Ethnocentrism

If one were to investigate ethnocentrism, one would only need to look at the history of this country. Before the United States was founded in 1776, the North American continent was inhabited by native Americans, what the colonists called, “Indians.” Once Europeans began to invade the continent in increasing numbers, they needed more space than the Indians wanted to give them. The result? Many, many, many battles between colonial, then eventually, U.S. forces, continually pushing the natives west. This came to be known as the Trail of Tears.

The Academy Award winning motion picture Dances With Wolves deals with the issue of how the U.S. Government dealt with the ethnocentric views of the Plains Indians, specifically the Sioux. Kevin Costner plays a U.S. Army Lieutenant who is granted his wish to see the frontier after the Civil War. He is sent out to Fort Sedgwick, located in the Great Plains. He knows nothing about the Sioux, only what the U.S. forces tell him. They are, “nothing but beggars and thieves,” he is told. The trailer for the film gives a good picture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMOQORiWn80

It is only after a few encounters with the tribe, Costner’s character realizes that they are not the savages they are made out to be. The biggest lesson from the film, simply put is, one needs to look outside their perspective in order to gain another.

The whole reason ethnocentrism exists is because people do not take another people’s culture into perspective. In the modern world, think about how different some places are in the world are from the United States. Who is to say that another culture that is different from ones own is incorrect, or backwards. It all comes from perspective.

Ken Barger is a professor of Anthropology at Indiana University. He defines ethnocentrism as: “making false assumptions about others’ ways based on our own limited experience.” To allow this blogger a cliche, “first impressions are what sticks in your mind.” When a person from another culture, makes a(n) impression (perhaps negative) on a person, then that person’s culture and place of origin is forever judged by the original person. Exhibit A: Muslims and 9/11. After the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, Muslims were (and still are) grossly discriminated against. If one were to do some research on Muslims, one would realize that the radical terrorist represent an extreme minority of the religion.

What is the solution to this problem of global ethnocentrism? In the United States there is still ethnocentrism between citizens. When basketball player Jason Collins became the first gay athlete in the four major American professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) to come out, he faced criticism from ESPN reporter Chris Broussard, basing his criticism on his Christian faith. It comes down to perspective. Did Broussard ever consider what Collins had been dealing with? No, he narrow mindedly saw Collins as gay and as Broussard believed, gay is wrong. Who is he to make that decision.

Just have the thought to think of the side’s perspective.

-HCJ

 

Works Cited

Barger, Ken. “ETHNOCENTRISM.” IUPUI, Barger: What Is Ethnocentrism? N.p., 1 July 2008. Web. 13 June 2013.
Beardsley, Frank. “Native Americans Fight Two Wars Over Land Rights.” American History: (VOA Special English 2005-09-14). N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2013.
Khera, Farhana. “Muslims in America, It’s Time to Demand Justice.” CNN. Cable News Network, 06 June 2012. Web. 13 June 2013.
Webb, Jefferey. “PolicyMic.” PolicyMic. N.p., May 2013. Web. 13 June 2013.

 

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