One aspiration with regard to diversity, equity, and social justice that I have about working together with children and families who come from diverse backgrounds is to continue studying anti-bias and diversity issues. In order to be an effective advocate for marginalized and non-dominant cultures, early childhood professionals and educators must be willing to reflect on their own dispositions, values, beliefs, and biases. Without self-reflection and the willingness to learn through diverse families and communities, early childhood professionals are clueless regarding what marginalized and non-dominant cultures are struggling and facing in their lives.
One goal that I would like to set for the early childhood field related to issues of diversity, equity, and social justice is to bring forth more practical materials for novice teachers who want to start teaching multicultural curriculums and social justice. It is important that teachers and educators are supported with great research-based practices that help them present these topics of discrimination, prejudice, and bias to children in an age-appropriate platform. Many teachers, like myself who are just learning about the importance of creating safe, diverse environments of social justice must have supporting materials, resources, and curriculums to assist us in implementing such a pedagogy in a most beneficial way for families and children.
I would like to thank all my colleagues, early childhood professionals, and master teacher Dr. Meyers for creating a safe platform and learning environment for me to grow professionally. I have learned so much from all of the early childhood professionals in our classroom through their shared related stories, experiences, and knowledge. I appreciate every personal story shared because in essence sharing them made each one of us grasp a deeper comprehension of the concepts learned. Thank you for hard work and dedication Dr. Meyers and thank you, colleagues, for your continued support and professional knowledge.
Many undocumented immigrant children in the U.S. are branded as DACA children by the political arena because of a governmental program enacted by President Obama to protect them. DACA or The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was created to protect hundreds of undocumented children who were brought here illegally here by their parents because of wars in their country, poverty, or abuse (Rogers, 2018). The DACA program gave immigrant children some of the benefits that American children had naturally, for example, the right to education and medical assistance. However, president Donald Trump, decided to end the program, leaving thousands of children in danger of being deported back to countries filled with war and poverty (Rogers, 2018). In addition to these social stressors that DACA children and their families are facing, they also face a slew of other immigrant stress that is associated with discrimination, prejudice, and social inequity.
Most recently, I have seen, listened to, and read the prejudice and inhumane actions taken by our American government regarding illegal immigrant families entering this country at borders. Those especially hurt, traumatized and affected are the children being taken away from their parents sent to detention centers all over the United States. According to the Salvador Rizzo of the Washington Post new paper (2018), “detainees are being kept in bare-bones cells surrounded by tall metal fencing inside a sprawling facility with high ceilings. The facility resembled a large warehouse divided into cage-like structures housing different groups of people. … Several of the detainees wrapped themselves in the foil blankets as they sat on benches, the ground, or on modest mattress pads on the floor of the cells” (p.1).
In another facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey where immigrant men and women are detained, detainees stated that “individuals who work in the kitchens complained that the food carts, trays, and dishes are frequently left unwashed and that when they are cleaned, dirty water is used to wash them. As a result, garbage and food waste often remain on the plates and trays” (Human Rights First, 2018, p.4). They also reported that immigrant men and women are also subjected to discrimination and prejudice from the staff in the medical clinic at Elizabeth. Staff at the facility reportedly call certain detainees “criminals” and mock patients who are returning to the medical clinic. According to two detainees, one nurse discriminates against non-English speakers, allegedly telling them, “If you want to be in this country, you have to learn to speak English.” This same nurse also threatened one individual after he asked for medication, stating, “I will give you pills until you explode” (p.5). These are the narratives of helpless immigrants and refugees in detention facilities across the U.S.
Discrimination, racism, and social injustice are happening right now in the United States of America. Children are paying for the social beliefs, values, and unjust stereotypes of the dominant culture. Families should not be torn apart. Children need to be with their parents and their traumatic experiences should be put to an end. For those detained in detention centers, they should be adjudicated expeditiously and humane conditions in the facilities need to be restored. Food quality should be improved and inspected regularly to ensure that unspoiled or uncooked food is never provided. Facility operators should increase oversight of detention facility staff to prevent maltreatment and discrimination of detainees.
