnicity. This is a struggle because I do not know what half of my ethnicity is. My Caucasian side is Italian and German, but my Black side is unknown. This comes from historical oppression from back to slavery times. In addition, the information I know of my father is limited. He does not know where him being Black comes from. He just knows that he is. I am comfortable talking about my race because it has less boundaries, however, my ethnicity is very vague.

* * *

In public I have trouble sharing that I am part Mexican. This has nothing to do with the fact that I am ashamed or embarrassed of my Mexican heritage, but instead has to do with the fact that I don’t look Mexican. In the past when I have mentioned this to people I have been essentially called a liar. For sake of not arguing with people about something so silly (when I am obviously telling the truth) I’ve just given up. Part of me feels like it isn’t important anyways (or doesn’t matter) so why talk about it.

* * *

In respect to public settings, I sometimes have trouble sharing components of my culture that deal with my Hispanic roots. For instance, speaking Spanish in public or discussing foods that are foreign to those who are not familiar with Mexican dishes can be uncomfortable when others are not accepting of cultural differences. I will often get strange looks from people who are not Hispanic, which makes me feel out of place and even ostracized at times.

* * *

When asked in class to define what my own personal culture consisted of, I immediately started writing down aspects of the “White American” culture, such as that I am white, speak English, usually wear blue jeans and follow Roman Catholic beliefs. Even though the majority of my ethnicity is that of a country in the Middle East, I never even considered writing anything down regarding facets of that culture. However, I don’t believe that it’s because I have “difficulty” talking about my Middle Eastern culture to others, since all of my closest friends know that’s what makes up the majority of my ethnicity. Instead, I believe it’s actually because I personally don’t know all that much about my Middle Eastern heritage.

* * *

Many minority groups of people feel uncomfortable facing the difference with the majorities, such as the education or employment discrimination they face, which makes them more sensitive and more easy to be offended. Sometimes a single gesture, a smile, or glimpse may be viewed as others’ defiance towards them, even though the person did not mean to be offensive. Consequently, even though we may make mistakes during interaction with other people, we should be modest, admitting the mistake and apologizing genuinely.

* * *

money

money

eye of providence, eva ekeblad

Money is another part of my culture that I never talk about in society. Most would not know that when my parents got divorced, my father made my mother homeless. She remained homeless for one year. I often had to give her money so she could pay rent. My friends all assume my life is perfect.

* * *

I felt some of the questions in the “could you survive” activity were a bit too personal, especially questions in the lower class section asking if I could survive without electricity or a phone. My family went through this for years. It brought up painful and depressing memories for me personally. I don’t want to go into the details of what we had to do, but I can imagine thinking two things: how would those that were in upper class be able to adapt to those living conditions and what other people in my situation had to endure. I don’t believe that I could explain the same feelings to those of my friends who have families from middle to upper class.

* * *

I do not come from money by any means. My parents are struggling just to keep their heads above water with my mom working two jobs and my father not being able to find work. Thus everything that I am doing with school, joining Greek life, living costs, and all other expenses, must be financed out of my own pocket without the help of others. This is something that a lot of my friends are not able to understand. Since they have their parents paying for their schooling, rent, and everything else, they do not know what it is to have a job and balance working the hours that I do with everything else. On the flip side I struggle to understand those people that are privileged and come from money. Since they have their parents paying for their schooling, rent, and everything else, they do not know what it is to have a job and balance working the hours that I do with everything else.

* * *

The strong work ethic that has been stressed to me so frequently while growing up is very important to me culturally. Since I was young, I was taught that hard work and individual accountability will help me get to where I want to be. Since I was of age to get a job, I have always had at least one, but more commonly two, jobs at all times. Building a strong work history and leaving positive impressions wherever I work have been core values since I started working, largely because my mother taught me by example.

* * *

I come from a town that is generally upper-middle class. It is where I lived my whole life and it is all I have ever known upon coming to school here. Sometimes, I feel ashamed and embarrassed that I am from this town. It is a large town that has a reputation for being filled with white, stuck-up, rich people. Although that reputation is a bit over exaggerated, it is true that the suburb is upper-middle class and not very diversified. Consequently, when people ask me where I am from, I feel reluctant to say the name of the town. I do not want people to judge me and assume that I am also just a white, privileged, and sheltered person. I do not fit that stereotype. It was important for me to move to Madison and try to get away from that. Ultimately, it is hard for me to say where I am from or invite people to my house because I do not want to be judged. I am my own person regardless of where I grew up.

