What is Ethnocentrism? Looking beyond the dominant culture

  • Post category:Blog / ISMs

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, celebrations of Patriotism occur in many different ways. Many people attend barbeques on the weekends, light fireworks on the Fourth of July, display the American flag, and decorate with red, white, and blue stars and streamers. However, there is a fine line between celebrating pride in one’s homeland and declaring it the only acceptable way of life. From the genocide of Indigenous people to the ongoing erasure of slavery in America, there is a dark history to the formation of the United States.

Many of the people commonly referred to as “American” were immigrants at one time. Understanding that the formation of what is predominantly seen as the dominant American culture (White, Christian, Upper-Middle Class, Suburban, Heterosexual, English-speaking) was crafted intentionally by those in power can help us understand the root of our own personal biases. What we learned about immigration, slavery, culture, and other countries while we were in school were specific narratives of history. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because different perspectives of the same story allow us to see a wide view of history, but when we minimize the less desirable aspects of our country’s founding, we also reinforce a mindset that there is a superior culture.

Let’s explore the idea of Cultural Relativism – seeing someone’s culture from their own perspective without clouding it with the lens of the dominant culture. Cultural relativism explores different cultures and ways of being without placing ethical judgments. Sometimes, judgments are made about someone’s food or clothing choices, the language that they speak, or social differences. However, once implicit biases are recognized, acknowledged, and confronted through exploration of other cultures with an open heart, it is possible to experience a richness of cultural differences and embrace the symphony of having many different cultures existing simultaneously. This means turning down the buzz of what is expected and turning up the volume for the voices not always heard in these discussions.

When thinking about the topic of Ethnocentrism, what are some cultural differences that you have experienced implicit biases toward? Where do you think implicit bias stems from? What can you do to understand implicit bias in a way that allows you to fully embrace your core beliefs? Take some time this week to journal about what Ethnocentrism means to you and challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone by doing something to learn about a different culture than your own.