What is Multicultural Awareness?
is a greater understanding, sensitivity, and appreciation of the
history, values, experiences, and lifestyles of groups that include,
but, are not limited to:
Why Should I Become
and unity between groups occur as we interact more with, become
more aware about, and become better educated about one another.
It's a cause for celebration when we are willing to take risks
regarding our multicultural growth. Challenge yourself to unlock
your endless capacity for multicultural awareness. It's up to
you to do your part in creating a society where there is greater
understanding and awareness between the groups.
What Are Some
Benefits of Becoming More Multiculturally Aware?
Gain Greater Self-Awareness
Gain Greater Awareness
Develop New Friendships
Develop Better Interpersonal
Become Better Able
to Challenge Stereotypes and Prejudices
Promote More Healing
and Harmony Between Groups
Become Better Equipped to Live in a Multicultural World
What Are Some Pointers
One step in building
the bridge toward racial harmony and tearing down the walls of
racism is that of interracial communication. While we all know
that it is sometimes emotionally difficult and risky to speak
candidly, openly, and honestly about race, it is only through
this type of dialogue that we are able to become more aware, sensitive,
and knowledgeable about each other. Given that the topic of race
can be a sensitive and emotional area, it's important to keep
a few pointers in mind.
- Do use "I"
- Do listen with
- Do restate
what you've heard about a person's experience.
- Do allow questions,
no matter how trivial they may seem to you.
- Do encourage
clarification and elaboration by asking for examples.
- Don't try to
debate or downplay a person's experience.
- Don't blame
a person for the "sins" of their racial group.
What Are Racial Stereotypes?
Racial stereotypes are
automatic and exaggerated mental pictures that we hold about all
members of a particular racial group. When we stereotype people
based on race, we don't take into account individual differences.
Because our racial stereotypes are so rigid, we tend to ignore
or discard any information that is not consistent with the stereotype
that we have developed about the racial group.
How Do We Develop
We develop our racial
stereotypes in a variety of ways. On a very simplistic level,
it's human nature to categorize people. It's our way of making
a complex world simpler. From an early age, we learn to place
people and objects into categories. However, when we're very young,
we tend to put less of an emphasis on attributing values to these
categories. As we grow older and are influenced by parents, peers,
and the media, our tendency to label different racial groups as
superior/good or inferior/bad increases significantly. Additionally,
the less contact we have with a particular racial group, the more
likely we will have negative feelings about the group. Also, any
negative experiences that we have with a member of a particular
group will strengthen our racial stereotypes and create fears
about particular races. Based on our fears, we then develop an
us-versus-them mentality that tends to be self-protective in nature.
As a result, we miss opportunities to learn and thrive from our
Are Our Racial Stereotypes
Some people might say,
"There's no harm in having racial stereotypes or making racial/ethnic
jokes based on stereotypes. People these days are so politically
correct and should just loosen up. Anyway, there's always a kernel
of truth in every stereotype." In some instances, all of the above
might be true. However, in most cases, racial stereotypes are
harmful because they ignore the full humanity and uniqueness of
all people. When our perceptions of different races are distorted
and stereotypical, it's demeaning, devaluing, limiting, and hurtful
to others. In some cases, people who are repeatedly labeled in
negative ways will begin to develop feelings of inferiority. Some
times, these feelings of inferiority can lead to self-fulfilling
prophecies that perpetuate the stereotype. Racial stereotypes
can also foster feelings of hate and aggression that might lead
to a false sense of entitlement and superiority. For those individuals
who have power, this can lead to their engaging in discriminatory
and racist practices.
How Do We Overcome
Our Racial Stereotypes?
Because of their harmful
effects, we should make a real commitment to try to overcome our
racial stereotypes. This can be achieved by first acknowledging
that we're human and that we do harbor racial stereotypes. Next,
we should work to become more aware of our inner thoughts and
feelings and how they affect our beliefs and actions. When we
have a stereotypical thought about a racial group, we should follow
it up with an alternative thought based on factual information
that discounts the stereotype. We can obtain this factual information
by leaving our comfort zones and exposing ourselves to people
of different races. Also, we should be willing to engage in honest
dialogue with others about race that at times might be difficult,
risky, and uncomfortable. We should also seek out media portrayals
of different races that are realistic and positive. Attending
churches, plays, concerts, and movies that celebrate diversity
will also broaden our worldviews. As we gain more awareness and
knowledge about racial groups, not only will our racial stereotypes
lessen, but we will also become better equipped to educate and
challenge others about their racial stereotypes. As we change
ourselves, we can elicit changes in others through our examples
and the quality of our conversations. In doing this, we work to
create a society in which all races are valued, appreciated, and
What's Your Multicultural
Fill in the Blank
with a Multicultural Group
- When you hear
the term ______, what thoughts or images regarding their
behaviors, attitudes, and lifestyles come to mind?
- What do you
admire or respect about ______?
- What experiences
have you had that had the greatest impact on your present feelings
- How have significant
others in your life influenced your attitudes about ______?
- If you haven't
had much contact with ______, what prevents this from
- When you have a prejudicial
thought or hear a prejudicial remark, how do you handle it?
- What will you do
today to increase your multicultural awareness?
- Celebrate a Multicultural
- Visit an Ethnic Art
Gallery or Museum
- Volunteer at a School
or Agency with a Diverse Population
- Attend a Church
or Synagogue that Has a Diverse Congregation
- Visit Your Office
of Multicultural Student Affairs
- Learn a Foreign Language
or Sign Language
- Invite a Friend to
Lunch Who Is Multiculturally Different From You
- Take a Cultural Diversity
- Go to an Ethnic Restaurant
- Watch a Movie or
Play with Racially Diverse Actors/Actresses
- Listen to Music
by Artists Who Are Multiculturally Different From You
- Join a Club
Committed to Diversity Issues
- Have Chat Sessions
Concerning Diversity Issues
Pavilion at the University of Virginia
Diversity Database, University of Maryland