* * *

health

health

health is wealth

health is wealth, eva ekeblad

I rarely share my family’s culture of mental illness. Many might not consider this a culture, but I believe it is. It is so prevalent in my family that the way we deal with it has become a norm. Again, it is difficult to share because as soon as you tell someone your family deals with mental illness, their family is automatically better than yours.
* * *

Healthy eating and exercising is really important to my family and I. For example, I eat turkey bacon instead of pork bacon. When I buy meat, I buy the leanest meat available and I don’t eat pork. I only realized that this isn’t typical after I met college friends who had never even heard of turkey bacon before. My family would rather stay in and eat a healthy meal that we prepared together than go out to eat, except for on special occasions. I’ve also found that we’re a lot more conservative with our money than other families. We save up as much as possible so we’re prepared when something unexpected happens. If I’m with friends and we’re going out to dinner, I won’t make a fuss about going somewhere that has healthier options. I’ll just order a burger and fries like everyone else. I’m fine with eating out every once in a while and having a burger but I always feel guilty for eating something so bad for me and spending so much money on it.

* * *

A culture that I identify with, but never share with the public or even many close to me, is having mental health issues. Although I do not personally have mental health concerns, my mother has struggled her whole life with various issues. This has shaped me in more ways than I could ever express, but I keep it closely guarded from others. I think this culture is difficult for me to express because many people would wonder why I identify with it and I would feel like I need to explain the reasons.

* * *

There are drug problems, family feuds, and mental illnesses in my family, and because of the proud nature of our culture, we do not discuss these with anyone else. We do not even discuss these with people who should be consulted like mental health professionals and family therapists. When I was young, I had this perception that everyone was fine and happy in my family, but as I grew up, I learned about these difficulties that my family hides. This turned my world upside down not only because of the problems themselves, but because they were hidden and I felt everything my perception of my family was a lie. This is difficult to share with the public and even those closest to me because it is absurd to some people that one can feel too proud to admit weakness.

* * *

family

family

family

family, paul evans

Being close with family is very important to me. I talk to my grandparents at least once a week, I talk to my sister on a daily basis, and my mom and dad at least twice a week. My boyfriend is not nearly as close with his family and finds it hard to comprehend the strong attachment I have with my family. People who use, mistreat or neglect their family are hard for me to deal with. Your family should be cherished.
* * *

The importance of family is central to my culture. My parents have sacrificed many things in order to give my brother and me better lives than they had when they were growing up. Since I was a child I have always been taught that no matter what the circumstances, family should always come first.

* * *

Getting together with my family every Sunday for a spaghetti dinner has become engrained in me. It is such a tradition for my family that, even though I am four and half hours away at school, my family still gives me a hard time for not being there week-after-week. I feel bad that I cannot be there, exchanging stories over the loud conversations between my uncles and cousins. As a means to cope with this piece of my culture that I am missing, I make the spaghetti dinner for my roommates as often as I can find the time to do so. I have shared this part of my culture with my close friends, and they partake in this facet of my culture with me. They love the family recipe, and it is nice for all of us to sit down together and enjoy time with one another.

* * *

When I share my goals of family and career with people they sometimes roll their eyes and say, “Ugh that is so traditional and old school.” I completely understand their point, but my culture is specific to my family and me. I do not expect, nor do I ignorantly believe everyone has a similar culture to mine.

* * *

An important part of my culture is spending Sunday with my family, a tradition that I cherish. When I lived at home with my parents they always made a huge dinner on Sunday afternoons, which usually consisted of soul food, several dishes common in the African-American culture. Some of these dishes include but are not limited to baked macaroni and cheese, collard greens, fried chicken, chitlins (pig intestines), dressing (some people refer to this as stuffing), and cranberry sauce. Sunday dinners were not just about eating good food it was also about bringing family together. Although my immediate family is very small, consisting of only five of us, Sundays were the only times that we actually sat down and ate at the same time.

* * *

An aspect of my culture that I have difficulty discussing in public is that I am a Pro-Life advocate, despite considering myself socially liberal in all other areas. I was raised in a family that carries this value, but also there are a couple of very special individuals in my life who I would have never met if their young mothers had not made the decisions to go through with their pregnancy. I find it difficult to discuss this in public, especially in Madison, as I’m greatly outnumbered in my belief. I respect those who don’t share my belief, but I also know that this subject is very controversial, and I would rather not engage in a heated debate that only results in frustration on both sides.

