martes, 3 de febrero de 2009

Personal reflection #1

Gulliver’s travels was the first book I ever read as a child, but I doubt my ability at the time to read between lines and approach the satire that involves Jonathan Swift’s collection of novels. However, while I was sitting quietly at the end of that intimidating class full of foreigners to me, I somehow felt small and wished for the earth to swallow me before anyone pointed at me asking what race meant to me. And somehow, I thought of myself as an equivalent of Gulliver himself.

Somehow, every other student in the room became one of those creatures that Gulliver encounters during his multiple travels. They may seem one thing at first sight, but they may not see the world through the same eyes. As the class was discussing wether race was used to categorise differences between people, it also came up the use of race as a differentiation tool to put these same characters into boxes. However, depending on who you are and where you are at the time, you may be dragged from one box to another.

As to what race is referred, I could have quickly been categorized as a caucassian female, yet I myself certainly did not feel as being part of the biggest group in the class. My first impulse would have probably been a simple two category breakdown between Americans and foreigners (Spanish in this case).

In an attempt to try and make my point clearer I would like to highlight that before we start differentiating individuals we also have to bare in mind the social context of the place we are at and certanily the personal and social values of each person involved. As a matter of fact, the cultural reality of each country will be a crucial element to take into account at the time of breaking a society into racial divisions. Meanwhile, these may fall into similar or equal sereotypes. This is because despite having different social realities and values, the influence of media (and especially US products) have the power to transfer these values and behavioural patterns concerning ethnical groups to the rest of the world as one big audience.

On the other hand, as I already stated before, foreigners from Europe such as me would consider the members of the class Americans. However, every American in that same class broke that division down into smaller groups such as Afro-americans, Asian-Americans, Native-Americans and so on. I would for sure be able to appreciate those groups if asked because of the influence of the media and the obvious physical diferences between races, but those words are not as necessary or as common in societies such as the one I come from, where the main distinction is brought up by ethnicity, nationality or religion.

I don’t know if many people here might know, but inmigration is a pretty new phenomenon that has been increasing in European countries over tha past decades, as not long ago we were the ones to inmigrate. In opposition to this, the United States is a multiethnic country which has grown to become what it is nowadays by the amount of foreigners that once traveled to the US in search for an opportunity as it continues to happen. The fact that the interaction of cultures is part of American history makes race an actual matter of disscussion and distinction on the media and its various products. In addition, these many distinctions have many to do with the variety of politics and rights that each country has been build up on.

Now, I find this class and the disccussion of race in the US a magnifficient opportunity for me because in countries such as Spain (in which the media are starting to categorise characters on the news by their nationality) we could learn from both the errors and improvements that have occurred here so far. I work as a newspaper reporter back in Spain and I’m seriously concerned about the long-term effects of this new recurring fashion in which the media continue to bring up race and nationalities as one of the main issues on the news by constantly relating then to phelony and crime. In my opinion, this will only encourage society to relate both ideas and enter in a vicious spiral which will take away chances for integration and interaction between cultures and finally will end up arousing fears and fobias that could result in isolation of people in their own “boxes”. Especially in a world in which an individual barely belongs to a certain race, country or etnicity, but to the environmental reality that has taken part in their development as a person throughout its many life experiences.

All in all, I would like to go back to my home country and ty to put into practice as much as I can get to learn form my whole experience as an exchange student in the US and this class, just as Gulliver did. I know that my scarce knowledge won’t have a radical effect in the way society and the media distinguish between different types of mankind. However, if I can manage to get my readers to understand and appreciate the different ways to approach race and at the same time be able to understand better what I see when I’m watching foreign products, my goals will have certainly been achieved.

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