The United States of America is one of the most diverse countries in the world. White, Black, and Asian are the biggest ethnic groups in the United States (CIA par. 50). The differences between the ethnic groups can complicate communication among them. Sometimes, such diversity in the population can cause a cultural misunderstanding among the people.
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LeBaron argues that cultures can cause some conflicts sometimes, play a central role in them, or can influence conflicts negatively (9). Besides, LeBaron mentions that the “India-Pakistan conflicts over Kashmir are not just about territorial, boundary, and sovereignty issues, they are also about acknowledgment, representation, and legitimization of different identities and ways of living, being, and making meaning” (12). In the India and Pakistan case, there are only two ethnicities (not even three), and they could not come up with a solution to their problem (Office of the Historian par. 6). Clearly, conflicts may occur because of differences.
Poverty has been one of the most complicated issues for all countries around the world. Poverty causes differ from one country to another. In the USA, the overall poverty rate is 13.5% or approx. 43.1 million people live in poverty (USCB par. 11). The question here is what are the possible causes of poverty in a country like the United States. PursueGod points out that the causes of poverty in the United States are “poor economy, lack of affordable housing, drug use, lack of education, and medical expenses” (par. 5, 6, 8, 9, 10).
The poor economy has always been associated with unemployment. Many businesses in the US have moved their factories overseas in order to save money because they could spend less money on salaries outside the United States. Some people would blame those companies for exporting these jobs, but if they kept them, their business would suffer from the costs. Unemployment does not always affect only one person since it might spread to the entire family. The economy in the United States suffered from many ups and downs throughout its history.
However, when there is a huge gap between wage earnings and housing costs in the United States, people cannot afford good homes. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “families across the country would need to earn a “housing wage” of $15.37 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the average fair market rent” (par 1). Drug and alcohol addiction affects about 20% of the homeless population (PursueGod par. 3). Drugs can become so addictive that they start to control the life of the user. According to one of the sources, the fourth major cause of poverty in America is a lack of education (PursueGod par. 7).
I was assigned to work with a Latino family and help their 4-year-old daughter. I have never done anything like that, and that is why I was nervous and did not know what to expect. In the first place, I was concerned about how I could communicate with the Latino family and how I could make this work. Back home, we have different people from different countries, but we have something in common, for example, the religion or the language. Being around a Latino family was an extraordinary experience for me.
During my first visit to the family, I started to talk to the mother and asked her a few questions about what she was doing for a living. She told me in a low spirit that she was a housewife; I told her she should have been proud because she was privileged to do this job. I said that, but I had no idea what those people were going through and how tough this life was for them. She told me that she was taking computer classes so that she could get a job to help her husband.
I did not have the chance to talk with the father because all my visits were on Friday mornings, and at that time, he went to work. As Pew Research Center indicated, “more so than the general public, Hispanics believe that hard work gets results. Three-quarters (75%) say that most people can get ahead if they are willing to work hard, while 21% say hard work and determination are no guarantee of success. By comparison, fewer than six-in-ten (58%) of the general public say hard work can lead to success, and 40% say hard work is no guarantee of success” (par. 3).
The first thing that caught my attention was the photos that were all around the house; there were all the family members, and I noticed more than 15 framed photos. Furthermore, religious statuettes were all over the place. According to the Pew Research Center, “Latinos are more religious than most Americans—they are more likely to say they belong to a religion and to attend religious services regularly, religiosity is highest among immigrant Latinos and lowest among those who are the third generation” (V. Politics, Values and Religion par. 2).
In the same way, one of the things that also interests me is how the kids really understand the value of the food. I saw many kids who would get one bite and then simply drop the food on the floor. I think that happens because of the mother; she keeps telling them to return the food so that it can remain in their plates. During one of my visits to the family, I started to talk with Sophie; she asked me about my father and where he was. I told her that he was not in the country, and she said that her father was working to provide them everything they wanted, and he would take them shopping too.
