Discussions on Cultural Identity
On December 16, Pathway interns and advisors held a meeting on Zoom to discuss cultural identity, and what that means for young individuals in America. We divided ourselves out into breakout rooms, and each room had unique discussions on culture, race, religion, and much more. Each discussion was filled with thought-provoking, interesting, and deep questions with which interns replied personal anecdotes and ideas.
Some discussions talked about harmful or uncomfortable stereotypes. Interns said that these stereotypes have become increasingly normalized, and many now believe they are less harmful because of it. These stereotypes are also often exaggerated or romanticized in mass media (TV shows, movies, etc.). An example of such stereotypes includes Asian American kids and their relation to science and math subjects in school. Many believe that Asian American kids are naturally better at these subjects, and many become shocked, disappointed, or upset when someone does not excel in that area. There are numerous examples of this stereotype in media such as Netflix shows, movies, and more. Is there a solution to combating these stereotypes? The short answer is yes, but the long answer includes years of work to backtrack on these harmful stereotypes. We need to include more diversity and personality in mass media that will continue to stray away from harmful stereotypes. Many interns had personal stories that they also shared. Some include sports, video games, school, and other extracurriculars.
The interns also discussed the importance of race, culture, and ethnicity in defining themselves. Many interns are of Asian American descent, which brings up many questions about identity in their Asian heritage as well as American culture. Many said they sometimes feel ostracized or ashamed of their culture, and they feel pressure to assimilate into American society as much as possible. Many interns also discussed that their two cultures can live in harmony. They can have practices and values from one culture while living in a different one. Many also experience different family dynamics than their other American peers, which can sometimes make it more difficult to assimilate into American “society.”
A large part of the discussions in all breakout rooms was the idea of the model minority, which is a minority group perceived to have higher socioeconomic success than average, thus serving as a reference group to outgroups. Interns shared their personal experiences with the model minority myth, and many said it is a harmful myth that splits minorities apart and fuels internalized racism across ethnicities.
Overall, each discussion was filled with deep, thought-provoking questions, ideas, stories, and anecdotes that helped everyone understand the vast world of cultural identity better.