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Ethnocentrism is Everywhere

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Steven Day Ethnocentrism is Everywhere Ethnocentrism is a commonly used word in circles where ethnicity, inter-ethnic relations, and similar social issues are of concern. The usual definition of the term is thinking one's own group's ways are superior to others or judging other groups as inferior to one's own. Ethnic refers to cultural heritage, and centrism refers to the central starting point. So ethnocentrism basically refers to judging other groups from our own cultural point of view. Even this does not address the underlying issue of why people do this. Most people, thinking of the shallow definition, believe that they are not ethnocentric, but are rather open minded and tolerant. However everyone is ethnocentric, and there is no way around being ethnocentric. Ethnocentricity cannot be avoided, nor can it be willed away by a positive or well-meaning attitude. To address the deeper issues involved in ethnocentrism calls for a more explicit definition. In this sense, ethnocentrism can be defined as: making false assumptions about others' ways based on our own limited experience. ...read more.


We do not understand that their ways have their own meanings and functions in life, just as our ways have for us. We aren't aware that we can develop more valid understandings about how they experience life. A lack of understanding can also inhibit constructive resolutions when we face conflicts between social groups. Ethnocentrism is also evident in international relations, creating conflicts and inhibiting resolution of conflicts. If we don't win the conflict, will we lose? An ultimate case of such misunderstandings is warfare, where many people are killed, maimed for life, have their families, subsistence, health, and way of life disrupted, sometimes forever. Addressing ethnocentrism is not a matter of trying not to be ethnocentric. This is an impossible task, since we will never experience every life situation of everyone around the world. The scientific process helps us have a clearer view of what we do understand in the context of what we do not understand. Ethnocentrism is a bias that keeps us from such understandings of other people's life experience, but it is possible to recognize this bias and control for it so that we can go on to develop more valid and balanced understandings. ...read more.


We can also observe their reactions. Again, their reactions may be both positive and negative. For example, if an Indian shows gratification when we give him a gift, recognizing his reaction can provide an opportunity to better understand adaptive their values on economic leveling rather than assuming that our generosity has been duly recognized. Why do we think people should be "friendly"? Once we realize that we are not understanding, we are now in a better position to seek more valid and balanced understandings. If we appreciate that their life experience can be as valid for them as ours is for us, acknowledge that we may be misunderstanding, and ask them to help us understand, most people are more than willing to help us understand better. Perhaps no one can ever have complete understanding of another people, without fully experiencing everything they experience. However, this does not mean we cannot develop a functional understanding, to interact successfully with others. Like other life skills, practice at every opportunity helps us develop our abilities to catch ourselves being ethnocentric and asking good questions to better understand others' cultural behavior. ...read more.

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