My name is Tyler Carpenter and I am a Communications major at Utah Valley University studying journalism. I am from a mixed race family, my mother is Chinese born in China and my father is a white American. I have three younger brothers, one of them is at BYU and the other two are still at home. We’ve moved around a lot in my life. I was born in Utah, and then moved to Washington, Ireland, back to Washington, England, back to Washington, I moved to Idaho, and then I served my mission in South Africa, and now I currently live in Utah and my family lives in Dallas Texas. Throughout my life I’ve had the opportunity to visit around 30 or so countries and to experience many different cultures and lifestyles.
Like I said before, I am from a mixed raced family, being half-white and half-Chinese. My gender is male, and although I don’t know specifically what my family’s socioeconomic class is, I know that my dad has a very good job that provides for my family and that we have never really had to worry about money ever. Moving around so much in my life, having a set identity has been hard to have and maintain. When I lived in Ireland, at such a young age I was just any other child at school except that my accent was different and that I wasn’t Catholic. While living in England during my junior and high school years, my identity was more solid as the American in the school who was a Mormon and didn’t drink, smoke, or party hard like everyone else did on the weekends.
While living in England I came into contact with many people who were different than me. My best friends at my school for those three years were each different in terms of race and culture. My friend Ammar was Jordanian and a practicing Muslim to an extent. I learned that he didn’t eat pork, and that during Ramadan he couldn’t eat during the daylight hours. He didn’t very much like his religion but he practiced it because of his mother. My friend Adam was half-English and half-Greek. Whenever I went over to eat at his home we had some interesting Greek food that I came to enjoy. When I spent 2 weeks in Greece, eating the food wasn’t a challenge because I was so used to it at that point. My friend Jack was straight English and his family was everything there was about being English. We would eat the typical beans and toast meals as well as watch soccer (football) in the evenings.
Besides those three main friends I had in England, I also had many more who had different identities and backgrounds. My friend Connor was Irish and my first real exposure to homosexuals. I never really understood it, and at the time it was something that we would always just make fun of him for because that was the culture, but overall it was never anything that really bothered me. Misha was 100% Indian and did not embrace the culture of her family. Asfar and Kazeem were from Pakistan and really big into rap music and smoking. Toyo was from Zimbabwe but didn’t identify with that culture either and was pretty much a thug.
While living in South Africa I came into contact with many different cultures and races. The Afrikanas people, the whites of South Africa, were very domineering and physically built. They liked to drink, swear, and really be rowdy and stay within their own communities. The coloreds (mixed between whites and blacks) were the lower classes of society and created their own communities for the most part. Among the blacks in South Africa were many different cultures and languages including the Zulu, Xhosa, and Tswana. Also there were many immigrants from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Madagascar, and more.
Because I am of a male born mixed race, I’d like to discuss maybe what it’s like being a woman who is African. Is an African woman more intelligent then me? That depends on what is the basis of intelligences. Is she more educated than me? That also depends on what the basis of educated means. Have I done more schooling than the average African woman, most likely. But is she better at cleaning, cooking, more culturally aware, and able to speak at least 2-3 different languages than me? Yes she can. So who is behind you who? Do we have similar values? Most likely. African woman have very strong beliefs in family and service and working very hard. The women are the backbone of the communities and are there to maintain the integrity of their homes and their children’s lives.
If I was to hear from my parents or someone saying, “everyone was equal” I would have to ask them what they mean by that. Equal in opportunity? Equal in circumstance? Equal in culture? Equal in representation? Depending on what equality we’re talking about, than it is important to note that in my opinion not everything should be equal. Should a culture that promotes female genital mutilation be considered equal to other cultural beliefs? No, I don’t think so. Should there be equal representation in all things? I don’t believe so, maybe equal consideration, but not equal representation. These are just some of the examples. Why do I believe these things? Because of my experience visiting so many different countries and coming into contact with so many people with such various perspectives and experiences. Ultimately what it really comes down to is not everything is equal or ever will be but that opportunities are there for us if we do our best.
