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Living Cross-cultured #2: breaking the racial stereotype

May. 4, 2018
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With plentiful stereotypes and omnipresent systemic racism, biculturalism is seen as an uncommon topic of discussion. But I personally find this concept an important one in today’s society—especially in a world where discrimination and hatred still exist. The blending of two completely different cultures has many benefits, socially and economically, and it represents peace, unity, and openness. 

What biculturalism basically refers to is the incorporation of one culture into another; a very conventional example would be an American-born Mexican. Their upbringing by Mexican parents whilst being exposed to the saturated culture of America would define them as bicultural, because they are interchanging two distinct cultures. Their exposure to more than one cultures has many advantages—critical thinking, acceptance of different perspectives, and understanding of cultural differences, to name a few. So what if this was a way to break the barriers of racial division?

As I mentioned before, biculturalism represents unity and peace; people who are bicultural can act as mediators and a link between cultures, therefore raising awareness of their dissimilarities. Awareness of these differences can encourage an understanding between people from different countries and places, which can perhaps lessen the pervasive nature of racism. I feel as if society has established strict racial stereotypes and has brainwashed us into possessing race-related expectations (i.e. Asians are obedient because of strict parents, Latina women are “hot-tempered”), so it comes as no surprise that minorities and people of color face discrimination or misconceptions

As a bicultural person myself, I’ve lived through being the average Filipino and the average Brit and have faced some of these experiences I mentioned before. I remember working at a traditional British home furniture and haberdashery shop at the centre of the town in which I grew up. Being the only person of color, I was often overlooked and ignored by customers, perceived as unable to do my job properly. It’s not just in England that I experience these kind of misconceptions; I visited the Philippines several years ago for the first time since moving out the country, and my family—half of whom I didn’t know—looked down at me like a pretentious brat with a posh accent. Although I had Filipino blood in me, I wasn’t familiar with the environment—something they couldn’t grasp onto and understand after my being away for so long. This type of ignorance, which comes from that strict division between these two cultures, is what I personally believe causes racism towards people like me. The idea of biculturalism seems to be perceived as a threat to cultural identity, as the fear of the unknown is incorporated into something familiar. According to a commentary by Mistry and Wu, “divergence between the cultural beliefs, values and practices of these countries... and those of the United States has led many Americans to view these immigrant groups as a threat to American National Identity.”

I guess this kind of response to something that represents union comes from that strong sense of pride and nationalism. It’s understandable to feel that way about the culture one was brought up in—I still fervently celebrate my heritage from time to time—and there’s no reason to argue against this. It’s the negative connotations surrounding biculturalism that vex me. I used to think being bicultural meant I was an outcast—but, after some thought, I’ve come to realize that this type of thinking was contradictory. How can something so integrating make you feel left out? 

To conclude, I believe that being exposed to and learning about more than one culture can lead society towards the elimination of racial stereotypes. In effect, therefore, multiculturalism’s benefits lie in its versatility. It can lead us to unite as humans, spreading the love and happiness required to finally create a peaceful world.