Thursday, May 18, 2017

final

Donating blood has been one of the simplest yet most fulfilling experiences I have ever had. I had the pleasure to do so this past year at school through LifeSource and was able to save up to three lives with my donation. The nurses that helped were so incredibly kind and gentle as well as the volunteers who took care of the donors after the entire process. One thing that did shock me, however, was during the survey portion, there were a series of questions that asked if I was either a male that had sexual contact with another male or a female who had come in sexual contact with a male that had been with another male in the past year. Then, I remembered learning about the history of AIDS/HIV during one of my science classes. In the 80’s, the disease was actually referred to as “GRIDS”- Gay-related Immune Disorder. After further research, the CDC confirmed that the disease indeed had no correlation to homosexuality, thus deeming it “AIDS”- Acquired Immune Deficiency. In fact, studies have shown that active gay men are in the lower percentile rank of those affected by AIDS/HIV. Still, Red Cross has banned all “gay” blood donations. Though we were donating through LifeSource, several students at Stevenson were turned away as well. This is one of the most basic forms of deviance. We are a society run by norms and social constructs- something man-made and subjective- and when one strays away, they are immediately pointed out as if he/she didn't stand out enough. A study called Saints and Roughnecks conducted by William Chambliss shows us how deviance comes in all shapes and sizes. It follows two groups of students: the upper middle class, straight-A Saints and the lower class, unkempt Roughnecks. Both behaved recklessly outside of class, but the Saints were always given the benefit of the doubt because their social class was able to polish their exterior and boost their academics; no one ever suspected anything of them. The Roughnecks, however, couldn't afford to mask their "crimes" with a nice wardrobe or A's on their report card. In both cases, deviance has inhibited them from assimilating and being accepted into their environment. These judgments are extremely superficial and discriminatory, often using unjust and poor reasoning. No one is better than you and you are better than no one.
Additionally, I was able to teach traditional Korean drumming to a group of 4-6th graders every Saturday since September. I give lessons based on what I have learned from my professional teachers. I enjoy my time there as I love drumming as well as sharing the knowledge of my deep rooted culture. The thing that fulfills me most is knowing how I am influencing these children to embrace their native culture and introducing them to a world of multiculturalism. Recently, my students learned that I will be serving in the US Army. Without a second of hesitation, a girl sat up and shouted, “I’m pretty sure girls can’t serve in the military.” Perplexed but more amused, I laughed and explained that both genders are eligible to serve in all branches of the military today. At first, they disputed and tried to convince me that ‘girls weren’t capable’. Then, another little one stood and assured me that, “you have a 50% chance of dying”. Though I didn’t take personal offense to any of these comments, I was rather astounded by how much they were influenced by socialization into gender. From a young age, I’ve been told what I can and cannot do or what I should or should not do. Though sexism is not as prevalent as it was back then, it still exists in modern day society. Tough Guise 2 explores how social constructs have affected the way we view gender and masculinity. In fact, much of violent behavior we see in the news isn’t attributed to gory video games but it is rather derived from a “traditional” mindset of what it is to be a real man- to be masculine is to be void of emotions and to persevere no matter what. Our young boys and men have been socialized to become these set standards, thus turning to the culture of violent masculinity for affirmation. The documentary also touches on how our culture blatantly objectifies women through advertisements and media. Due to this, men are seen as dominant while women are simply their counterparts- doing the lesser chores because they are perceived as weak and simply existing for pleasure because that’s what the media tells us. While many claim that these messages have no effect on them, it is untrue due to the implicit nature of them. It was extremely shocking to see to what extent this level of socialization had done to the children of this generation. Women have been a great contribution to our US military and history. Regardless of my students’ ignorance and lack of education, they immediately assume that women are inferior and incapable. This is the result of the priming our society has done to them regarding gender, norms, and roles.
The drumming class I teach is an elective Korean school, so I speak Konglish (Korean/English) to my students to make them feel comfortable while pushing them to learn. I have to admit that they have much to go before officially claiming that they are fluent in the language. However, no matter how their tongues twist, they try their hardest in remembering to use honorific language when speaking to me. I was awed because in my Korean drumming group, SoriBeat, the younger kids always speak to me as if we are equal in age or in levels of maturity even though I am nearly 6 years older than most. Despite that they are all Korean, the significant difference is that one group is in an environment where there is more emphasis on culture and traditions and the other group is allowed to do whatever is comfortable. The contrast I saw in the children was influenced by a value that is written in our Constitution.  Kohl explains in "The Values We Live By" that equality is so vital that "[Americans] have even given it a religious basis. They say that all people have been "created equal". And so, in America, children and adults speak to one another in an often casual and friendly manner. It is interesting, to say the least, to see these disparities in cultures around the world. One thing that causes a problem when encountering these differences is that people take an ethnocentric stance and judge others based off of norms and expectations in one’s native culture. While it is normal to experience a culture shock like I did, we should all strive to stray away from judgment and rather embrace our diversities.

