Why become multicultural?

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by Robert Docter –

In this issue of NewFrontier, we examine a need to become more multicultural through respect and appreciation of cultural differences. On pages 9 and 10 we explore the thinking on this subject with articles by General Shaw Clifton, Commissioner Alicia Burger, Major Elicio Marquez and Paratrooper Jason Hale.

Why multiculturalism? I’m sad you ask.

We cannot truly know someone without understanding their cultural background. Our shrinking world requires us to be fully conversant with the worldviews, values, attitudes and beliefs of other cultures around us. Thus, we become multicultural.

We live in a multicultural society, daily mixing with people with varying levels of acculturation to western culture. If we want to relate positively to people, understand their behavior, communicate effectively, then we must understand our own culture and be fully aware and respectful of the differences held by individuals of another culture. Commissioner Burger examines God’s motive in scattering peoples across the face of the earth at the time they tried to build the tower of Babel.

On occasion, we leap to generalizations, too often negative, about people we perceive as “different.” We do this on the basis of criteria established by past relationships and selected inputs life provides us. We develop unkind labels to describe these differences and fail to recognize or fully minister to the individual’s needs or wants. Our bias could be unintended, but is, nevertheless, destructive.

With many, the Muslim religion is suspect due to significant misunderstanding of the behavior of radical Muslims in the Middle East. Unfortunately, many have identified them as a current hate object. General Clifton explores this issue for us, and Jason Hale, an Army employee in eastern Michigan and National Guard paratrooper with service in Iraq examines the conflict from a cultural perspective.

Honest relationships demand multicultural understanding and cultural sensitivity. It must start with an awareness of one’s own culture and then spread to a non-judgmental understanding of the similarities and differences embraced by members of other cultures.

Our nation has identified January 15, the birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a national holiday and the month of January in each year as Racial Awareness month.

Race plays a role in cultural development and is an important factor in the formation of identity. It provides easy identification of individuals that may trigger a wide range of thoughts and feelings. Religion, also, plays a significant role. Our belief system, mostly formed by religious practices to which we are exposed, provides us moral guidance, interpersonal norms and basic values.

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