When Kamala Harris, a woman of dual-cultural heritage, received the U.S. democratic nomination for Vice President, we at CultureWizard found ourselves discussing the moment’s historical significance. In particular, we reflected on how challenging it can be for many people to realize something that has always been a fact of existence for most multicultural people: social progress depends heavily on our ability to bridge cultural gaps. And still, many multicultural people take it for granted since it can be such a natural part of life.
While multi-ethnic people are not a monolith—and each of us have our own political views and ways of thinking about our identities—we decided to celebrate this historic moment by reflecting on some of our own perspectives and experiences as multicultural individuals.
Mia Addis, Sales Development Lead
Born into a multicultural and multilingual family, I grew up feeling as though I had the ability to see the world through the lens of two distinct cultures. For example, there were certain words in one language that didn’t exist in the other; This meant I’d sometimes have certain feelings that were unique to—and sometimes only expressible in—a specific culture and language. I felt I could understand and notice certain nuances that others from monocultural backgrounds might not.
In the private international schools I attended, I learned about histories of various regions of the world and we held annual international bazaars where people shared their cultural traditions. While there was certainly a diversity of cultures, socioeconomically, that was not the case.
Being in this bubble gave me a skewed view of my worldliness and exposure to the types of differences that exist. When I moved to New York City, I started to meet people who were not only culturally diverse, but socioeconomically. I realized that my multicultural identity had given me a false overconfidence of being naturally open-minded and unbiased. In fact, cultural and national identity are only part of the many ways we are different from one another. We must actively surround ourselves with different life experiences and worldviews, uplift and listen to marginalized voices, and avoid prejudice.
The conscious act of seeking new viewpoints can help one acknowledge existing biases, appreciate diversity, and mitigate the reflex of seeing people as an “other.” This practice might help us transcend beyond cultural or national lines and find human commonality.
Alexia Woelfle, Sales & Marketing Representative
Growing up in a multi-ethnic household provided me with the opportunity to learn how to navigate the sometimes very difficult waters of bridging cultural gaps from a young age. Its impact on how I view myself and the world are immeasurable; I can safely say that it has affected every part of my being, from the physical, to the social, to the emotional. To me, part of being multicultural means being more open to differing opinions and worldviews, and more aware of the unexpected, mixed views that I myself have as a result.
For example, living in a multicultural home can often equate to living in a very politically divided home—my Italian, conservative father is an avid Republican and Trump supporter, while my Jamaican immigrant mother is Independent and anti-Trump. Both of my parents are outspoken, passionate people, so it goes without saying that the 2016 and upcoming 2020 elections were and are quite a charged time. However, I count myself lucky; although they may not understand or agree with each other's views, they respectfully discuss and openly accept them, which has allowed me to do the same. This open discussion and acceptance is something that I am confident everyone in society, not only people of diverse backgrounds and experiences, can naturally begin to do as we continue to open ourselves to different cultures, mindsets and opinions.
Mallory Matney, Content Associate
Growing up bicultural had a tremendous effect on how I view the world. It allowed me to embrace cultural fluidity as a means of existing, and as a result, I felt a need to flex my behaviors in order to make whoever was in the room more comfortable. One of the great benefits of being multicultural is the innate awareness that the world is not dependent on binaries: I can be both “so American” as well as a “good Chinese daughter.” I feel a sense of recognition in several communities, and also often don’t belong anywhere.
Growing up with two cultures meant unconsciously code switching between customs and behavioral norms depending on the situation. As a young child, for instance, it didn’t take much thought to distinguish between the rituals of drinking Chinese tea at dim sum and how to make my grandmother’s “proper English cuppa.” The fourth granddaughter in a large Chinese family has specific expectations of behavior that the only granddaughters of a British-American simply do not. The different “versions” of myself feel less like a contradiction and more like an auto-switch of perspective.
As an adult, my mixed identity has evolved into a source of pride, but it also brings immense privilege. I feel it is my responsibility as a bicultural person to listen and to amplify the voices of other marginalized folks who are not able to move freely in and out of the dominant culture as easily as I can. In fact, it took me a long time to learn that I could love my community, culture, and family, and still speak out against problematic beliefs that have been maintained.
You don’t have to grow up bicultural to live and work successfully in multicultural environments. A true global mindset requires self-awareness, and appreciation for differences in addition to commonalities. Once you begin to understand cultural values and styles, it becomes much easier to treat diversity with the thoughtful inclusion it deserves.
Begin by assessing your own cultural perspectives with RW3 CultureWizard’s Culture Calculator. Schedule a demo here.