Let’s face it, there’s not much diversity on television. I am going to use the cast of “Glee” as a metaphor for what we usually see.
First, the amount of whites outnumbers everyone else (Quinn, Brittany, Rachel, Artie, Finn, Mr. Schuester, Coach Sylvester...). Mercedes reps African Americans, Tina and Mike Chang are obvious, Santana is Latina and Puck is ... “ethnically ambiguous.” And something that’s really great to see is the portrayal of the LGBTQ community represented so profoundly by Kurt and Blaine.
So yes, I love “Glee,” but I also love to see diverse individuals properly represented on film and television. I do admit that it may be nearly impossible to represent every culture residing here in the United States, especially the many distinct issues facing different ethnic groups today.
Something I really loved about college was the opportunity to really delve into what makes my culture unique. You know, really looking at the issues that my community faced in the larger social context of economics and education, as well as the more specific areas of being born second generation.
As a Filipino-American, I was fortunate to find that UCLA had a well-established student organization with ties to the university, various community organizations in Los Angeles, union leaders, political groups and other Filipino-based groups throughout Southern California (including USC!). It opened my eyes to the idea that mainstream America ignored us in the media, often lumping us into categories of simply the “Asian Character,” “Mexican-American” or the always ubiquitous “ethnically ambiguous” category. Mostly, Filipinos played maids if they were actually identified on screen as a Filipino, but other than that, I didn’t see a representation of my community anywhere on TV, in films and yes, even in my U.S. History books.
If college is about finding yourself, then for me it was a process of redefining myself as someone who was made more aware of something I took for granted. Everything from the food I eat, my religion and my values have been shaped by the history of Filipinos that have come before me. And I can bet it’s shaped yours too.
The humanities really explore this aspect of cultural diversity with many major university departments dedicated specifically to the study of different cultures. At UCLA we have a class that you can take to learn Tagalog, which is what my parents speak (and I unfortunately never learned to pick up). But don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like UCLA was like, “hey, let’s offer this because we care about cultural diversity.” Uh, no! It took years of hard-wrought battles, which stemmed from the roots of the 1960s civil rights movement. From there, students and faculty put their careers on the line to creating a curriculum dedicated to teaching our diverse American history often ignored in many of our history classes.
I’ve since taken these cultural values to heart with the hope of passing it down to everyone I meet. The idea of live, learn and love where you come from is extremely important. In the context of globalization and the Internet making the world smaller, ethnic studies helps make sense of the world we live in and can make us more tolerant of other cultures in the process.
For example, The Wall Street Journal published an article about how there are less Asians in CEO positions despite higher graduation rates at four-year universities. One area they found interesting was this idea that the west values those who speak up and who are assertive. They quote the adage, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” Well, in Asian countries there is another saying, “The loudest duck gets shot.” Those in Eastern countries like China and the Philippines find that you will be rewarded by staying humble, following directions and working hard. The article made it clear that culture had a definite part in who gets the corner office, and it asserts the question: So what are we going to do about it?
And that’s the key to everything when it comes to going to college and learning about your culture. Culture may be about history, but equally, it’s about shaping the future.
Know Your History: Or Be History
By Denise Guerra
Article posted on 9/28/2011
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