My Cultural Autobiography
Race is all around us and evident in all our lives. In mine, it is evident in a way that I would not really expect. Through social media. Growing up I did not notice race but as I grew it seemed to be pushed in front of my face and even more so daily through my social media. I have thought of myself as a really accepting person but the more I see about the issues in our society online the more I question myself and actually the more I notice race, which seems to have an adverse effect. I do end up thinking about it daily because it is put in my view through a lot of what is going on right now like the Black Lives Matter movement.
Being white I grew up with benefits I did not even realize as a child. As a white female, I was subjected to more assistance in school without being questioned. I realized this when a woman who is Hispanic was talking to me about a paper she was writing on her son. Her son was being put in a group at school and labeled to have a learning disability when really it was a simple language barrier. I then realized that any issues I had growing up in school were more easily addressed because I did not have that background. What then happens, in this case, is a lot of children of Hispanic race are put into these groups over a misunderstanding.
Gender is something that is so evident in life and can be brought to someone’s attention so easily. You have toys, books, clothes, and items that are specified for a specific gender. Usually male and female. I go out and buy boys’ clothes for my son and by myself and my bonus daughters’ girls’ clothes. Even my female dog gets something girly now and then. Colors are even identified as male and female, examples are blue, green, red can be boy colors, and pink, purple, and yellow could be girls. Except for green and yellow also being classified as gender-neutral.
I end up thinking about it more on a situational basis. Growing up in my eyes there were boy and girl items and meanings. However, now I have been subjected to so many other possibilities of gender and what is going on in society. This is something I feel I need to be conscious of for my own children’s sake. While I do buy my son, boy toys, and clothes I am also very open to letting him dress and play how he wants. If he wants to play dress-up with princess clothes because it is fun, then so be it! I always make it point when one of my kids brings up “That’s for boys,” or “Only girls wear that.” To let them know anyone can wear what they like to make them feel happy.
Gender has affected my social and life experiences since I was young. When I was in middle school it was brought to my attention that a student in my science class who was male was born female. Talk and rumors were floating around and my teacher actually ended up pulling me aside in class to let me know about this student, with the okay from their family, and let me know the situation and really set the tone of being extremely accepting of this student. That personal experience set the way for how I got to learn and understand others who are going through the same thing. Just recently I found out a student who I went to high school with is currently in transition from female to male and I could not be prouder of him! It is amazing watching the happiness that just lifts them when they go through their transition and I am glad I can be part of the support that they may not get at home. My parents and grandparents taught me from early on to be accepting of others and that is how I want my children to grow up being.
Social class is culturally defined based on those criteria by which a person or social group may be ranked in relation to others in a stratified society. There is considerable debate about the criteria that determine social class. Some identify class membership primarily in terms of wealth and its origin (e.g., inherited or newly earned). Others prefer to consider criteria such as the amount of one's education, power, and influence, as well as one's choice of leisure pursuits.
When I think of social class what pops up in my mind is upper, middle, and lower class. You see news about the lower class and the need for clothes, food, and shelter. I do not really think of it daily, or even weekly for that matter. I feel as though people can fall into different aspects of a social class. For example, I own a house my children have clean clothes, food, and a safe warm house. On the outside, you might see middle or even upper-middle class. What people do not see is my income is based on survivor benefits because my husband passed away almost three years ago. I am not on WIC but food stamps as well as state medical insurance. On a technical level, I would on paper be considered lower or middle-lower class. The benefits of this “social class” that I fall under are health insurance and more money for food and it helps me to make sure my children get what they need. This is to help me get on my feet while I further my education and be able to provide more for my family with less government assistance.
Growing up I have been told I am Italian and Sicilian. It was part of who I was, and I was always proud because my family would talk about it a lot. Especially when it came to food and why certain behaviors happened. For example, when a group of us on my father’s side got together it was always so loud. They would laugh and say it is the “Italian” in us. That is how I grew up being introduced to a part of myself that I, to this day still associate with. This is just being on my fathers’ side; it was much more talked about than my mother’s growing up.