I was surprised that a four years kid could know or feel what her parents were doing for her. I have a niece (she is four years old), and she keeps telling her mother that she does not have to work, and she should better stay with the children. When my sister starts explaining to her why she is working, the niece tells her that she does not have to do this because her father is working, and the mother should stay with them. I told my sister once that she should explain to the child the reason why she is working: she wants to provide her daughter with the things that the child wants. Still, my sister told me she did not care and did not understand what I was trying to say.
Many times when I was at the family house, I compared Sophie and her sister’s attitudes to the attitudes of my nieces and nephews. What I really like about the mother is that she does not give her kids the smartphone. Usually, I played and watched some movies with Sophie and her sister. I only played few times with my nieces or nephews because they would be busy with their iPod and did not like playing with toys because they did not find them interesting or did not want to spend their time on these toys. According to ABC News that refers to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “the average kid sponges in 2.5 hours of music each day, almost five hours of TV and movies, three hours of Internet and video games, and just 38 minutes of old-fashioned reading” (par. 1).
Sophie and her sister would spend the whole time playing with me, but they preferred using their toys. I remembered when was the last time when I saw a child playing with toys. I was a kid and played with my cousins and my friends at my school. I might be exaggerating, but this is the truth because the kids now prefer using electronic devices than play with each other. I noticed that Sophie’s communication skills were perfect; she was talking with me and did not feel shy at all.
The problem with modern kids, as I see it, is that they are not interested in communication; for example, Sophie was interested in our conversations, and she liked to play with me, but other children that are used to play with smartphones and iPads often do not even talk to each other. I believe that it is not the difference in cultures but the difference in the way we live our lives. Some of the children are used to playing with such objects as tablets and smartphones, and others still find other people more interesting than digital games. At the same time, I think this is the issue of upbringing: Sophie’s mother decided that playing with smartphones was not very good for her children and took the phone away, while my nieces are often left alone with those devices, and they do not understand that there is another way to communicate and play with their sisters and brothers.
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There were many lessons that I learned from this experience. For example, I understood that poverty could be very different in different countries. Assistance programs and social support are not available to everyone. They might be more popular in the USA, but other countries often do not help the poor families and negatively influence their perception of the world and the relationships in the family.
When I was told that I would be working with a kid from a poor family, I expected to see the same level of poverty that I witnessed in Egypt. I think the poverty level in the USA is different compared to any poor country in the Middle East because the United States has some assistance programs for families in need and unemployed people. Although people also struggle here, they know that there is support from the government that they can expect. In my opinion, this support should be available in other countries as well, because there is probably no other way to overcome poverty and free people from this unhappiness.
I have been to Egypt two times. That was the first time I was around really poor people. Poverty in Egypt is forcing people to do illegal activities in order to provide money to their families. A friend of mine is Qatari, and her father needed a kidney transplant, so their first choice was to travel to Egypt because the poor people there are willing to sell their kidneys. I asked her how they could find the person, and she told me there was a doctor who helped them to buy the kidney from a poor person.
When I asked her about the cost of the kidney, she told me it was about 5000$-6000$. Many of the wealthy people in the Middle East would go to Jordan or Egypt for that kind of surgery because even the doctors there would not refuse to do the surgery, although they knew that the person bought the kidney illegally. In 2016, Egyptian authorities arrested doctors, nurses, and professors who were involved in an international organ trafficking ring. Before I came to the United States, I knew that even the greatest country in the world has a dark side, just like the third world countries. The first time that I saw a homeless person in my life was in Paris; I was shocked because I had believed that European countries were modern, rich, and liberal, but like any country in the Middle East, they had some serious issues too when it came to poverty.
It was not easy for me to understand that some people can lose their jobs, homes, and themselves. They would become drug addicts or criminals. However, drug addiction and criminality also influence the poverty levels, and people are stuck in this vicious circle. People from other countries who live in better conditions might not understand the problem at first, but it shapes the lives of thousands of families, their values, understanding of the world, and their relationships within the family and with friends. Poverty and crime are often interconnected. For example, poverty often makes family members work hard and eat less for their children, which leads to stress and anxiety, and then depression. Mental illnesses, especially if they are untreated, can be very dangerous to a person; they can interfere with work, personal life, and even lead to death.