* * *

I would have to say that partnership status is the facet of my culture that is the most difficult for me to share with those closest to me. As I was growing up, my brothers and sisters always had a girlfriend or boyfriend during their teenage years and beyond, so I learned that this was the norm for a person that age. I, on the other hand, have not had any serious relationships, so I feel as though my parents and siblings judge me and look at me as breaking the norms. Although I’m not exactly sure if they actually feel this way, I don’t like to bring it up because it seems as if they, especially my mom, are worried that I’m never going to find a significant other. This bothers me because I’m perfectly content with where I am in my life; I’d rather focus on my coursework now and spend time with my friends rather than spend it searching for my future husband.

* * *

My grandpa plays a traditional role in the family. He is the patriarch. To my family, this means that at Sunday dinners, he sits at the head of the table. At the end of the meal, until the recent passing of my grandma, he was not expected to help with dishes. In fact, none of the men were. The women and girls pitched in to clean up after the meal. It was something that I never even questioned until I brought a friend to dinner one Sunday who was confused as to why the boys got to go play and we had to finish cleaning first. Now that my grandpa is a widower, he takes a more proactive role. He prepares and cleans up after the meal. This has illustrated to me that, while these cultural practices can become second nature to an individual, they are not static. Situations can change the way people behave, and even change their culture.

* * *

I have a family member by marriage who is African American and I hang out with her family a lot. It is not unusual for her family to leave their children with “Babysitter.” Babysitter is the grandmother, but she always has at least one child at her home. The family leaves the children sometimes for work reasons, but most of the time it’s because the parents go out and party. I have difficulty accepting this behavior because in the culture I have grown up with, my parents did not leave me two to three times a week to go out to the bars or clubs. If my parents needed a night out together they usually felt bad and came home at a decent time. But my relatives leave the children with Babysitter through the next day and even for two consecutive nights. This is particularly difficult for me because I have been raised to believe it is the parent’s role to sacrifice for their children, not the other way around. For my relative’s family, it is culturally acceptable to depend on one another for childcare so they can preserve their social life and freedom in a sense. Their culture is different from my own, but it is a culture that makes them happy and gets them through life, and that is what’s important for them.

* * *

Some of my family members have very narrow views on race and sexual orientation. I often find myself avoiding these topics because I know my views differ greatly. I have tried in the past to suggest that there may be other, less judgmental ways of approaching things such as race or sexual orientation but I am usually mocked or ridiculed for this. I know I will be in close proximity to my relatives for the rest of my life so I have resorted to not commenting on these subjects in order to avoid fights at family gatherings. I do not like compromising my own values just to avoid confrontation but in some cases it has gotten to the point where I cannot speak about race or sexual orientation without being called a “Madison Liberal.”

* * *

When I visit my dad’s side of the family its tradition, so to speak that when family is visiting from out of town to make dinner and I mean dinner as in like a grand feast. We once visited my great aunts house and we had to eat like 2 full plates of food because it is considered rude to not do so, which my step mom did. My great aunt was offended. Then we went to see my dad’s cousin and did the same thing. Then by that time my stomach was pushing its limit and we ended up back at my auntie’s house where we were staying and had to eat the dinner she made. Did I? Yes, I also faked it a little by pushing food around.

* * *

hijabs

…dress/appearance

CULTURES

culture

health is wealth

health…

dress/appearance

dress/appearance

hijabs

hijabs, chrissy olson

Over the years I have struggled a lot with self-esteem issues, making the emphasis on female beauty a real problem for me. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about the things I need to change about my body and make better so that I would resemble the ideal female body down the road.
* * *

I come from a background that values appearance to a great extent, and I suppose I expect that the rest of society would have the same expectations for public appearance. For example, I had a teacher who only wore sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and winter boots to class every day. On the first day of class, I instantly judged his character, integrity, and intelligence before he even opened his mouth, upon which I learned that he held both a law degree and a PhD from an Ivy League school. He made jokes about the clothes he wore, telling us not to expect him in anything much different. Though I knew this was just a difference in culture, for some reason, I still felt uncomfortable that he was wearing sweats in a workplace setting.

* * *

I remembered back to my experiences visiting a European country. There, it was incredibly rude to eat, drink, chew gum, and wear sweatpants and/or other forms of “sloppy” clothing to class, whereas in the United States, many of these are accepted.

