In this writing assignment I will present ethnocentrism as well as my experiences. Ethnocentrism is the tendency to use one’s own culture as a yardstick for judging ways of the other societies; assumption that one’s own culture is superior to others. You can find ethnocentrism just about anywhere you find people, though it is true that it will affect some areas, and subsequently, the people in those areas, more strongly. This is the most terrible way of thinking, and many people are affected by it. Ethnocentrism is prevalent in today’s world, even in the diverse environment of the United States.
However, this diversity may actually cause ethnocentrism as new immigrants enter the country while still holding on to the nationalism of their homelands. Later generations — the children of these immigrants — who are born into the blended culture are able to have an identity in common. Despite a nearly-universal agreement that people would like to learn to accept one another and live happily among each other, in reality many people remain prejudiced and jingoistic. My experience with ethnocentrism involved two adult women and one homeless man.
This experience made it apparent that people judge others even though they may not understand them. Although I have always lived in a liberal area of the United States, I have certainly witnessed ethnocentric discrimination. In one incident, I was on my way to work, walking past the parking lot of Glendale Marketplace, and saw two women gossiping about a homeless man. The women assumed that this man was homeless because of his own carelessness. Passing by, I gave the man a few dollars, and the two women began to whisper.
Apparently, they thought the offering unworthy, believing the man was homeless because of his own poor choices. These women looked like middle class women. I can conjecture that, in a leisure-class society, few people are ever forced to wander outside of their social class, and consequently may not develop empathy for others with problems of an unfamiliar nature. The two middle class clearly did not know what it is like to be homeless. The result was their judging others based on only their own limited experiences. The two women I encountered at this scene came off as very ignorant.
They compared the homeless man against on their own values and the standards of their culture and class, not taking into consideration the man’s history, life, and the way that he thinks. They mentioned that he was in such a position because of his own poor choices. This is not fact, and there is no way in which they could have known this, but they persisted in their ethnocentrism regardless. This incident made me feel awkward and even mad. The audacity of these women to judge a homeless man, especially after ignoring his plea for help, was appalling.
They chose his values for him and decided to create restrictions for him in their own heads. In turn this allowed me to feel pity for homeless people in general knowing that others have such a bad image of them without even knowing their stories. They are looked down upon and ignored in most cases. What I felt even more greatly was the need to educate these women — along with many other people — about the hardships others go through, and also to teach them that they should not judge someone else before they understand their particular situation, let alone judge a whole group based on one.
Thinking they are superior to everyone else was condescending, but sometimes people do not do it consciously. This ordeal taught me that ethnocentrism occurs all the time, everywhere, and sometimes without us even noticing it. In this specific situation, I could have changed the outcome of the event by talking to the women about what they had just said. I did not have enough courage to do this, so I kept on walking. In future encounters with ethnocentrism, I will do my best to inform people about this and to reduce ignorance. I think this experience has helped me see ethnocentrism in our society and the unwanted effects it has on people.