So You Want to Be More Cultured…

I spent my most recent college semester in Rome, Italy. It was an experience, to say the least. One thing I can tell you for sure is that I learned a lot about my own family’s culture, and, in turn, I became a lot more aware of the other cultures around me back at home in NYC.

Growing up in The Melting Pot almost makes it sound easy to just know about other cultures and people because you’re surrounded. I’m here to tell you the truth: it isn’t easy. You have to make the effort to actually go learn about other cultures. You can eat all the sushi you want and never truly appreciate the Japanese culture. You can grow up in an Italian family, speak the language, and still never understand anything about Italy. That was my exact predicament these past four months. I thought I knew what I was walking into. I had seen all the foods before. I could communicate somewhat with the locals. I had always prided myself on being something other than American. I loved having some different culture to tell people about, but, up until recently, I actually didn’t even know too much about Italian culture outside of the food. It made me realize that I also knew nothing about most of the people that I grew up living right next door to.  If you find yourself in that same situation, well, here are my three main tips to help get you through.

  1. Talk to people. Talk to everyone. You might be thinking that you do this on the daily, but I’m not just talking about simple conversations. I’m talking about the type of communication that opens your mind. Talk to other students about their heritages, especially exchange or international students. They have a lot of stories to offer you, I promise. Let them tell you about their life back at their home country; they can offer real insight to life under certain governments, with different education systems/religions/values. There are too many things we take for granted here in the United States, and a great way to connect with people and also become further aware of your privilege is through simple communication.
  2. Did you know that tomatoes weren’t always a part of the Italian tradition? As a matter of fact, people used to think that their bold, red color signified poison, and the leaden plates that peasants used to eat them off of would turn people ill, so they blamed the fruit. That brings us to the next tip. Learn about and eat/cook a traditional meal. If you manage to make friends with some students from different backgrounds, ask them about traditional recipes. If you’re really good friends, hang out after school one day or in one of your campus kitchens and put a meal together. Not only is it a great experience cooking with friends in general, but seeing new ingredients or old ingredients being prepared in wholly new ways will give you a new understanding of how people eat around the world. Some ingredients even have stories behind them and different meanings in other cultures, so take advantage of these opportunities.
  3. Here’s a cool video and an article about the right ways to eat sushi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auLmekEsaak and http://blog.gaijinpot.com/eating-sushi-the-proper-way/ .That brings us to tip #3: Use the internet if you have questions. How do we properly eat sushi? What are the different types of headdresses for Muslim women? Why are there different names for similar alcohols in different countries? What do the different gestures in Indian dancing mean? These are all great questions you might have, and you can start by answering them with a simple google search.

 

If you find yourself needing immediate help learning about another culture, have no fear. Here are two websites that can help you out:

http://www.gaylecotton.com/blog/2013/03/global-etiquette-cultural-tips-to-keep-in-mind-for-any-culture/

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/kwintessential-learn-etiquette-manners/

 

While I love being back home in America, I sometimes feel isolated from the cultures around me, even when so many people in my neighborhood are immigrants. It’s easy to forgot how privileged some of us are to have been born here and to have United States passports and many different freedoms. We have to remember that people may feel like outsiders in our strange, ethnocentric American world, and one way to make them feel welcome is to simply try to understand them.

Hacking Finals Week

We all know this week is going to be horrible. We know that when it’s finals week, your break is really just moving to a different essay. We know that you substitute coffee for water, fruits, vegetables, meats…pretty much everything. So, we’ve compiled a list that might make this week go by a little bit faster. Get studying!

First things first, everyone. Get plenty of sleep and make sure you’re taking care of your body, both mentally and physically. Clear your head, make time to relax, make sure you’re eating well and drinking plenty of water. Your body, and your GPA, will thank you.

Study! Create a study schedule, set timers, make guides, work in groups with other students, watch some educational Youtube videos. One of our favorite things to do is set a timer for 45 minutes of studying/ essay writing, and then take a 15 minute break for eating, water, power naps, and socialization. Make sure you organize your notes and check in with other students in your class to make sure you all have the same information. You might also learn some helpful tips and tricks from them!

