A Reflection on Multiculturalism

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Article by Alex Rambaud

D ominick Rambaud was born on February the 5th, 2016. He has now grown into a curious 14-month-old toddler who is more concerned with learning about the world around him than he is with pondering about complex subjects such as race and culture. He will, however, have to face the reality of being a multi-racial child at some point.

Dominick’s mother, Feng Miao, is a local Xianese lady whose proficiency in the English language led her to work for several English language schools, thus providing her with the opportunity to meet foreigners like myself and learn about our cultures and countries of origin.

On the other hand, I come from a mixed family. I was born to a Salvadorian mother and a French father, whilst growing up on-the-go from one country to the next due to my father’s work.

While the experience of being a bi-racial child was mostly a positive one, there were plenty of instances when I found myself at the receiving end of comments and assumptions about who I was that made me feel uncomfortable.

2-1This leads me to address the concept of culture. Culture is defined by a mosaic of elements and situations that have impacted us throughout our lives, whether by choice or by consequences out of our control. Our parents’ values, our racial background, our traditions, our beliefs and even our culinary habits all play an important role in defining who we are. All of these elements help to shape the way in which we perceive ourselves as members of today’s multicultural society.

For a multicultural child, this may represent an existentialist challenge. In my case, it was not difficult to understand that my parents came from different countries, had different views and spoke different languages. The challenge laid in attempting to explain that I was both French and Salvadorian. Nowadays, it is still difficult for some to understand that I have two mother tongues and carry two passports.

I recently had the pleasure of viewing an online video from Dr. Derald Wing Sue in which he introduced the concept of microaggressions, which are defined as “comments or actions that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally express a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group, such as a racial minority.” In the video, he explained the sometimes negative impact they have on children, young people and adults. I was relieved to learn that the type of subtle stereotyping that I had been subjected to had a name, and that research had been conducted on the subject.

As a parent who resides in a country where I am a “perpetual foreigner,” I cannot help but to ask myself: What will it be like for Dominick? Will it be an advantage for him to have parents who face this type of bias almost on a daily basis? Will I be able to reduce the frustration caused by these microaggressions by providing him with at least some type of awareness in regards to the dilemmas that being a multi-racial person represent?

I think the answer lies in the “conditions needed to prevent microaggressions”which Dr. Wing Sue clearly defined towards the end of his speech:

“Providing a person or a child with the opportunity to share positive experiences with people of different cultural backgrounds, in a cooperative rather than a competitive setting, whilst working towards the same goals”, should contribute to a more harmonious, “intercultural understanding and respect”.

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Other ways to improve one’s cultural intelligence include reading, traveling and befriending people from different cultures. After all, with the world’s population growing at such an alarming rate and our planet’s dwindling resources, the chances of having to work and live alongside people from different backgrounds are greater than ever.

Finally, “tolerance”and “respect”can no longer be seen as just terms used in the classroom and discussed by passionate activists and intellectuals; these ideas have now become a key ingredient in the recipe for creating a more peaceful world for our future generations to live in.

References:

  1. Merriam-Webster online dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/microaggression [Accessed March 16, 2017]
  2. Laureate Education / Derald Wing Sue, PHD.(2012). Micro-aggressions.[Online Video]. 20 January, 2015. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Dr.+Gerald+Wing+Sue+on+Miccroaggressions [Accessed: 25 February, 2016].
  3. International Baccalaureate. 1997. The IB learner Profile. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ibo.org/benefits/learner-profile. [Accessed March 8, 2016].

Alex Rambaud is a French and Salvadorian national (yes, he has dual nationality) who has been residing in Xi’an for the past 7 years. He is a certified EAL teacher, a polyglot, a musician, a husband, a proud dad and a cook. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Educational Leadership and serves as the Head of the Student/Parent Services and Communications at Xi’an Hi-Tech International School. If you would like to contact Alex, you may reach him at alex.rambaud@xhisid.com

One thought on “A Reflection on Multiculturalism

  1. I’m a visiting professor of TESOL at Xi’an University this term and we had Wing Sue visit my school, Wright State University, a few years ago after we had read his book, “Overcoming Your Racism”. I often share his book with my students and his concept of racial micro-aggressions has become well known. I was happy to have stumbled across your article. My wife is Honduran and we have a biracial daughter and grand kids now who are growing up familiar with and living with this concept. Best wishes!

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