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Comfort in diversity

Before we go to discrimination, it is crucial to understand who we are (Tool: Understanding Diversity and Identity), then where we live (this tool). In order to outgrow discrimination, we need to be comfortable living in an intercultural society.

From Multicultural to Intercultural Societies

At first sight, the terms “Multicultural Society” and “Intercultural Society” seem to be similar but they are not synonyms. So, how do we tell the difference between the two? First, try to give your personal explanation and understanding of these two terms.

I believe that multicultural society is ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Whereas intercultural society represents ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Now read these two definitions.

MULTICULTURAL SOCIETIES: Different cultures, national, ethnic, religious groups all living within the same territory BUT not necessarily coming into contact with each other. A society where the difference is often viewed negatively and forms a major justification for discrimination. Minorities may be tolerated passively, but not accepted or valued. Even in cases where there are legal rights designed to stop discrimination, the law may not be enforced uniformly.

INTERCULTURAL SOCIETIES: Different cultures, national groups, etc. living together within a territory, maintain open relations of interaction, exchange and mutual recognition of their own and respective values and ways of life. We are talking then about a process of active tolerance and the maintenance of equitable relations where everyone has the same importance, where there are no superiors or inferiors, better or worse people…

Do you agree with them?

How different are these definitions from yours?

What do they differ?

Comfort in Social Situations Worksheet

Instructions: Read the following statements and rate what you think your comfort level would be in each situation using the scale below.  There are no right or wrong answers. Simply be honest with yourself and do not over-think the situations.  However, the way you answer the questions may be different depending on your own social group membership, such as your race/ethnicity, gender, age, weight, or ability status.  In some cases, you may not think a situation is personally applicable; if so, mark “N/A” in the space provided.  After you have completed all sections, follow the instructions to create a total score for each section.

1 2 3 4 5
Very           Comfortable Comfortable Neutral Uncomfortable Very Uncomfortable

Section A:

_________ Your best friend starts dating a Latino-American.

_________ You go into a Japanese restaurant where all the patrons and employees are Asian.

_________ You realize you are the only person of your race when you visit a community.

_________ A Saudi Arabian sits down next to you on a crowded bus.

_________ Your new doctor went to medical school in India.

Total: _________

Section B:

_________ You find out a family friend is choosing to be a stay-at-home dad.

_________ You greet someone but can’t determine the person’s gender.

_________ You take your car in for repairs and the head mechanic is a woman.

_________ You see a little boy playing with a princess Barbie.

_________ You see a businessman getting a manicure.

Total: _________

Section C:

_________ You see two men holding hands.

_________ A person of the same sex is flirting with you.

_________ You move in next door to the same-sex couple who have two children.

_________ You go on a date with someone who used to date someone of the same sex.

_________ You see two females kiss lovingly in public.

Total: _________

Section D:

_________ You don’t know whether to open a door for someone in a wheelchair.

_________ You watch someone who does not have a visible disability park in a handicap spot.

_________ You walk by a mentally disabled person who is talking loudly in the grocery store.

_________ Your friend is dating someone with Aspergers Syndrome (high functioning autism).

_________ You are standing in line behind a deaf person at a fast-food restaurant.

Total: _________

Section E:

_________ A heavily obese person is working out in the gym next to you.

_________ You are sitting next to an obese woman on a plane.

_________You notice a coworker who is obese is holding up the cafeteria line because she/he

wants to fill the tray.

_________ You watch an obese man get stuck trying to sit in a desk in a classroom.

_________You friend sees an overweight person and makes a joke about him/her.

Total: _________

Section F:

_________There is a 30 year age difference between you and your lab partner.

_________Your internship coordinator assigns you to an assisted care facility.

_________Your senior citizen landlord wears a hearing aid and often has difficulty understanding you.

_________Your grandmother often asks you for help with her computer.

_________Your 70-year-old next door neighbor can never remember your name.

Total: _________

Results: Compute your total for each section by adding up the numbers from your responses.  If you marked an item “N/A,” score it as a “3” before computing your total score for that section.  Higher numbers indicate greater discomfort with social situations in that section.

_________ Section A: Race

_________ Section B: Gender

_________ Section C: Sexuality

_________ Section D: Disability

_________ Section E: Weight

_________ Section F: Age

Discussion Questions

  1. On which section did you score the lowest? Highest?  Or are all your scores similar?  Why do you think that happened?  Do you feel surprised, disappointed, or satisfied by your results? Why?

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Think about your own social group memberships. How do you think the answers for each section would be different for dominant group members (e.g., a White person answering the questions in Section A or a heterosexual answering the questions in Section C) compared to minority group members (e.g., a disabled person answering the questions in Section D)?  Explain your reasoning.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. Think about your friends and family and how they might have completed the questionnaire. Do you think their responses would be similar to or different from yours? Why?

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. What experiences have you had that may have contributed to the way you answered the questions?

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. What does it mean if someone reports feeling uncomfortable in the situations described on the questionnaire? Does it suggest that the person is biased against certain social groups?  Why or why not?

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Why did I choose this tool?

Learning how to live together will help us build intercultural societies, fight against discrimination on any level and ideally respect human rights entirely. However, to be aware of how we (re)act in a certain situation, one must turn to self-reflection and analyze his own actions, how he/she got to be in that situation.

Reflection questions

  • What does living in a multicultural society mean to you?
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages?
  • Which situations are not comfortable for you?
  • Why?

Exercise:

This article is in the form of an exercise and you can use it in groups

Men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they were born, the city apartment or the farm in which they learned to walk, the games they played as children, the tales they overheard, the food they ate, the schools they attended, the sports they followed, the poets they read and the God they believed in

(W. Somerset Maugham. The Razor’s Edge)

Antonio Jovanovski

Antonio Jovanovski has extensive experience of training and facilitating diverse groups all over Europe. His training and facilitating experience started during his AIESEC years (www.aiesec.org) where he served as President of AIESEC in N. Macedonia and France. Currently, he is a director of a youth environmental NGO (www.gogreen.mk) where he works on the topics of climate change, youth eco-activism, greening of economy, greening of education and jobs. He is also a member of the Pool of trainers of [email protected] partnership on employability and entrepreneurship (www.youthatworkpartnership.org)

Click here to read more about Antonio Jovanovski

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