As far as how they are being treated, the conditions are blatant racial assaults on a physical, emotional, psychological level. Only time will tell whether the children who have been through such traumatizing experiences will be able to cognitively, physically, or psychosocially develop without consequences of delays in the future. I suspect they will incur scars for a very long time. Santa-Maria & Cornille (2007), researched the experience of migration and exposure to civil unrest among undocumented immigrants and refugees can cause depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other hosts of psychosocial issues in children and families. Their results also proved that children and families who were separated from family members during migration had slighter anxiety scores and also that PSTD diagnosis for the whole sample group was significantly higher than the general population “which was about 33%” (p.29). Most importantly the rate of children who were diagnosed was even higher than the general population “which scored about 35%” (p.29).
The feelings that these immigration injustices beckon are feelings of sadness, anger, and shame. It is sad that as human beings we have not been able to transcend injustices such as prejudice and racism in the United States. Our country seems to repeat historical atrocities that continually prove the lengths that the dominant culture will go in order to remain in power. My hope is that people in our government from all political parties can put their differences away and simply fight for the rights of humanity. We are all apart of the human race, humanity links us all. Immigrant children and familiess are no different.
ABC News. (2018, March 2). Conditions at Three New Jersey Immigration Detention Centers Are ‘Harsh and Inhumane,’ Report Says. Retrieved from ABC News New York: https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Conditions-New-Jersey-Immigration-Detention-Centers-Inhumane-Report-ICE-Asylum-475567253.html
Human Rights First Organization. (2018, February). Ailing Justice: New Jersey Inadequate Healthcare, Indifference, and Indefinite Confinement in Immigration Detention. Retrieved from Human Rights First Organization: https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/sites/default/files/Ailing-Justice-NJ.pdf
Santo-Maria, M. L., & Cornille, T. (2007). Traumatic Stress, Family Separations, and Attachment Among Latin American Immigrants. Traumatology, 26-31.
Three Different Perspectives on Culture
“Culture is everything about an individual. It is what you believe, where you come from, how you do things, the traditions you keep and practice and how you treat others. Diversity is accepting who others are despite their differences and learning how they are similar and unique from you.” Kai Curtis- Freshman at Montclair University
“Culture is your ethnic and religious background. It is also the beliefs and customs that you choose to carry on from your elders or family. Culture is the way you choose to engage with others in our society. Diversity is when you are surrounded by different cultures and respecting them regardless of your cultural beliefs. It is coexisting in an environment where everyone feels accepted, respected and included.” Barry Curtis-Middle School Teacher, NYC
“Culture is the food, music, customs, beliefs, traditions, and different perspectives a group of people shares. Diversity is being able to live in a community where all cultures are different, but they can cohabitate in a way that enhances their understanding of one another while learning to be accepting and compassionate on a human level. Diversity is a rich enhancement of how we can live and share as human beings.” Ms. Maria Montana- Early Childhood Teacher
Aspects of Diversity and Culture within the Quotes Collected
As I review these unique perspectives, I am quickly reminded of early childhood professionals Julie Benavides and Nadiya Taylor who during a discussion on culture and diversity shared their perspectives on culture. Both discussed culture as being culmination of race, ethnicity, language varied abilities, class, and religion. They also stated that culture can be very broad for example, how individuals do things, their gestures, and their perceptions of the world. (Laureate Education, 2011). Many of the perspectives on culture and diversity by my friends and colleagues have various similarities; they mention that culture is all of the broad terms described by early childhood professionals Julie Benavides and Nadiya Taylor. They mention religion, traditions, and ethnic backgrounds which I have learned is a type of surface culture which is really everything we can see, taste or define according to Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010).
Similarly, they also briefly mention a deeper understanding about culture which are things we cannot see on the surface. For example, deeper culture requires us to look below the surface and understand different perspectives on the world, how people do things, their values, and beliefs. These types of elements of culture go deeper than that of surface culture because these are elements that are unique to individuals regardless of their culture. According to Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010), many times individuals within a culture change or “reject specific elements of their cultural socialization” because they have “matured, established an adult life and family.” This results in an individual identifying with a specific cultural group but “not embracing all aspects” of that culture (p.56).