Look, I know you doubt me, I know you always have. And you're right. I often think of Bag End. I miss my books. And my armchair. And my garden. See, that's where I belong. That's home. That's why I came back, 'cause you don't have one. A home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can.” - Bilbo Baggins in Hobbit, Tolkien
This is my favorite part from the book/movie, “Hobbit” where Bilbo- the hobbit who agreed to help a group of dwarves retake their homeland- explains why he chose to stick through all the turmoil despite everyone’s skepticism towards him. In fact, he never tells them of all the trouble he went through to aid them in their journey. To me, that’s what a humanitarian is. Someone that is willing to give their all, for nothing in return- no goods, no deeds, no recognition; just happiness. I see community service in this light and feel that I am extremely fortunate to be in a position where I am able to serve others. I am more than happy to be giving my time and effort to the community. Service has not only made me feel accomplished, but has also allowed me to keep an open mind and be sociological mindful- being able to realize how small deeds can go a long way.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

American Culture

When I think of America, I think of our beautiful national anthem, the Statue of Liberty, the star spangled banner, and our mighty military. Then, when I think of the American culture, I am baffled. We value unity (heck, we even have the word "united" in our name!), yet we promote individualism whether it be through occupation, beliefs, or race. While we value freedom and liberty, we are judgmental of one another's identity and choices.

In "Bemused in America" by Stefan Schirmer, he gives readers an insight as to how bizarre our culture is as a complete foreigner. From jogging to idioms, what is part of a daily routine for Americans is a whole different world for those that are new. He also gets at the idea that values we uphold often contradict one another. For example, we strive to be healthy and encourage "fat free" products all while consuming excess amount of junk/fattening food. Another is that we emphasize the freedom that we have in this country all while we are bound by all types of rules such as strict carding at bars, speed limits, and "restaurant etiquette".

Likewise, a lot of what I have seen and experienced in America opposes its own values and culture. This is what is known as counterculture. It is usually a subculture that reflects opposing ideals, but it exists in many aspects of the American society.

I wasn't as immersed in the Korean culture at the young age of 4 as my parents were, however, I still noticed the significant disparities while growing up. One thing that perplexed me most was how children spoke to the adults in casual language- as if they were friends on same age. This is due to a value that is even written in our Constitution.  Kohl explains in "The Values We Live By" that equality is so vital that "[Americans] have even given it a religious basis. They say that all people have been "created equal".

In Korea, we value respect thus we always speak in honorific language to our elders and strangers. We also show respect through physical language as well. We bow when greeting, biding goodbye, thanking, or even apologizing. I had to learn to let go of these traditions in order to assimilate and be "normal" in America. To this day, I still struggle to blend in.

Culture affects everyone to a certain extent whether you have resided in multiple places or have lived in one area your entire life. Although foreign cultures may be unusual to the individual, we should all learn to keep an open mind and respect the culture of which we are taking part in.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Korean Drumming

Traditional Korean drumming has been a big part of my life these past two years. It has not only helped in creating a firmer sense of identity within myself but also a sense of pride in my own culture and a willingness to promote multiculturalism through the difference encounters I have had.

