We will write a custom Essay on Multicultural Experience and Group Influence on the Self specifically for you
301 certified writers online
Prejudice and stereotyping are phenomena that have probably been a part of human existence throughout the ages. Both phenomena arise from social categorization, which is a basic process in human interaction that has and most likely will remain a part of human existence (Stangor, 2000). Stereotypes are often the result of generalization or incorrect perception of a certain group of people, and more often than not, they are not based on fact.
Though generalization is a part of daily activity, the history of the effects of prejudice should warrant communities to work hand in hand to bring an end to this trend. One major hurdle encountered in bringing an end to stereotyping and prejudice is that these concepts are formed early in life. This is not surprising as stereotypes are often a part of the culture, and children acquire them through childhood experiences. The main source of information for stereotyping arises from the observation of individuals and their interactions within a community (Stangor, 2000). In this report, the experience will be narrated to illustrate the effects of stereotyping and prejudice on the self.
The experience brought out the effect of prejudice and stereotyping arose through a process of orientation upon registration in a college abroad. The trip to a foreign country and the prospects of meeting new friends and experiencing new things were all very exciting, and soon as we arrived, the group we traveled with was raring to go. After quickly unpacking essential luggage, we began to explore the campus that would be our new home.
Fortunately, there were a handful of students from the same country that had been on campus throughout the holidays. This group of students have received news of our arrival and were seated in a group outside their accommodation quarters. As we continued our exploration of our new environment, we bumped into each other, and after the introductions, our orientation began.
Having come from a culture where people are very warm and welcoming towards guests, the cool reception that was characteristic of the local student population was something we felt was a sign we were not welcome. As earlier stated, stereotypes are based largely on observation, and due to this fact, we quickly developed a notion that we were unwelcome (Stangor, 2000). This notion, as we later came to realize, had no truth to it and was merely an illusion created in our minds. The prevailing culture was, in fact, very welcoming and harbored a strong belief in speaking only when necessary to allow the visitor to feel at home.
After the initial realization that the locals were not very social, a further notion began to grow among members of our group that the reason behind the lukewarm welcome was probably racial prejudice. This notion was extremely embarrassing in days that would follow, especially since it was backed by the absence of fact. According to Allport, prejudice is irrational as it constitutes passing judgment without sufficient warrant (Stangor, 2000).
This fact was soon proven true as days passed by, and the group gradually began to interact with some of the local student population. It came to our attention that among the major reasons for the lukewarm welcome was more as a result of our own behavior as opposed to the local’s perception. Having been raised to speak less, they were tongue-tied as to how much we always had to say. In addition to that, the fact that most of us were of a much larger physical build, they assumed we were probably bullies. We later came to realize that they were equally eager to interact but just did not know how to go about it and thus opted to give the whole affair a bit of time.
Reactions of Individuals
As earlier stated, the first reaction of the locals towards the group of foreign students was, in our perception, lukewarm. This is probably based on the stereotype we had been accustomed to that visitors should be treated cordially and warmly welcomed. This reaction also can be taken to also show prejudice since the locals may also have assumed that being much more vocal and of a larger physical build, we were likely to be bullies.
The initial reaction by members of our group was to ignore the behavior of the local students and maintain friendships with the students from our own country. However, with time interactions in classes slowly led us to realize that our classmates were just as friendly as ourselves. According to the concept of realistic group conflict theory, it has been suggested that when the interests of groups are mutually incompatible, and one group succeeds at the expense of the other, the end result is a negative psychological response (Rupert, 2010). If we turned to be bullies as had been expected, this position would probably have proven to be true.
This may provide a reason why there was some tension between the two groups. In response to that, it has been stated in the contact hypothesis that the best way of reducing tension between groups is to bring them together, and this also proved true in the case of our orientation (Brown, 2010). The increased interaction with the local students in class gradually eroded any hard feelings that were harbored.
The Effect of the Experience on Self
The most profound effect of the experience on the self was the humbling knowledge that we were not in danger after all. It did not take long after the initial interactions for many of the other members of our group to develop strong relationships with the local students that have continued to flourish even after completion of education. As a result of this interaction, I have become much more open-minded whenever I encounter a new group.
Instead of behaving in a defensive manner and expecting the other party to open up, I am more willing to begin breaking the ice. In addition to that, I have learned how to take what is useful and applicable to various cultures and set aside what is not useful in my own culture. The experience has been very fulfilling and has left me very grateful and humbled.
Brown, R. (2010). Prejudice: It’s Social Psychology. United Kingdom: Wiley – Blackwell.
Stangor, C. (2000). Stereotypes and Prejudice. USA: Taylor & Francis.