Become the teacher! The best way to study is to practice teaching what you’ve learned to everyone else. Prepare study sessions in which you and your classmates each stand up and teach one subject on the exam to the class. It gives everyone a chance to not only listen to the information again, but also to correct anything that might be wrong.

Focus! We know that most studying and essay writing is done on laptops nowadays, and we get distracted, too. That’s why we use extensions like StayFocusd, Block Site, Nanny, TinyFilter, and LeechBlock. If you’re like us and constantly have Facebook or Tumblr open in your browser, then these extensions are for you.

Practice! After studying by yourself and with others, find practice quizzes and test questions. Make time to write and read sample essays. Find websites with mini tests and take them until you get 90% or over every time. Design your own mini quiz, too. (Yes, some websites let you do this!) Some of our favorites are Quizlet, Crossword Labs, Studyblue, GOCONQR, Class Tools, Tinytap, StudyStack, Headmagnet, Cramberry, and Quizizz.

If all else fails:

http://gpacalculator.net/college-gpa-calculator/

Calculate what your GPA would be if you got the lowest possible passing grades.

Is Capitalism Anti-Democracy?

“Capitalism is against the things that we say we believe in – democracy, freedom of choice, fairness. It’s not about any of those things now. It’s about protecting the wealthy and legalizing greed,” (Michael Moore). While many people think this is just extremely harsh commentary on a perfectly good system, it really gets down to the root of a movement that has people all across the world working for socioeconomic equality- the anti-capitalist movement. Although the movement gained momentum in the U.S. during movements like Occupy Wall Street to help citizens at home, as the level of economic inequality in the United States is unjust. Although some levels of inequality will always exist in society, with the large disparity between the upper and working/lower classes, we see a lack of participation in society from those who have less. When it comes to things like voting and asset-building, those living in poverty get left in the dust, leaving some people in a superior position, but many more in an inferior. These social and economic hierarchies go against the very democracy on which the US was founded, and also influence the very ideals that now have the entire world fighting for equality, as well.

Continue reading “Is Capitalism Anti-Democracy?”

Income Inequality: An Essay

 

The level of income inequality in the United States is unjust. Although some levels of inequality will always exist in society, with the large disparity between the upper and working/lower classes, we see a lack of participation in society from those who have less. When it comes to things like voting and asset-building, those living in poverty get left in the dust, leaving some people in a superior position, but many more in an inferior. These social and economic hierarchies leave people with no place in a fair democracy, and in the middle of a glaring and growing problem.

In an interview, philosophy professor and author Elizabeth Anderson says, “Extreme wealth inequality also leads to the de facto control of government by the rich (plutocracy), and so is incompatible with democracy…More…distributions of wealth spread opportunity and hence freedom more widely and fully than systems in which wealth is concentrated in a tiny self­-perpetuating class.” In essence, Anderson is saying that as the US stands, the rich has more power in society. In saying that, it means we are getting further and further away from democracy and leaning more towards a plutocracy in which opportunity and freedom is limited to the upper class. This is because there is little distribution of resources in the US. Looking at the Gini coefficient- a nation’s measure of inequality between 0 and 1, in which the closer the coefficient gets to 1, the less equal it is- we can see that in 1998, the US had a coefficient of .41. Many experts estimated the coefficient to be around.44 in 2004, and .469 in 2010. What exactly does this number mean? In 2004, it meant that the richest 10% of people in the US made 17 times more money than the lowest 10%. The number goes up even further when investment values are added into the mix, being that the poor usually don’t make money off of them in the way the rich do. When investments are added in, the Gini coefficient for the US is somewhere around 57.4. In terms of the coefficient, this would mean that nearly 60% of America has almost all of its wealth and resources, and slightly fewer than 40% have nearly none. In a salary comparison between average floor workers and CEOs in the US, researchers found that a CEO makes on average above 500 times more than a floor worker. How does all of this tie in to democracy?

