Culture Awareness Essay

I was planning to take a leisurely trip this summer, but now I think
I’ll have to change my plans. Instead I’ll probably have to take a crash
course in Sensitivity for the Culturally Unaware. Maybe it’s because I grew
up in Chicago, perhaps the most culturally diverse city in the country.

Maybe it’s because I have a mulatto niece and nephew. Maybe it’s because my
cousin’s last name is now Hernandez. Maybe it’s because my wife’s cousin
is a Native American. Or maybe it’s because we Poles have borne the brunt
of more jokes than any other ethnic group, but all this time I thought I
was aware of other cultures and the feelings of members of other ethnic
groups and minorities. Now I guess I’m not. At least my union newsletter,
the BEA_Messenger, says I’m not in an article on multicultural awareness. I
for one take pride in our nation’s history in regard to minorities.

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Minority groups founded this nation. The religious groups who felt the
pressure of persecution in their homelands came here to begin new lives,
and eventually a new nation. The ethnic groups that came in a great flood
of immigrants came to escape the economic oppression of their homelands.

Those groups, too, found a way to become part of the American experience.

They didn’t need, nor did they demand, any laws requiring acceptance into
society. Kindness, tolerance and respect are things that can only be
earned, not handed down by legislative decree. Those things mandated by law
never reach into the fiber of our country. They never take root in our
psyches. In fact, as we have too often seen, legislative decrees that
mandate how we should act or feel lead to only more dissension and
divisiveness. Great strides have been taken on the road to equality.

Despite claims to the contrary, women have more opportunity now to succeed
than ever before. Today, fifty percent of law school graduates are female.

Where twenty years ago perhaps 5000 women were industrial engineers, today
that profession consists of 175000 females. Blacks, too, have made great
strides. They are now mayors, governors, and judges. They hold positions
of authority in almost every segment of our country. We as a nation by and
large have indeed accepted minorities into the fold of this culture,
particularly when those minorities have done much to earn our respect. The
February 21, 1992, issue of the Messenger, however, suggests that I am not
multiculturally aware enough. It suggests that things I say or feel may be
taken as derogatory. It smacks of a political correctness and Big
Brotherhood, which, if we honestly appraise it, does more to hinder our
First Amendment rights than any oppressive behavior of the past. I am
multiculturally aware enough already without having my union trying to
convince me that I am not. I am particularly upset by the implication that
remarks I may or may not make are derogatory and multiculturally unaware. I
think, and believe, that people should be treated equally. I also believe
that much of what is deemed to be “multiculturally aware” is just plain
silly. And some of the things in the Messenger article point to this. It
is true that “few of us…think that women are the weaker sex.” It is
equally true that most of realize that, unless her name is Bertha or
Beulah, few women can bench press the same weight as men, or hit a golf
ball as far as Jack Nicklaus. Admittedly, many attractive women have the
physical capabilities of the ancient Amazons, but they usually go by the
name of “Blaze” or “Dementia” and appear regularly on American_Gladiators
or Roller_Derby. Yes, I do become “impatient with elderly people who drive
more slowly” than I do. But, it’s not because they are elderly. It’s
because I don’t want to wreck the front end of my car by running into back
end of a car that is going 35 mph on an interstate highway. After drunk
driving, the majority of auto accidents are caused by drivers going under
the posted speed limits. I do not, however, become impatient with elderly
people who “stow their change before moving from the check-out counter.”
They’re not stowing their change. The experience of their years has taught
them that half the cashiers in the country don’t know how to make change,
and they’re just making sure they don’t get gypped. I now have to suspect
the wisdom of saying certain things, according to the Messenger. Saying of
my son, “He’s all boy,” is wrong now. So, too, is saying that he and his
friends are “acting like a bunch of savages.” So I can’t tell them to “sit
Indian style” for a while and behave themselves. I don’t understand this
at all. I certainly don’t want an hermaphrodite for a son. But if he was,
I still wouldn’t want him acting like a savage when we are supposedly
civilized. As for the act of sitting on the floor cross-legged, which is
not to be confused with the sitting position of meditation known as the
Lotus position, I can think of no other way to say it other than Indian
style. By the time I got, “sit on the floor cross-legged, etc….” out of
my mouth, my son and his friends would turn into all boys again and start
running around like savages. The Messenger asks if I feel that a boy who
plays with dolls is less masculine. Boys have always played with toy
soldiers. Today’s G.I. Joe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures
are still dolls by any other name. When they start playing “Let’s dress
like Barbie,” though, I think it’s time to worry. I’m not willing to have
my son put on a dress at an early age just to see if he turns out like
Ernest Hemingway. I must admit that at times I must remind him to stop
being “all boy” and that his sister is not a member of the evil Cobra Force
or Foot Clan. Next, the Messenger asks if I feel that eating a pig is more
acceptable than eating a dog. As I am neither Jewish nor vegetarian, in
which case I would really be upset by the question, I will pretty much eat
anything on the plate as long as it isn’t still moving. Any Pole who can
slurp down a bowl of czardnina (duck blood soup to those of you who are
culturally unaware) ought to be able to handle a portion or two of Rover
ala Carte. I am wondering, though, how this eating of dogs fits into the
agenda of the animal rights activists. Are they planning to travel to
Eastern countries and tell them to stop eating dogs and start chewing down
a few brats and beer instead just to keep the pigs represented equally on
the world’s dinner table? In perhaps a final attempt to make its point, the
Messenger asks how I would feel if a black family bought the house next
door. Given that my brother-in-law was black, I supposed I should be the
one who is insulted by this question. It’s just as silly as the other
points made in the article. Nobody in their right mind wants anybody
living next door to them. All of us would probably prefer that our nearest
neighbors were forty miles away and the only way they could contact us was
by dog sled. Since we can’t have that ideal, we settle for anybody who can
kill dandelions and cuts their grass on a regular basis. We would also
require that they keep their dog from pooping in our yard. We would like
them to do the same things with their kids, not have a lot of large, loud
parties, and not have the cops pull up in front of their house every other
night. Most of us have never given much thought to the question, but when
we do, we decide we don’t give a hoot. I don’t presume to know about other
cultures. My perceptions of other cultures can only be based on
experience. That is why I plan on attending that Summer Camp for the
Culturally Unaware. I do have one condition to place upon my attendance at
this camp. Whoever is running the camp, perhaps even the person who wrote
the Messenger piece. has to attend a camp that I am starting down the road
from them. It’s called Summer Camp for the Multiculturally Without a Clue.

Every night we have czardnina and hot dogs for supper. Then we sit Indian
style around a campfire. Boys and girls are welcome regardless of race,
religion or creed.


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