Perspectives & Cultural Relativity

photo credit: Mari yamaguchi

photo credit: Mari yamaguchi


"Talk to everyone, because everyone has something to teach you." ~ Oliver E. Richardson Sr.

"When you talk to strangers, you're making beautiful interruptions into the expected narrative of your daily life — and theirs," ~ Kio Stark.

As I've mentioned elsewhere on this website, I come from an incredibly diverse, and culturally rich background.  I was born in the Bay Area, and into a multi-racial and multi-cultural family.  As a toddler I was already trying to suss out the relevance of my racial identity; of course, as a toddler, my limited reason tied racial identity to milkshake preference.  As a biracial child, I learned to navigate that liminal space we all occupy; I lived in both cultures, but didn't wholly embody either; I was discriminated against, but because of my skin color "passed" at the same time; I heard a lot of prejudice from people who were oblivious to my race, and then had to make a decision whether to advocate for myself, or remain silent.  I love being mixed, and always have, and it has its difficulties at the same time.  As a teenager, I was afforded a somewhat unique opportunity to live with people from all over the world for four years, and developed incredible, and lifelong friendships as a result.  I began to explore different languages, developed a rudimentary concept of cultural relativity, and learned the importance of tolerance and curiosity.  In university, my interests led me to pursue a degree in Cultural Anthropology from one of the best programs in the country.  There, I gained a deeper understanding of cultural relativity, and the limits of my own perspective.  I look back at these opportunities I've had and realize what a gift they have been.  I'm now in a position to listen to the experiences of others from a perspective of trust and acceptance; I'm open to further opportunities to learn, and further develop my understanding.  

It strikes me that a lot of the discord we are experiencing in the world right now is precisely because people have had limited exposure to the perspectives of others, and in many cases, people are not aware of their own limited understanding.  On a psychological and societal level there is a tendency to define the Self in opposition to an Other.  I'm using this small platform as a means of furthering understanding and facilitating cultural communication, on a limited scale.  I'm going to share a few resources that I have found interesting and powerful, in the hope that someone will come across some new information, or be able to internalize a new perspective.  I will add to this post as I come across new resources.

If I had limited time to show only one thing it would be this DNA journey.  It speaks to our ethnic interrelatedness, and the futility of us vs. them thinking:

If someone wanted short, evocative, fun stories, I would suggest any of the following:

A Ted Talk in which "Stark explores the overlooked benefits of pushing past our default discomfort when it comes to strangers and embracing those fleeting but profoundly beautiful moments of genuine connection:"

If someone had a few evenings in which to really delve emotionally deep into other cultures, I love and highly recommend "Human:"