Cultural Self Assessment
If I had to describe myself in regards to this paper’s agenda, I would say that I am a White middle class female. I have lived in Spanish Fork, Utah my whole life. This is a relatively small town located about fifteen minutes south of Utah Valley University. Most of the people in my city are White and of some European descent and the other population in the town (for the most part) are Latins. I would consider myself what all the proud Spanish Forkers call “a long time Spanish Forker.” This is a simple phrase, but it means that you have had family who has lived here for generations.
I am a sixth generation Spanish Forker. I know my family came mainly from England and Denmark before they were in Spanish Fork, but I do not connect with my European heritage nearly as much as I connect with my American heritage. The biggest impact that European culture has had on me is that English is my primary language. There are a few reasons that I feel like I connect more with my American geographic region compared to my European geographic decent.
One of the biggest reasons comes from the influence of my religion. Utah people are generally known by the rest of America as “the Mormons.” I guess I can call myself that, but I think I can speak for most of the Mormon culture when I say, we would rather be called the name which is taken from the name of our church: “LDS (latter day saint).” The reason for this being that the word “Mormon” has had a negative connotation since the 1800s when the church was began. To sum it up, many people did not like the Mormons because they thought that what we believed was exotic and strange, so because of this, Mormons suffered lots of persecution which kept pushing them west and eventually lead them to a dessert area called the Salt Lake Valley. The prophet of the church, President Brigham Young, had the Saints start settlements and cities around the Salt Lake Valley. Spanish Fork was one of those cities.
My ancestors were part of that bunch that helped settle Spanish Fork, and through the generations, for the most part, we have all stayed predominantly LDS. Many people that I have grown up with are LDS, and although this is a religion, religion can always influence a culture in good ways and bad ways. I have seen this culture develop over the last 20 years I have lived in Spanish Fork.
One of our biggest religious practices that has influenced culture, is serving a mission or teaching people about our church all over the world. To serve a mission, a guy has to at least be eighteen and serves for two years, while a girl has to be at least nineteen. Although we don’t preach this, it is a common misconception that whether you are a guy or girl, if you don’t serve a mission, you have not led much of an impressive life as those who have. Occasionally, those who don’t serve missions are seen on a lower level in the social scale among the LDS community. You can probably guess how some who are not LDS are seen on a different social scale. Sometimes kids grow up and will only hang out with those who are LDS and not necessarily exclude others, but they will not include them. It is heart breaking and something that I have never done or plan to ever do, but it is something that everyone has noticed if they have lived in Spanish Fork.
Growing up in Spanish Fork, I have seen this socioeconomic scale develop over time. When I was a kid, Spanish Fork was still really small and had an estimated populated of about 20,000. It has doubled since then. The additional people are either Spanish Fork kids who have grown up and decided to start families while continuing to live in Spanish Fork, or they are Latins who have moved here and settled in over the past ten years. It was really interesting to see the diversity grow and see how people reacted to it.
Most people residing in Spanish Fork, like myself are White, Mormon, and have a middle class standing in the socioeconomic scale. I would like to talk about the difference between Whites and Latins and how the difference between race and culture influence the socioeconomic scale. Some of this paper will still be referring Spanish Fork because regardless of what I have heard in the media about the rest of the world, my whole life has been Spanish Fork, and I have definitely seen an influence on the socioeconomic scale in Whites and Latins.
When the Latins who were mostly from Mexico started populating Spanish Fork, things changed. On the good side, we had lots of additional Mexican restaurants. Nobody was frustrated about that! On the down side, we saw an unspoken segregation take place. For the most part, the Latins would only talk to each other at school, work, or even church settings. When I was old enough to realize what was going on, I was initially offended and confused as to why they did not seem to talk with the “Spanish Forkers.” I thought that maybe they don’t care about talking to us, so I hardly ever talked to them. After taking this class and having some additional experience, I understand why they stick to themselves and people of their culture, dominant language, and religion. I put myself in their shoes and I realized if I was trying so desperately to get in America to have a better life for me and my kids, and the one place I settled had a dominantly completely different language, religion, and culture, I would feel inferior because I would look like the strange one. I would feel as if I was always being watched. I think all minorities feel this way at some point regardless of their personality or circumstance.
For once, I put myself in the shoes of the minority, and I began to understand why it is so hard for them. I did this in high school when I noticed the unspoken segregation taking place. I noticed how long time Spanish Forkers and Latins looked like they wanted to interact, but mostly did not because they were afraid of what the other culture or their own would think of them. They were afraid of how it would define them, and in high school, social status was everything in the group that you were in. They also did not know how to interact with the other culture because they never did growing up, and they did not want to make a fool of themselves and change the norm.
That was probably my least favorite part of high school; however, in the community outside of school, I have noticed that is much easier for a Latin and a White person to communicate and get along with each other. Although Spanish Fork has had its obstacles when it has come to multiple cultures connecting, I think we are doing a lot better than we were at communicating interculturally in comparison to ten years ago. I think it is because we understand each other and our cultures more.
Not only in Spanish Fork, but in additional areas all around the United States, Latins tend to have the blue collar jobs that the middle class people don’t want. Some may say this is because of the education level that varies between Latins and Whites in knowing English and having graduated from high school or college. While to an extent, education does influence our career choices, it has taken a long time for the Whites to realize that the Latins value their culture and their family more than anything.