In his article, journalist Daniel Weeks says that the politicians upon whom many impoverished citizens rely do not rely anymore on those citizens, as most lobbying and fundraising is done through the wealthy. He goes on to say that poverty is so persistent in society because millions of impoverished people have become silenced in the political sphere. Statistics show that many impoverished people of the voting age choose not to vote because they don’t feel as if their voices are being listened to. As a matter of fact, studies indicate that non-voters are much more liberal than voters, and would vote for fairer wealth distribution than those who do choose to vote. In a study done by professors William Franko, Nathan Kelly, and Christopher Witko, findings showed that in states where there were smaller voting gaps between the wealthy and poor, policies tended to favor the poor more, states had “higher minimum wages, stricter lending laws and more generous health benefits” than states that had a higher voting disparity.

Analyzing this, we can see that poverty causes people to participate less in society, and especially in the political sphere. The disparity in income between the wealthy and the poor has caused people to stop relying on politicians and democracy. Being that economic systems should be judged by how they serve people, we can see that in this case people are being limited by their economic statuses. The inequality leaves many people unable to flourish in society and therefore the common good is out of reach unless the impoverished are empowered to be more active in society. In this case, those with more money and more power should be responsible for helping the impoverished regain their dignity and their rights and ability to participate in society; Then, and only then, will things be just.

Sources:

Babones, Salvatore. “U.S. Income Distribution: Just How Unequal?” Inequalityorg. N.p.,  13

Chan, Kai. “Economic Inequality Is Unjust.” The Daily Princetonian Economic Inequality Is Unjust Comments. N.p., 14 Oct. 2004.

Franko, William W., Nathan J. Kelly, and Christopher Witko. “HOW ROADBLOCKS TO VOTING MAKE INCOME INEQUALITY WORSE.” HOW ROADBLOCKS TO VOTING MAKE INCOME INEQUALITY WORSE (n.d.): n. pag. Scholars Strategy Network. Jan. 2014.

Fulwood, Sam, III. “Why Young, Minority, and Low-Income Citizens Don’t Vote.” American  Progress. N.p., 6 Nov. 2014.

Gutting, Gary, and Elizabeth Anderson. “What’s Wrong With Inequality?” New York Times. N.p., 23 Apr. 2015.

McElwee, Sean. “The 1 Percent Are More Likely to Vote Than the Poor or Middle Class — And It Matters, a Lot.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 28 Dec. 2014.

McElwee, Sean. “Why the Voting Gap Matters.” Why the Voting Gap Matters. N.p., 23 Oct. 2014

Weeks, Daniel. “Poverty vs. Democracy in America.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 06 Jan. 2014.

 

 

What is White Privilege and How Does it Work?

White privilege is a complicated thing to define without first looking at how minorities are perceived. Minorities face stereotypes that portray them as lazy, aggressive, primitive, useless, and other negative attributes. Because of these stereotypes, it is harder to assimilate, find a job (often times just because of an “ethnic name”), get an equal education, or be treated equally in the eyes of the law. Minorities are told to go back to their country if they speak in their native tongue, don their traditional garb, or complain about life being difficult in any way and attributing it to their race (this is specific to what I’ve seen in the U.S.) Some groups are also labeled terrorists or thugs because of what they choose to wear, leading to more stereotypes, premature judgment, and harsh treatment. Many are stopped by police who expect them to be criminals. Now, understanding this, I would define white privilege as the absence of these things. That is to say, white privilege is being able to appropriate cultures without facing the usual consequences, having an easier time finding a job, having an easier time in school, and it means that stereotypes about your race do not have real-life consequences, such as disproportionate stopping and frisking by police or inability to get a job because your name is Jose rather than Joseph.

Continue reading “What is White Privilege and How Does it Work?”

Are We Lacking Positive, Minority Representation in Media?

When a group of people is marginalized, the group in many ways needs to band together to assure that it has a voice, representation, and strength in numbers to actually achieve equality. In many ways, media representation correlates to how society views and treats these minorities. The example of BET comes to mind immediately. A television channel made up shows solely written by, created for, and including a majority of black people. Many people say this is racist and too exclusive. “We should have a white entertainment channel then,” is thrown around a lot. I would know- my own family members have said it. But now, be aware of what you’re actually saying.

Continue reading “Are We Lacking Positive, Minority Representation in Media?”

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