* * *

My culture affects the clothing I wear. Most days I am “dressed up.” This usually includes wearing leggings, tights, dresses, skirts, blouses, sweaters, and black shoes. It is rare that I wear jeans, tennis shoes, open toed shoes, or sweatshirts. The cultures that I am in affect the way I dress immensely. By being a student leader on campus I am in a culture that basically requires me to dress in a business-like manner. I could do otherwise, but I have learned through experiences that others in the business world tend to look at me in a negative way or in a less serious manner if I am not dressed appropriately to societal and cultural standards.

* * *

One area of other people’s culture that I struggle not to judge is dress. For example, I find it a type of male domination that women are forced to wear head to toe dress in some Middle East countries. Although the women of the society itself may not see it as that, I have a hard time understanding that. Growing up in a society where women may dress as they please, although dressing one way or another may illicit different responses, is all that I know and fully understand and I have a hard time comprehending why someone would let someone else tell them what is or what is not appropriate to wear.

* * *

When someone is dressed “thug/gangster.” I catch myself automatically assuming typical stereotypes, even though I realize I shouldn’t. Internally, I try to remind myself that everyone has their personal story as to what shaped them to dress or act the way that they do.

* * *

When I look at people I use resources like body language, clothing, appearance, and if available background information on a person to assess them. I treat everyone with respect. I say yes mama and no sir, I greet people with Mr. and Mrs./Ms., and I would usually wait for someone to stick their hand out when greeting them to go ahead and then shake their hand. I would love to say I don’t judge others but I do, I try not to.

* * *

I often struggle with trying not to judge the attire of Muslim women. I find it hard to understand why a woman would agree to dress so conservatively that many times her eyes are the only things others can see. Internally I react with outrage because I feel that this manner of dress is oppressive towards women. Externally I try to hide my emotions in order to avoid offending these women and their beliefs because at the end of the day their religion is none of my business.

* * *

It is hard for me not to pre-judge someone as soon as I see what they are wearing or how they talk. For example, I will see someone who appears to be very wealthy with dyed hair, perfect nails and teeth, and a Northface jacket and, internally, I assume that they are ditzy and just had the money to be going to UW-Madison. I do not respond this way on the outside however, because I know that my judgments could be completely wrong.

* * *

communication

communication

2community

communication centre, robert wallace

To me communication is everything. I have a very diverse background of family and friends that I love being around, and we have our own unique culture that nobody else will understand unless they are from my hometown. When I’m around the right group of people who understand a certain type of communication, it makes me feel a lot better. I’m not saying that the type of communication I do is weird or “ghetto” which some people have tried to insinuate. It’s just the tone of our voices that helps to change up the culture of the conversation. Our culture is very laid back and has many inside jokes and language. It’s not racial in any way. I have many friends that are black, white, Latino and Asian that I have these certain jokes and language with and when we get together, it’s just the way we communicate.
* * *

Last summer, my roommate sublet his room to a black student. Really nice guy and we could have great conversations about what he was studying. He had a few friends though, whom I didn’t know very well at all, that when they were around my sublet-roommate would act completely different. Talk different, act different, everything. I didn’t struggle with accepting his culture. I more struggled with the abrupt change and how I knew him as a normal guy without an accent and these few guys show up and I can’t understand him. I didn’t show any change in how I acted towards him and never asked why out of respect, but I just don’t understand it.

* * *

Use of language is cultural. My mother, who is from a large US city, tends to use blunt and harsh language (as she was socialized to do), so I consider it normal; whereas another person, might have it represented in their framework as offensive and upsetting. But from my grandparents, who are from Europe, I learned to communicate in a more reserved, diplomatic manner and to hold back complaints.

* * *

I am realizing more and more that I do not fit the generic mold of American culture, where bluntness is appreciated and freedom of speech placed above many other values. Please don’t misread me; I think freedom of speech is extremely important and I feel very blessed to live in a country where I can express myself in any way that I choose. However, I believe that courtesy has been lost in public communication and often I am not comfortable with the way people choose to express themselves by being impolite, vulgar, or hateful, simply because there are less social regulations now against such language.

* * *

There have been countless times when I have been studying in the quiet section in the library and there have been a group of Asian students talking and laughing loudly, despite everyone else being silent. I struggle with judging Asians. I tend to think that they have don’t have consideration for American social norms. Also, when in coffee shops even though people both talk and study there, I notice their voices are louder, and I am more distracted by the use of their native language; which makes no sense to me. I know that this is not the case with every Asian individual, and I understand that they didn’t grow up in America; however, these are people I struggle with judging.

