Every other week CGEE and Augsburg students have an exchange where they come together and talk about life and history in the United States and Mexico. One of the most valuable things about the exchange is getting to know other students who are the same age but live in a different country and whose lives may be much different (but also very similar). Students sometimes hang out together after classes and have gotten to know each other fairly well. Something I look forward to sharing when I go back to the United States is knowledge about social issues in Mexico and how similar they are to those in the U.S.
A topic for the I-House/ CGEE exchange this past week was racism, privilege and colorism in Mexico and the United States. Racism is a belief that a race is better or worse than another. Colorism is thinking that a shade of skin is better or worse than another. Privilege is the advantages you were born into that you are unable to change. Students from I-House and CGEE discussed the ways the three topics affect them and their lives.
Both groups gave examples of how colorism and racism have affected what we see in the media. The media seems to given better opportunities to people of a lighter skin tone. Less opportunities are given to people of African descent and Mexicans, and more A-Listers tend to be of European descent. This made me consider the shows/movies I watch and how diverse they are. The shows I am currently watching, The Office and Big Little Lies, are both mainly white casts. One student shared about how she feels that a majority of black actors are either killed off within the first half of the film or are depicted as “help” or slaves. Hearing this, I thought about including more diverse voices in film.
Colorism is something that affects Mexicans. A student presenting mentioned that certain features are viewed as less trustful in a person for example, “dark skin, big lips, big nose.” People with paler skin are preferred and are given more value in society. As a future social worker (and a person) this was sad to hear. I was surprised to hear how many similarities the United States and Mexico have in terms of discrimination and treatment solely based on the ways someone looks. Colorism and racism not only affect the ways others perceive us but employment and day-to-day life. It is interesting and disheartening to hear about the ways that our systems are flawed, but pushes me to act on hate and prejudice.
This past week Augsburg and Ihouse delivered presentations about the spread of English and Spanish through Imperialism. Students played a game of telephone to demonstrate the importance of communication. Students were told to translate from English to Spanish and vice versa to make the game more difficult. This made students think about the many ways our understanding of a language can affect our ability to connect with others. Some students didn’t understand what was being said and had a hard time translating into another language, others didn’t have any problem. This led into a discussion about how language is important to both Ihouse and Augsburg students.
Students discussed reasons why speaking another language is important to them. Students from Augsburg spoke about the possibilities of learning Spanish; Spanish may open doors in their professions and the ability to communicate with more people around the world. Ihouse students spoke very similarly about the possibilities of learning English. You are also able to learn more about your own language when you learn another language. Learning a new language can open doors to learning about a new culture and you are able to connect with more people.
Palace of Hernan Cortes in Cuernavaca. Nothing represents the spread of imperialism more vividly than the imposing summer house of the first conqueror of the Americas.
Students also talked about English spreading and how many languages are being wiped out. Many languages are on the verge of being extinct. Some languages have fewer than five people that speak them, and when languages are wiped out so are cultures that go along with them. Some of these languages are thousands of years old and all the stories passed down from generation will not be communicable if there aren’t people that speak them. Various people in a video shown about languages dying spoke about how they were punished in their schools when they spoke their native tongue and were expected to speak another language. Many of these languages have been used even throughout the effects of imperialism and colonialism and it would be tragic if they died out. This led into a discussion about the spread of English being problematic. Although the spread of English isn’t inherently bad, people being punished for not using English is. The majority of scientists and business people are expected to know English, and may have a hard time getting ahead if they don’t know it, which is unfair. The spread of English isn’t necessarily a negative phenomenon but could hold people back. This makes me question, how do we create a national dialogue on stopping the extinction of languages?