This subject is very broad because it discusses diversity, and diversity is actually present everywhere we go. United States is a big example of diversity as we can encounter a huge mixture of race, languages and habits all in one country. Or at least, this is what everybody believes, that the diversity here is a positive visible factor of growth and the United States is formed by a great part of influence from other countries and cultures (Schneider, Grumman, & Coutts, 2012, p. 325). It is also known for all of us that this country is considered an individualistic society where most social experiences are focused around the individual and not around the collective group (Pfundmair, Graupmann, Frey, & Nilüfer, 2015). That being said, is United States really diverse? How much cultural influence is really absorbed by this nation?
Interestingly, many people believe that the influence is actually strong. However, when we approach actual different ethnic and social groups the scenario seems to be a little different. The percentage of interracial and intercultural marriages compared to the actual size of immigration slots is definitely small. Also, the interaction between minority and majority groups and the intergroup contact is definitely limited due to personal and social identity (Bikmen, 2011). Researchers are very interested in understanding how the cultures merge. Tili at al. (2015) have found that conflict in intimate, intercultural relationships is very common due to personal identity. Of course cultural differences are not exclusively the byproduct of culture; however, many people who decided to engage in intercultural marriages face unique challenges trying to adapt to the social context together. The same is applied to interracial marriages and social contact in the multicultural space (Tili, & Barker, 2015). The challenges are often related to diverse values, perspectives, and communication styles.
I personally have been in contact with people from multiple cultures, and it is very clear to me that the merging process can be complicated and frustration can easily arise because of the cultural differences. My own experience also says a lot, as I am a product of both interracial and intercultural marriage. It takes many years to finally be able to understand and cope with the other culture because the cultural values are definitely very different. The diversity conflict is everywhere in my life, from food consumption to social perception. At first it is a struggle to really accept those differences, but with a lot of comprehension, love and a compromising style (Schneider et al., 2012) the process gets smoother with time. The list of cultural shock and conflicts is actually endless, and it takes a lot of determination to get through it. I know for fact that my friends from other cultures, even Europeans, go through the same process and it is a relief to understand that the American diversity is in fact complicated not only for me but for most immigrants or descendants.
One good aspect of the diversity existent in the United States is that it generates social opportunities for everybody no matter the gender, race or social class because functional diversity is supposed to enhance group effectiveness and creativity (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 336). However, there are many other challenges that seems to overcome the good aspects such as prejudice and discrimination that exist and is very often reported (Huang, 1997). The most negative effect in social interactions between groups is perceived by ‘stereotyping’, the belief some people create about others’ behaviors or characteristics can really affect diversity and cultural interactions because those preconceived concepts create bias. This is a real threat to the cultural merging process and may explain why we live under a social conflict that I call pseudo-diversity (Schneider et al., 2012, pp. 337-338). The stereotyping habit causes social conflict in marriages, schools or colleges, and at the work place.
Due to this scenario, I believe that the contact theory does not have enough effectiveness because cultures from all the world interact between themselves in the United States, although there is still a lot of biases and stereotyping behavior on the social environment. Of course other factors such as personal and social identity (WC, Psych 424, lesson 6) play a role in this scenario, but overall, what we expect is the existence of a cultural unity since the exposure to diversity occurs all the time. Instead, what I perceive all the time is a social dominance orientation among social groups, they develop their own group-based hierarchies’ system and seclude themselves from cultural influences from out-group members (WC, Psych 424, lesson 6). Seems to me that this kind of behavior make themselves feel more comfortable about their group compared to others.
Those intergroup relationships reflect the pseudo-diversity I believe exist in this country, as it is very clear that social interactions processes do not occur naturally for most of the groups. All interactions including cultural, educational, professional and personal are at risk of been biased and can be avoidant of contact with out-groups. It is a sad scenario, but it happens every day and the so believed diversity in this country is actually threatened by stereotype threat (Schneider et al., 2012, p. 338).
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Bikmen, N. (2011). Asymmetrical effects of contact between minority groups: Asian and black students in a small college. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(2), 186-194. Retrieved from http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/docview/868623879?accountid=13158
Foner, N. (2009). The American melting pot is a rich stew: Immigrants become attached to their new country, despite fears to the contrary. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 89(2), 7.
Huang, F. (1997). Asian and Hispanic immigrant women in the work force: Implications of the united states immigration policies since 1965. New York: Garland Publishing.
Penn State University, World Campus (Fall, 2016). Psych 424: Lesson 6. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1802487/discussion_topics/11378499?module_item_id=21233957
Pfundmair, M., Graupmann, V., Frey, D., & Aydin, N. (2015). The different behavioral intentions of collectivists and individualists in response to social exclusion. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(3), 363-378. doi:10.1177/0146167214566186 Retrieved from: http://psp.sagepub.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/content/41/3/363
Schneider, F.W., Grumman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012) Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Tili, T. R., & Barker, G. G. (2015). Communication in intercultural marriages: Managing cultural differences and conflicts. Southern Communication Journal, 80(3), 189. doi:10.1080/1041794X.2015.1023826