Again, I”ll put things in perspective. These Latins that come from Mexico or elsewhere in Central and South America, usually come here to escape poverty and to give their child a life without hunger and a chance to be educated. They come here to give their kids and sometimes even themselves, the opportunity to achieve more than they could elsewhere. They want to give themselves the opportunity for a better life here in America. Most of the time, Latins know that it is not going to be everything that they thought. They have heard the stories from the media about racism and how hard it is for immigrants (illegal or not) to have an income of a typical middle-class White American male. It usually does not happen nine out of ten times, but even though they are aware the reality, they will do anything it takes to have a semi-better life in America. This means they will take the blue collar jobs that nobody wants or they will go to the school that is more affordable, and sometimes a little more dangerous of an environment. For the most part, they are totally okay with being the underdog on the social scale, if it means that they have a job, their family won’t starve, and they can work there way up to becoming something great in America.
Whites sometimes forget where the Latins have come from. We get frustrated because they change the dynamics of this nation. This includes health insurance, taxes, national debt, etc. While these are all valid points, White people need to realize where these people are coming from and be proud that our nation can help them. We shouldn’t complain when an immigrant takes a blue collar job that we would never look into. I’ve accepted that more than half the time I go to a fast food venue, the worker is going to usually be a Latina mom who is just happy to have a job. Although I don’t like to admit it, since I am a White female who was a born a citizen of the United States, I already am going to have so many more privilege and automatic opportunities in education and career choice than an illegal Latina. And even though Latins are so flexible and accommodating in the academic and financial world, they would take more opportunities to learn and grow, if their lifestyles would allow them to do so.
Growing up I had always been taught that no matter what I see around me, everyone is equal and I should treat everyone the same. My parents had grilled that into my brain. I was taught that we were all children of God and no matter what are race, socioeconomic class, or gender, we were all seen as equal. Although Spanish Fork did not have a lot of diversity when I was young, it had enough for me to see how my parents, family, and friends interacted with those were racially different or had less money than them. There was a family in my neighborhood that was not LDS and never went to church. Fortunately my parents were not weird and let my brother hang out with one of their boys, and allowed me to go on dates with the other. On multiple occasions, our friend’s mom would confront my mom with various challenges in being a different religion than others. For example, my mom would always tell her that she should not have to go through seeing her kids get rejected in friendships and relationships at school, and that people should be nicer. To that she would reply “I know, but that’s just how it is.” This taught me a lesson. Unfortunately, we all have to deal with the fact that conflict in many different kinds of cultures is not fair but that is how it is. No matter what the social norms are among race, religion, and culture, we all know that we should treat each other equally. I am grateful I had parents that lived by that philosophy.
Although I am culturally informed through the media, I mostly am informed through what I have experienced just being alive. The only time I have really studied a culture in a classroom setting would be this semester. I have never talked so openly and matter-of-factly about the differences in race, gender, and socioeconomics in cultures. My intercultural communication class has definitely increased my awareness of the variety in cultures and the various demographics and customs that make a culture.
The latest talk in the media regarding Latins has been the building of a wall as a consequence of Donald Trump being President of the United States. Many Americans are frustrated about this wall being built, and the media has really taken advantage of this. They are displaying videos of families that tell the press things like “I don’t think I will see my mommy anymore if Donald Trump becomes president.” The videos that liberal sided news comes out with, shows the Latin kids who are already in poverty or a lower class socioeconomically, and the struggle they are having with Trump building the wall because they don’t know how long they will be with their families. Some Americans believe that Trump will tear families apart as consequence of building the wall. The point of the wall is to prevent additional illegal immigration. While the United States is accepting of immigrants, most citizens prefer that immigrants migrate legally.
We can see how the media has taken a crisis like the wall being built and has easily provoked the already tender emotions of a group of people. They provoke emotions in all groups of sensitive people. That is their audience. When people get the sources strictly from the media that sides with their opinion, they will believe all the lies that the media tells them because it makes them feel justified in their emotions. Although emotions and being satisfied that the media is on your side is nice, it is a dangerous path that leads to more discrimination in sub-cultures of gender, race, and socioeconomic class. Different news outlets in the United States make lots of money because they will choose to write stories that will target a group of politics and will attract a lot of people in that specific political group because the things they write about (regardless of the truthfulness about them) match that group’s overall opinion.
This class has been so interesting and has really opened my mind and broadened my perspective about the world in which I live. I am anxious to learn more about different cultures. I want to talk about why so many cultures keep traditions even though it does not keep up with the new technology and the way the world is developing. I would also like to address Middle Eastern culture. All I really know about the Middle East is that the United States has fought over there. Since we have a native Hawaiian in the class, my interest for Hawaii has perked, and I want to know how similar it is to the United States. It seems like a complete different country to me.
Reflecting on my topic comparing Latins and Whites and how that influences both of those groups socioeconomically, I would like to know the whys. I wonder if, collectively, Latin Americas truly do not want to make more money than is necessary for survival or if they just know that is impossible to do because they are Latin. I would also like to study how the difference in race in socioeconomic class affects students in a high school setting. I know there will always be separation, but I feel like over the past ten years especially, we have come a long way in interaction regarding these two sub-cultures. Lastly, I would like to know why cultures who live in isolation are okay with living in isolation instead of moving to America (or another capitalist society) where they can learn the current technologies, philosophies, and excitements of the modern world.