* * *

One of the hardest things to not judge is the use of different languages. Coming from a small suburban town I never really was intermixed with minorities or different nationalities. I still become irritated when I hear people converse next to me in a language I can’t understand or when I see a language I cannot read. An interesting point here is that Spanish is not one of the languages that irritate me. I believe that it is because I am relatively knowledgeable of the language, seeing as I studied it all throughout high school. I can sort of pick up on words and get a rough sense of what is being said. This leads me to believe that the reason I judge a person based on their language is because I feel a sense of exclusion, or maybe inferiority because I am totally clueless on what is being said around me. It makes me feel like the foreigner for a minute, and I hate it. Inside, I become offended and frustrated with the person speaking because I feel that they have not accepted my American culture. This is kind of ironic because in actuality it is I that is not accepting of them trying to preserve their culture in America. I like to think that I keep all of these feelings inside. I have never lashed out at somebody because I know that it is not really my business anyways. They are not talking to me so I have no part in their conversation.

* * *

A great deal of my culture consists of things that relate to my Mexican roots. Both of my parents are Mexican and as a result, “Spanglish” (a mixture of both Spanish and English) is widely spoken between my parents and me. Culturally, language is extremely important to me. I think that speaking Spanish is a beautiful way to help keep my heritage alive and it is also the only language my grandparents and the majority of my relatives understand.

* * *

I can’t communicate with people the way I do at home as a black female in Madison, and it is very hard for me to express my culture to the fullest extent. When talking to my friends here I sometimes slip in an unusual term from home. After people hear it, they seem to want me to talk how I do at home. I don’t mind this, but when it gets to the point of trying to mimic me and sounding like I’m from the hood, which I’m clearly not, then it gets offensive.

* * *

At the store where I work, African American shoppers will often times yell across the room to each other or react with what appears to be in a cold manner when I greet them at the front door. I find myself struggling not to judge them. I think that it is difficult for me to understand why they act the way they do because I was raised to always respond politely when greeted in a non-confrontational way, and to keep my voice at an appropriate level when indoors. I also realize as I’m typing this that what they may consider to be confrontational or appropriate may be completely different from what my definitions of those words are.

* * *

I get very frustrated with people who do not at least try to adhere to this country’s cultural ways such as speaking English or other social norms. It makes me angry at myself when I get annoyed, but I just think to myself if I were in their country would I speak their language? Could I speak their language? I try so hard to not think things in my head when I get frustrated with a person not speaking in this country’s official language, but sometimes it just happens and it makes me even more mad at myself for not being able to control or understand these feelings. This is not something I am proud of but it is something I feel, and sometimes you cannot help that, and I continue to try to understand where they are coming from and to put myself in their shoes. That I can recall, I have never externally vocalized my annoyance, but I have shown the annoyance on my face from time to time, and that makes me sad for the other person, and for myself. Again, I am not proud of it, but it happened and all I can do is learn from it and work on those issues.

* * *

A facet of my culture that is difficult to share with those around me would have to be my culture of privacy. My family does not like to share their feelings and it is very tough for them to solve difficulties or drama that arises. Topics of religion, politics, and desires are sometimes very hard to relate to others no matter how close I am to them because this privacy has grown in me and when I need to talk to someone about a stress or issue that I have been dealing with, it can be very hard for me to reach out. Although I believe that every person deserves their own respective degree of privacy, it can sometimes be a burden when you do not want that privacy but rarely have another choice.

* * *

The tram, metro and other forms of public transportation in Europe have a very distinct culture that is silent for the most part. Strangers do not interact and many times people that know each other keep their conversations extremely quiet. It was not until I went to Europe that I was first embarrassed by my culture. Many Europeans, especially the older generations, do not have the fondest opinions of Americans. We were told we were rude, loud and obnoxious many times. Typically traveling in groups of two or more, we were fulfilling those loud and obnoxious stereotypes by not respecting the fact that we needed to be quiet. As I became more accustomed to this I was embarrassed when my American friends were loud. This was a very eye opening and difficult feeling for me because I am a very proud American and I felt ashamed of myself for being embarrassed by my fellow Americans for fulfilling negative stereotypes.

