Growing up middle class in the Midwest, I was raised to believe in the “American dream” and bought into the “hard work pays off” ethic. While I do think that hard work increases one’s chances of success, I now consider other contributing factors such as race, class, and gender. Honestly, I thought that since discrimination was illegal, and with diversity and equality being a frequent topic in the news, everyone was on a level playing field. It wasn’t until a class I took here at Penn State World Campus that my eyes were opened and I understood the history, repercussions, and consequences of discrimination and prejudice within a culture. Since that class, I have been able to see the way in which minorities are (and have been) perpetually been kept down due to various institutionalized circumstances no matter the country or culture.
Studies have shown that your name can determine your hiring success, regardless of your experience (Adensina, Marocico, 2017). I experienced this “in reverse” when I moved to Asia and applied to be a personal trainer (PT). I had only recently received my PT certification and was starting to feel discouraged when I wasn’t getting any call-backs until I finally landed an interview at a high end country club. I thought the interview had gone well, but I was later surprised to be offered a management role that placed me in charge of the whole department. While I personally questioned my lack of experience, I let my ego take over and assumed that I had talents that others “saw in me”. I later realized that I was hired because of my ethnicity and background, which brought favorable connotations to my place of employment. Although I did eventually leave this job, I truly wished I had left over the moral and ethical aspect of the situation, rather than for other opportunities.
My spouse, being an American-born person of Asian ethnicity, has long tried to explain to me the differences in how we are treated in various situations. As mentioned, I had previously been oblivious to discrimination, but after learning about and being aware of these things, I began to see them. For example, when we would go out to dinner, I was always handed the check and signature paper (even if I was not the one to give my credit card). Aside from that, when workers come to the house they directed all conversation to me, even though my name is not on the lease. Even at international networking events, I can now see how much harder she needs to work than I do to get noticed, based solely on our skin color. This type of discrimination has deep roots in colonization, especially in Asia.
Now I cannot “un-see” the inequalities. No matter the country, no matter the race or religion, there always seems to be one group that discriminates and dominates against another. I don’t think there is any easy solution to ending prejudice and racism, but I do think that education and exposure can be incredibly helpful. Like my eyes were opened, I think that we can educate each other and help to open the eyes of many disparate groups across our society.
Adesina, Z., & Marocico, O. (2017, February 6). Is it easier to get a job if you’re Adam or Mohamed? Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-38751307
Gruman, J. A., Schneider, F. W., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2017). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2020). PSYCH 424 Lesson 6: Intergroup Relations/Diversity. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2040175/modules/items/28379758