I teach Korean drumming at a Korean school at Grace Church in Wheeling. I have my assistant teacher's (who is well immersed with the staff and organization of the school) number: 847-387-7973.

I have had 10-12 students in grades 4-6 in the past year over the course of two semesters. I have been teaching every Saturday at 12:40-1:30 since September and will be done in June. From what I have learned from my own teachers, I teach these students a more "watered down" version as we don't have as much time to develop certain skills. The performance piece is around 5 minutes long.

I have never been in charge of teaching a group of children something- let alone something as intricate as Korean drumming. I was a bit apprehensive of the idea that they wouldn't be compliant and would give up easily. However, I've found a comfortable place among them and have learned to differentiate when to be their friend vs when to be their teacher. Also, the staff is incredibly friendly and always commends me for being a great teacher.

I enjoy my time there as I love drumming as well as sharing the knowledge of my deep rooted culture. The thing that fulfills me most is knowing how I am influencing these children to embrace their native culture and introducing them to a world of multiculturalism.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Culture

Moving here to the States, I think it's safe to say I experienced an extreme culture shock. The buildings were shorter, there was carpet in homes, and there were no markets out on the streets. These things which I had never experienced before were part of the material culture in the United States.

I assimilated into the American culture within a matter of years. The language, the customs, the norms were written in everyday interactions and soon came naturally to me.

However, to this day, I find myself demonstrating folkways- a social norm which is not necessarily punishable if not carried out properly, but frowned down upon- from my homeland. In South Korea, we emphasize our value towards our elderly through means such as honorific language and hand gestures. With honorific language, we quite literally have to watch what we say when speaking to elders or even a stranger that may be younger than yourself. The same rule applies to hand gestures; we always hand things with two hands. This is the non-material culture in Korea.

When I worked at Mariano's, I would often give customers their change/receipt using both of my hands and then, I'd be genuinely shocked when a stranger would fling me their card out of their purse with one hand full of attitude. The only form of honorific language in English is politeness: "please" and "thank you", which many Americans neglect. In Korea, respect is a given. In American, respect is a privilege.

Through communication with a diverse group of Americans, I've observed that the American culture is "free" in many aspects; people are encouraged to speak their minds/opinions whenever they please. This in turn promotes individualism and pride for one's uniqueness. While this has shaped and encouraged me to be the person I am today, it also has some negative impacts on our community. As we see in the documentary "God Grew Tired of Us", the Lost Boys of Sudan feel lonelier than ever in the States because of this individualistic society as opposed to their native, communal one. They are encouraged to focus on school and becoming financially independent. Not only this, but they are expected to "fit in" like an "average" American while keeping their own identity.

Over the years, the American culture has evolved into something more aggressive. Projections of opinions and voice have become forceful rather than mannerly discussions. America has been trying so hard to contain this image of freedom and extraordinary state of being, that we've lost a sense of compassion and unity. We are defensive of our culture while being quick to judge others'. This is known as ethnocentrism- judgment of other cultures based on the standards/norms of one's own. An ethnocentric way of thinking is not only lacking a sociologically mindful perspective, but a loss of respect of another culture.

A sure way of combating this is by having a conversation. It's absolutely normal and encouraged to have curiosity about a different culture, so long as it isn't disrespectful or demeaning. In fact, we should always discuss our differences instead of trying to change one another right off the bat; this goes for anything- politics, religion, ethics, etc. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Blood Donation

On March 10, 2017, I donated blood through the school's NHS blood drive. The organization sponsoring the event was LifeSource. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of myself at the wrestling room where the donations were held. I do, however, have the donation instruction sheet that I received that day.

