The Culture Awareness Activity: A Teaching Tool for Understanding Diversity

  • Melanie Hildebrandt and Gloria Onosu, Department of Sociology

    This panel will present some of the observations the presenters made during an interactive class activity on cultural awareness. We designed this teaching tool to explore the notion of cultural privilege in an undergraduate sociology course on race and ethnicity. The objective of the class activity was to allow students to understand the relationship between race, ethnicity, and culture. In addition, this activity provided students with a practical means to observe how American cultural values are highly influenced by Euro-American (white) ideology.

    The activity, which attendees will also have the opportunity to experience, required participants to identify with a racial and ethnic group (White, African American, Hispanic, Asian American, Native American or Mixed). Each racial/ethnic group was then required to develop a list of cultural attributes that are unique to their identity group. All groups were required to list traits of “American culture” generally and compare American culture to the different racial/ethnic cultures represented in the room.

    We will present a summary and analysis of some of the noticeable challenges the students experienced while engaging in this activity. The exercise elicited some strong and unexpected reactions from students about diversity and the expectation of cultural assimilation for both white ethnic and minority groups into the American “mainstream” culture.