A blast from the past…

This is a reprint of a blog I wrote in early 2005. It’s just something that I’ve been pondering again:

I grew up in a cross cultural home. My mother grew up in Finland, my father in Utah. This made for some interesting misunderstandings especially since I’m the oldest girl. Okay, so much for the background for where I’m coming from.

The comment was made at a Wednesday night lecture that certain doors to education and economics and social events will always be closed because of skin color. It’s those doors that affirmative action seeks to open.

I would like to add that it’s not just skin color that closes those doors. My father has been excluded from many things that his cousins have done in society and professional organizations because his foreign wife didn’t know her role in those circles. Of interest is the fact that I never learned the proper role for those functions either, however, my paternal grandmother took my younger sisters in hand and taught them since she saw it as their only way to get good husbands. When I asked her about it, she told me that she always saw me as smart enough to break new ground and that my career would put me in different circles. She was disappointed that I settled for the career that I have.

The cultural difference in lower economic levels also closes doors. DH teaches junior high and high school when the regular teachers are unable to be in the class room. He had one TLC class on the west side of town where the lesson plan was on manners in social situations. Watching the tape that the teacher had chosen, he determined that the post film discussion would be “what’s wrong with this picture?” The film taught that the rules of common courtesy that silver spooned children of the east side of town learn at home were considered outdated and unfashionable. DH started a class discussion about why the film felt such things as the continental style of eating or the proper use of multiple levels of silverware were not important for them to learn. Would not learning these skills prohibit them from making a good impression on an interviewer? On making a good impression at a sorority or fraternity rush event? What other social skills would they need to cross from the West side of town to the East side? Would they want to bridge that gap? (I should explain here that the Eastside Mountain range is the desirable place to live in my city, for those in California I understand that the question should be do you on the east side want to cross to the West?).

One night when we were throwing around ideas for how to books, a young man who grew up in an impoverished situation suggested that someone write a book on how to bridge the social gap between blue collar and white collar. He didn’t mean in the larger sense. The discussion centered on how does someone who grew up with parents that resented management learn the manners to cross into management. That brought up the movie Working Girl; remember how the secretaries were easy to spot because of their dress and makeup in comparison to the of women upper management? It provided an excellent example of the discrimination inherent in ignorance of manners and behavior expected from someone wanting to “rise above their station.”

I have to admit that over the last few weeks I’ve been rethinking my position on affirmative action. I’ve come to the conclusion that we still need to have preferential treatment to level the field but in addition to color, race, religion and gender, we need economic difficulty. Children who desire to break the poverty cycle and get off the government rolls, needs all the help and encouragement they want when it comes to education. A child from the trailer parks deserves a break, no matter what color his or her skin. No impoverished child needs to hear “I’m sorry but we can’t help you because you’re not a minority.” There should be enough resources in America for every child to get as much education as they desire; after all, if they can get better jobs, it means a bigger tax base to pay for more programs

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1 Comment

  1. Onilyn

     /  March 26, 2006

    I’ll second that one. The basic idea of this country and the one that draws people from all nations to our shores isn’t just freedom, but a chance to do more, to be more than what society tells them they should be.


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