When thinking about different Culture Groups that are different from my own life being a half-White half-Chinese male with a pretty good socioeconomic background, it was very interesting living in a country such as South Africa where the majority of the population is black, and yet their socioeconomic backgrounds are very low and they face what feels at times much discrimination. The black women of in the cultures that are part of South Africa are truly the backbone of the community. Because of the culture, women are the ones who do a lot, if not all the work in the home. The women will somehow find time to have a full time job where they work all day, clean the entire home, and also cook for the family. The interesting thing is that no one really thinks that it is a problem. The men use the money that their wives earn to drink on the weekends, and do whatever. It was pretty cool to see a family where the man would take the western traditional role and work and support his family and be the “head of the household” rather than the woman, just because there wasn’t equal balance on “jobs in the house.”
Because of the discrimination and lack of opportunity that black people get in South Africa, I believed that this would make life hard for them and that the quality of life would effect them. The American media is constantly pushing race inequality in the country and how disadvantaged blacks in America are in comparison to whites. While in South Africa, this might have been an issue, but it wasn’t really discussed or talked about much. The blacks knew that there circumstances were harder than the whites, in most cases, and therefore had two choices: stick within the status quo and give up, or to show the system that they were better. For the most part from what I have seen, the second option was the one that was the chosen the most. Seeing this firsthand gives me the belief that it doesn’t matter what circumstances one is grown up in, because it is a gamble and not our choice, but what matter is how one perseveres through those circumstances.
Trevor Noah is one of the best examples of someone who had really bad circumstances and is now one of the biggest American entertainers currently because of the success he has as the host on the Daily Show. Trevor Noah is a colored, meaning that he is half-White and half-Black, and born in a time where he was considered a crime. Because coloreds are at the bottom of the “food-chain” in South Africa and during the time of the Apartheid, the cards were stacked very unfavorably for him. Because of his dedication and perseverance, he was able to become one of the best comedians in South Africa and Africa, and later take his skills to America. This wasn’t an overnight success. It took a lot of work to get to where he was. For some people, they may not need to wait as long and they may be given more opportunities than most, but that doesn’t mean that they will take them and do well. Like I said before, it’s not about the cards you’re dealt with, but how you play those cards.
When learning about culture, my teachers are really people that I meet and come in contact with. Listening to their stories, about their lives and struggles and also their backstories, it shows how good everyone is and it is all about making correct decisions rather than basing your whole life on your race or gender. I personally try to avoid what the media tells me about race and culture. I don’t believe any of it, and this isn’t some political decision, I just believe that the only real way to understand culture is too talk to the people in them. An example of this is the discussion of keeping Confederate statues in certain parts of the country. If you talked with level headed black people, like I did, they would say that although it was offensive if you really think about it, for the most part they never ever thought about it ever because there are more important things to worry about. The media however won’t tell this because it is there to fuel an unnecessary fire and rhetoric on race that isn’t there. I believe that real conversation from people that you do personally is the best way to really understand culture and people.
All in all, I know that my views on culture, race, and gender will be seen as controversial and that most people may not like them, but these are there because of my experiences I have obtained my whole life. I want to continue to learn more about perceptions of race and how people of certain races are raised and develop the cultures that they have. This is a big question that I have had for some time and hope that it is discussed in the future of this class. I also want to know how society decides what cultures are accepted and what aren’t and whether society believe that cultures should all be equal and if so why.
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I understand that most will say that I am ignorant, and that others will say that it is because of the “privilege” that I have that I am able to have my perceptions and beliefs that I have. But understand this, my father was born in a lower class family where he was told from day one that he was going to work on a farm and that was it. Being the youngest that was his mindset growing up. But then he graduated high school, was the first person in his family to go to college and get a masters degree, and from then on has worked his butt off to get to where he is. It has nothing to do with privilege and everything to do with his work ethic. My mother entered the country in a single parent home and did not know English. Overtime she learned the language, got good grades, and her family was able to get out for the lower class by saving money and creating a successful business. Like I’ve said continually throughout this self assessment: it isn’t about the cards you are dealt with, but how you play them.