 


The wrestling room was set up in four stations: check in, meeting with a nurse, donation, and recovery. I signed in, took a survey to verify my medical history for eligibility, got my finger pricked for blood identification purposes (it hurt more than the needle for the blood donation), and headed over to donate. They had music playing in the background while blood was being drawn- it takes approximately 15 minutes. The nurses that helped were extremely generous and made the environment feel very comfortable. Afterwards, I headed to the recovery station where they provided me with pj pants and snacks/juice. I had to wait 15 minutes before leaving. 

My first time donating blood was in October- again, through the school- so, I wasn't anxious this time around. Although, both times I thought to myself, "This has to be one of the easiest ways to physically help another human being." (Sociological imagination!) Of course, if you are able. But I do get excited that such a small and simple act goes a long way. Each donation has the potential to save three lives and the only "act" of service is sitting in a chair while squeezing a rubber ball with a needle in your arm. Due to financial situations, many aren't able to give back to the community with money or service. Blood donations are relatively non-invasive and come with no cost at all. Please look into it!

The main supervisor for this event was Mr. Erdmann. You can contact him at berdmann@d125.org.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Race

I sat at the dinner table with my best friend and her Caucasian parents one evening, awkwardly listening to their debate: "There's no such thing as white privilege."

I had never seen her so upset with her parents. But as she tried to quarrel with them, she was stopped upon trying to define 'white privilege'. I was at a loss of words as well, as I couldn't come up with a dictionary definition of what it was. One thing was for certain: my friend and I, the two lone Asians, saw something that her white privileged parents could not.

Explicit racism is not as prevalent in the United States as it once was. In fact, in my experience as a "non-American", I had faced more implicit racism than anything. As Tim Wise explains in his film, "White Like Me", implicit racism is a subconscious act in which discrimination and preference of race occurs through mediums, from institutions to individuals. An example of such is a microaggression which is marginalization through casual and often oblivious means. Microaggressions are enforced by stereotypes and generalizations- taking the uniqueness and achievements from an individual and attributing it to his/her race. I struggled with this tremendously. Even though most comments were subtle, I felt an obligation to become "white" to fit in and have a sense of identity.

White privilege is the privilege of not being questioned your race in a completely unrelated situation; it is the privilege of having the opportunities that others don't have; it is the privilege of not knowing that you are privileged.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Social Class

Athletes make thousands of dollars per game. Actors and actresses rack up an average American's salary in filming a 60 minute piece. Politicians are paid six figures for attacking each other.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a mother is working two jobs and doing extra work for the neighbors, all while taking care of 3 children on her own. A dad is struggling to get by on welfare to feed himself, his wife, and his dog. A family, each with their own jobs, just barely pay off rent with just enough left for a meager meal.

Wealth on a bigger scale is not as pretty as we think it is. And while we claim that money can't buy you happiness, it still controls a big part of our lives. While it can't buy us love, it buys us food to keep us full, clothes to keep us warm, and a home to keep us safe.

It's extremely difficult to get by without the security of money as we saw in the class game of Monopoly- the modified version. If you started out poor, you barely had enough to buy property. You had a higher chance of going to jail and staying in jail. Most of all, by the end of the game, you'd probably be just as poor as when you started.

We see a more realistic version of what it's like to get by without much essentials in Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. She takes on the lifestyle of a minimum wage worker, living paycheck to paycheck and ends up having to work two jobs. At work, she's treated poorly and tossed around. Outside, she's exhausted and just barely getting by.

As we see from her example, all her paychecks go directly to immediate needs. She doesn't have the luxury of a savings account. Due to this, she's unable to move up social classes. This is an example of social mobility and how difficult it is to move up as you are lower in class.

Unfortunately, it's not very unusual to see someone of higher social class treating one of a lower class with less respect. With money, comes power and authority; ultimately making them feel entitled. Minimum wage workers are often treated like personal servants. Those that can't afford cleaner/nicer clothes are denied service from certain restaurants. Homeless and jobless are perceived as lazy and having no discipline. With money comes judgment.

This is an experiment called the Money Suit. Watch it for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_nuPlE2KU8

Yes, money keeps you alive. But compassion and love helps us live. We shouldn't judge others because of what they do and don't have.