Thursday, August 26, 2010

Listen To My Side of The Story

By Djene Keita,

We live in a diverse country which embraces multiculturalism by welcoming people from different parts of the world. Every day, we have this huge opportunity to expand our knowledge of the multiple cultures existing in the U.S.A. just by the simple fact of being exposed to them at school, the workplace, on the street, train and many other places. Yet, when we make a good observation of the way we interact among each other today, it becomes obvious that many of us today do not realize the grandeur of the chance we have to be exposed to the beautiful cultures which America embodies. The misrepresentation of different countries and cultures on mass media such as TV, Radio and the Internet have created misconceptions which account for the stereotypical and judgmental behavior we have developed toward  those inaccurately represented cultures and countries; and, it also accounts for the way we interact with their people.
Media plays a significant role in shaping the way we perceive other people and their culture. In fact, it is the base of the cultural misconception and misrepresentation residing in the mind of people of different culture. Many of you will agree with me that when we watch a documentary on TV or read news about a certain culture, we automatically believe whatever information is provided to us. We then construct stereotypical assumptions based on that information which we consequently use to define those place or portray the people from those cultures. And for many of us, the first thing we do when in presence of people from those cultures and countries is to let our stereotypical beliefs and judgmental attitude get in the way we interact with those people. Consequently, we may become reluctant to socialize with them and therefore fail to know what they have to say about their way of life. Many of us might be unaware of this but, we only hear one side of the story about different cultures and countries and, that side of the story is the one media presents to us.

Don’t you think that the best way to learn about a specific ethnic group is to ask those people about their background? Although media informs us about the Hispanic culture, it does not more than my Hispanic co-officer who is annoyed  to hear people qualifying Hispanic's as drunk party lovers. Similarly, media is neither more informative than my other co-officer who was so glad that the 2010 World Cup took place in Africa because, it was an opportunity to show the world that Africa is not entirely impoverished, at war and in famine but, there is also joy and, the people there do not live a savage life . I, myself was also shocked to hear my ex-boss ignorantly asking my African co-worker how she got the money to come to America because he believes that Africa is so poor that the people cannot afford to travel to this great continent. I have to say I felt pity for his ignorance. Only if he had taken the time to ask her about her country and continent, he would have had a better idea and understanding of where she comes from instead of completely relying on what he had learnt through media about African cultures and countries.
Like my ex-boss, we all make this kind of mistake and many of us are the victims. It is important to understand that this is not something which betters our community; rather, it creates an environment in our schools and community where people barely if not interact  with other people from cultures and countries different than theirs. And this I believe is firstly due to the misconceptions we already have in our mind's about those people; our behavior reflects our beliefs. A good example of this is observed in our classrooms where Hispanics, Asians, Africans,American etc… tend to sit near people of their similar background. Additionally, when we take a closer look at our friends list on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace, we can easily notice that most of our friends are people with whom we share a culture or country and sometimes a common interest. The bad thing about this however is that, we do not learn anything from those people that participate in increasing our understanding of the rest of the world. We tweet and facebook about the same things which we already know. And sometimes, we might find ourselves even tweeting or facebooking about stereotypes or inaccurate news about other cultures and countries on these networks.
As part of the world community college which is LaGuardia CC, we have the power to break those obscure bonds that media has created between us. The most effective way of setting our mind free from misconception and misrepresentation about cultures and countries different than ours is to ask. Through asking one another about our culture and countries, we do not only improve our school and community by eliminating stereotypical beliefs but, we also expand our horizons and knowledge of other cultures and countries by hearing the other side of the story which better rounded. Through asking questions, we can see that we relate to one another and,  realize that at the end, we are not as different as we think. Let’s embrace cultural diversity, and stop stereotyping without hearing the other side of the story. 

I thought this video was very related to this issue of misconception and misrepresentation of people and their culture although she focused on her own experience and it is not really tied to media.
"Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding."



  1. Kevin Giovanni MaganaAugust 27, 2010 at 1:34 AM

    What an engaging topic. There are just so many ways to tackle this. I strongly agree with the idea that stereotypes are not untrue; they are more like a fraction of the truth. Its like statistics. You cannot use .01% of whole to represent 100% of that whole. By far. And to add, life and the people who live in, are much more complex than statistics. One area where I will add my personal opinion would be that I believe it is wrong to counter-stereotype that all Americans think of Africans, Mexicans, and other cultures from a single sided story. People are also aware of what is going on around the world with a more complete and balanced point of view. Where is the issue then? I believe that the issue is still that the masses do accept what they see on the media, and the media, in efforts to make their quotas, will choose these one-sided stories they believe would be more interesting for their viewers to see and read. Paradoxically, if most of the people did have a more complete and balanced view of the world and its many different cultures, this issue would no longer be an issue. Consequently, people might then no longer be focused on the dire need that Africa does have in Aid (Food, Money, Medicine, Water). The effects would surely cause Africa and its many countries to suffer because according to the media, yes there are some inhumane things going on, but look at how good their innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs are doing. They will be just fine without our help. I believe the idea that you Djene and the speaker of the TED talks were suggesting was that all individuals should inquire about everything. The message would be "figure it out on your own and don't let those you see on T.V., Radio, Internet and etc. tell you what to think". People are not defined by one story. Nazis used propaganda media to portray all Jewish people as wealthy, white and big nose individuals who counted their money to the last penny. The matter of the fact is that they were and still are very flamboyant people who celebrate holidays, pray to their god, work, go to school, play sports and much more. People sometimes have a need to feel superior to others and stereotyping a whole race makes the people of that race inferior. They must be in order to be so simple as the stereotype suggests right?

  2. very interesting article, great work Djene. I also totally agree with kevin.
    For example, before 9/11 america has little interest in Islamic culture and so has media. But right after the incident, we can now see that people are getting interested in learning the culture. Although there is also a big peril side of that. America now try to explain the culture of those countries from their own point of view and media is the main culprit. So, we might always find big issue in those countries but may be that is not a big issue. You can't really judge how big is moon from the earth.


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