At the same time, a poor person cannot do anything with this problem because he or she does not have the money. The only way out is to engage in illegal activities that often prosper in poor districts. As I have shown with Egypt as an example, poverty is beneficial to those people who control illegal activities and earn money by providing poor people with necessary services (such as organ transplantation, loans, smuggling, and so on). Poor people often use drugs to forget what is happening to them or because they are already addicted to drugs. Since they often cannot purchase something legally, they have to commit crimes such as robbery, theft, or assaults. They can be arrested, their house or apartment can be taken from them because of the unpaid credits, and people end up on the street. My belief about the European countries as rich ones was shattered, and I realized that the economic growth of a country and its image do not always indicate that there is no poverty there.
As I have already noticed at the beginning of the paper, different cultures can influence and interact with each other and lead to both negative and positive events. For example, racism is one of the major issues that also relates to poverty and tensions in society. More and more Americans see racism as a big issue in the USA and start paying attention to it (Strauss par. 1). Approximately 53% of Whites believe that something needs to be done to equal the rights of white and black citizens (Strauss par. 3). Of course, many black people think that this issue needs to be resolved (to be more precise, almost 75% of the black people who took part in the research think like that) (Strauss par. 5).
I believe that despite the difficulties that countries with diverse populations often have, it is reasonable to address such issues as racism at the official level. Racism also leads to poverty and inequality in society and often results in even greater poverty levels because some of the society members cannot pursue their dreams due to discrimination at work, low wage, and lack of support from the government. When I reflect on my work with Sophie, I often think that she will probably face racism too one day, although she does not yet understand what it is. I learned that when people live in such conditions from childhood on, they possibly think that nothing can be done about the problem. I remember Sophie’s mother who looked sad and often tired because the poverty did not allow her to plan her life and the life of her children in a better way; they had to struggle with problems that inequality, racism, and cultural misunderstandings created.
The work with the girl and her family has shown me that it is not the cultures that often divide us but the conditions in our lives. Poor people do not understand rich people and rich people think that poverty can be defeated by poor people if they try hard enough (but it is not always so). I think that society needs to be reorganized differently to decrease the poverty rates and the inequality among society members. We need to pay more attention to the role of privileges in our life and need to understand that poverty is a complex issue that can be very different in various countries.
From my experience, I understood that assistance programs were often crucial for people with minimum wages because they prevented them from engaging in criminal activities. The United States should pay attention to social welfare and see what other policies can help reduce poverty rates. I believe that higher income for everybody and better quality of life will have a positive impact on the economy of the United States and its citizens. The access to education remains very limited, especially to those people who cannot afford it and have to choose other options. Education should not be seen as a privilege that is only available to rich people or those who have enough money to pay for college. The limited access to education directly relates to high poverty rates (Slade par. 12). Therefore, more educated citizens should be seen by the government as the priority. However, poverty and lack of education often remain unaddressed.
Cultural and racial diversity is a complicated issue that is also influenced by poverty levels, criminal activities, drug abuse, and unemployment. Assistance programs can improve the situation, but they are not enough to resolve the problem of poverty. We need to perceive inequality and racism as the biggest problems in the USA that lead to high poverty rates.
ABC News. “Study Shows Kids Tethered to Technology.” ABC News, 2010,
CIA. “The World Factbook.” Central Intelligence Agency, 2017.
LeBaron, Michelle. Culture and Conflict. University of Colorado, 2003.
National Low Income Housing Coalition. “How Much Do You Need to Earn to Afford a Modest Apartment.” NLIHC, n.d.
Office of the Historian. “The India-Pakistan War of 1965.” Department of State, n.d.
Pew Research Center. “III. The American Experience.” PRS, 2012.
————- “V. Politics, Values and Religion.” PRS, 2012.
PursueGod. “Causes of Poverty in America.” Pursue God, n.d. 2017.
Slade, Sean. “Poverty Affects Education — and Our Systems Perpetuate It.” The Huffington Post, 2015.
Strauss, Valerie. “How Different Groups of Americans View Racism in U.S. Society.” The Washington Post, 2016.
USCB. “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015.” United States Census Bureau, 2016.