Aspects of Culture Missing from the Perspectives Given
What I find interesting about all three definitions of diversity, is their focus on accepting differences among cultures and their willingness to learn from these differences, honor, respect, and practice inclusion toward different cultures in order to live together and enrich the knowledge of all involved. Personally, this is an honorable way of attempting to be culturally competent. What has not been stated or mentioned, is how to address the stereotypes being conveyed about different cultural groups and the impact they can have on a nation. Ngo (2008) states that individuals in society need to stop highlighting the “culture clashes” and stop conveying discourses that promote politically charged perspectives of the dominant culture. The discourse that is portrayed in the media is focusing upon the differences of cultures creating negative images, ideas, and perceptions that over time create a type of reality about a specific culture (Ngo, 2008). Ngo’s solution is to address and know the stereotypes being conveyed about a particular cultural group, debunk them, and understand where they are coming from and why they are being communicated. According to Ngo (2008), these stereotypes and types of discourse are politically fueled to benefit or convey the beliefs of the dominant culture.
How the Definition of Culture by Others Influences My Own
Thinking about other people’s definitions about culture and comparing them with mine, puts into perspective how uniquely different people see culture. However, it also illustrates how desperately, people want to accept, learn from, and connect to one another. As I think about the topics of culture and diversity, I believe that people here and around the world innately have the ability to feel compassion and acceptance for different cultures, but the discourse of the dominant culture prevents us from understanding and learning from one another. Personally, as I read the definitions above regarding culture and the definitions of the resources provided, it has influenced my belief that it is important that as early childhood professionals we must move beyond stereotypical discourse. As childhood professionals, we must push to change the discourse by learning about current cultural beliefs, perspectives, values, and practices. Once we can understand different cultural perspectives we must be willing to accept, respect, understand, and teach them to our classroom families, children, and communities. Hopefully, we can affect change one discourse at a time.
Laureate Education. (2011). Family cultures: dynamic interactions. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Ngo, B. (2008). Immigrant families and U.S. schools. Theory Into Practice, 4-11.
A major catastrophe has almost completely devastated the infrastructure of my country. My immediate family is among the survivors of this catastrophic event. I am told that the host country’s culture is completely different from mine and that I might have to stay there permanently. I can only take 3 small items with me.
As I try putting myself in this dilemma above, I try to evoke emotions that might be clearly prevalent in a horrible situation such as being a refugee in a new country. Panic, fear, confusion, a deep sense of loss, and gratitude that my family has somehow survived. The uncertainty of the unknown; a new culture, a new language, and a new home country seems to be also at the forefront of the whirlwind of emotions one must be feeling when encountered by such life-changing events.
The first priority is the safety and well-being of my family. However, when faced with such stringent circumstances one must also look to preserve what little is left of their family culture. Thus my initial 3 small items to bring with my family and I would be our official documentation: birth certificates and passports. I believe bringing these official documents will serve in establishing identifications in the new country. The second item I would bring is a family picture album which consists of generations of our family members each with a small blurb of their name and a special event of great importance in our family and the last item I would bring is teachings from my Yoruba religion. The book serves as a spiritual guide to continue our faith and teachings on our moral obligations to lead a purposeful and positive life. All of these items are very important to our family and each serves as a reminder of our culture.
As I reflect, I notice some insights about the items chosen, they are representative of surface culture elements. The cultural aspects that an individual might be able to physically see is referred to by Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010) as surface culture. Surface culture encompasses what an individual can “taste, define and easy to see” (p56). These can be things such as foods, holidays, costumes, and other objects. However, culture is much deeper than what we can physically see, and culture can be related to a family’s values, beliefs, how a particular family does things, or their interpretation of a family structure (Laureate Education, 2011).
As I receive the blow of news that I must now only take one item, I realize that pictures seem superficial but our family belief system is important to the deeper identity of our culture. I believe that keeping our values, traditions. rituals and teachings are pertinent in keeping the strength and integrity of our family culture, therefore bringing our religious teachings would be the one thing I would bring.