That being said my grandmother on my mom’s side always had huge St. Patrick’s Day parties. She would make all sorts of food from Ireland and play fun music. I have some Irish, Scottish, and German in me as well. That stemming from my mother’s side. She called herself a European mutt. When I grew up, I took a genetics class in high school we were told about something new at the time called 23 and Me. This is an online platform that you sent your DNA to via saliva and they can do things to it to track your ancestry as well as health reports. I did mine later and found out a lot of fun facts about my heritage.
My first memory association with religion was when I was younger doing prayers with my mom and siblings. She also had us in Awana when we were younger, and I remember getting a vest and badges as we did activities. We moved a lot and therefore stopped going to church for a period and then I felt as I got older and my mom wanted to start up again, I pushed back. I did not want to feel forced into believing something unless I wanted to. Fast forward and I meet my late husband. He went to church for holidays but nothing very pushy. I started to go to a Lutheran church with him and his family. I felt at ease and quickly started to enjoy it. I was even baptized as a young adult and when my son was born, he was baptized there as well. I have kept a more open mind and I do read prayers with my son every once in a while but in the end, want him to make up his own mind. However, since his father passed away, I have tried to incorporate a sense of “Daddy is in heaven” outlook. It seems like more of a peaceful way to go about it than just gone. I struggle a little here and there, but it is a lot steadier than when I was younger. This religion is very common in the US and I could find a Lutheran church just about anywhere if I needed to.
I have grown up in many different types of areas. From rural to urban cities, it has influenced my life in different ways. When I lived in Montana it was more of a rural area, with not many houses, and stores nearby. You made do with what was there. I also spent summers in Illinois where it was very urban and there were subdivisions. I preferred that and it made an impact on where I want my kids to grow up. Location is important because it helps shape who you are in my opinion. When looking where to live you take into consideration where your job is located, family as well as what schools are near. As well as when you look at those schools how do they compare to other schools in nearby areas? The values I look for are what the schools are like, community events, and how the neighborhoods are. I love where I live now, it is a quiet neighborhood with friendly people and just enough kids around! I like to see the kids in the neighborhood on bikes and playing outside. That is what I had when I was young in the summertime and how I want my kids to grow up as well.
The idea of age has changed for me drastically in the last few years. Growing up, as most kids do, we cannot wait to get older. My father once told me when I was about 11 or 12, the older we get the faster time seems to go. Oh, boy was he right. I will be 26 this year and sometimes I feel as though I am 40 and others like I am back in high school. I do not really think of it daily, but I am grateful for each year that comes.
A lot of us as we get older are less inclined to celebrate birthdays because we have this “fear” of getting older. Grunting and groaning over celebrating their 30, 40 50th birthday, etc. I understood that for a moment until I realized firsthand the alternative to celebrating that birthday and altogether not reaching it. My late husband was 39 and not looking forward to his 40th birthday. In his eyes that was him getting “older” and he was not thrilled. However, because of his cancer diagnosis, he never made it to his 40th birthday. That alone turned my world upside down on how I looked at age. From then until the end I will be so grateful to have another year under my belt, around my family, watching my son grow and hopefully grandkids and so on. I feel like this will influence my teaching in having my students try to understand what living in the moment is and how they can do so through various activities. It will also help me to be more insightful and understanding when a child goes through some type of grief and loss.
When it comes to language, I do not have too much to say on the subject. I grew up learning English as my primary language and throughout the years have has random experiences with different languages other than my own. In elementary school, I got to take a German class and then one semester of Spanish in high school and that was about it. One thing that has always interested me however is Sign Language. I have always wanted to learn ASL and even looked up signs on my own and tried to practice them. At some point in the future, I would like to take classes and be able to go into a deaf community and have a conversation. If I were to learn this well, I would use it daily in my own classroom to help other students understand basic signs in case they came across anyone who was deaf or heard of hearing. I feel like it would be a great way to make an inclusive environment.
Growing up in a very accepting household has got me prepared for being accepting and understanding of other preferences. I feel like because of the experiences I have had, like the one in middle school, I am more prepared to handle delicate situations. Being exposed to different races when I was younger helps me to understand race issues are taught, you are not born with them and it is important to understand that and learn from it. I often feel bad when I do not understand someone who speaks a different language than I do. When they have a thick accent, I do not understand it becomes difficult and I just hope in the future I can get more exposure to others with different languages to be more understanding and gain some more insight! Overall, I feel like the more exposure to others the better and I can always learn more.