* * *

At times the way African Americans talk and the way they present themselves bothers me. Although not all are that way it is difficult to not generalize since the majority of people I’ve observed behaved and spoke in the same manners. When seeing those aspects of African American culture that I dislike, instead of attributing their actions to their culture I look at them as individuals and attribute it to that particular individual rather than the whole culture. I feel everyone decides for himself or herself how to act, speak and behave and it is an individual choice rather than a consequence of culture. It is good to remember the issues that you deal with within your own culture so that you are deterred from judging others. I try not to judge other cultures since the cultures I belong to have issues, I find it difficult to not judge African American culture.

* * *

I am a frequent user of a particular website that is part of my culture. When I’m with a friend who also heavily browses this website, we catch up almost entirely by discussing it. Even though we may not have spoken to each other for over weeks or months we seem to be able to catch up simply by bringing up what has been on the website. We communicate through memes viewed on the website; using them as almost short, private jokes between us. This is especially true if we encounter a situation where a meme from the site is applicable. One of us would just mention the meme and we would both know what the other was thinking and how we were viewing the situation. I realize that a lot of my viewpoints are at least similar with those posted on the website, if not learned directly from there.

* * *

Being able to connect over social networks and talk with anybody even if they are at a great distance is a valuable tool and an innovative one to keep culture and ties strong within a community or social circle. Without close loved ones, I would not be able to express myself openly and feel like someone was available and able to care and love me.

* * *

what is culture?

what is culture?

culture frank bonilaculture, frank bonilla

When we were asked to describe our culture, I was surprised to learn how hard it was for me to do so. I thought to myself, I can describe American culture in a generalized sense but is that what she is looking for?
* * *

I realized that my culture couldn’t fit into one box, but instead incorporates many boxes. I like to think of my culture as one of those Russian nesting dolls. Each layer of my culture is one of the dolls, and the smallest doll in the center of all the layers of “culture” is me. I come from a family with both Mexican and German heritage. My parents have been divorced the majority of my life. I have a disabled mother, and a brother who is ten years younger than me. I am a college student, who also happens to be married.

* * *

I found that it was exceedingly difficult for myself to pick apart my own culture. I identified my culture initially as an average, middle class white male who grew up in a small, farm oriented community.

* * *

I’m a first generation American. I’ve struggled to identify which culture group I belonged to. I’ve realized that my identity is something unique and that I do not need to forego my family’s culture but rather embrace it as well as the culture and the traditions I’ve learned in America.

* * *

I do not know how to describe my culture other than saying that I view my culture as an extremely Mid-Western culture. I have trouble just saying that because I do not know how other cultures view mine, and if I were to say that to someone maybe they would think that this is not a culture or lifestyle to be proud of and would be judging me.

* * *

I define my own culture as “American”. Generally speaking, I think American culture is classified by our overall state of democracy and the diversity in the United States. Yet, it was hard for me to think of anything to put down besides American. I am a white woman and I do not identify with any religious affiliations or other sort of traditions, and those are the sort of things I normally attribute to the term “culture”.

* * *

Growing up in Minnesota, I was taught to be “Minnesota Nice”. We say hello to passerby. We wave when someone lets us go first at the stop sign. We help a lost child find his or her mom in stores and at the mall. We dread the Mall of America, but help those who are lost in the large complex. We play in the streets with other kids in the neighborhood, using the nearest house to go to the bathroom or to call home and ask when dinner is. We simply are nice to all, friends or strangers.

* * *

To be honest, I was not a fan of the “stepping forward and back” and “could you survive” activities. I would have much rather spent this time learning about other people’s cultures. Or maybe about common cultural issues/misconceptions that people hold. I’m sure I have probably said culturally insensitive things that I’m unaware of. Learning what these things are would be a lot more useful to me.

* * *

detention

detention

Stories from a one-time visit to the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center could only be recorded with pencil and paper.

corey davis and anonymous dane county teens

A teen in the Juvenile Detention Center, who was there for his fourth time, told me, “I’m never coming back to this place.” He then went on to say, “Most of us will probably be back in here.” I asked him why he said this, when he had just said that he was never coming back. He replied, “Because I’m eighteen, so when I get out tomorrow and screw up again, I’ll be in prison.” Looking at my misunderstood expression, he said, “It’s just who we are,” and the others at the table agreed.

Others felt that even if they tried to change, they would stand out as criminals because of their race. A young woman told me:

“America is racist. Period. No matter how good you are, how much you doin’, you gonna’ get down played cause of your race. It’s like as if, I go into a store, the store clerk, they’re gonna’ follow me, but if a white girl go to a store, they’re not gonna’ follow her.”