I am a 29-year-old woman from Iran. As far as I remember, I have witnessed several evidences of “difference seeking” which I want to share with you, as well as my current believes about how to deal with this universal phenomenon, specifically its reflection in educational environments.
Back to Iran, there are barely international communities who live there for long time. While significant number of tourists visit Iranian heritage sites yearly, not many choose to stay as immigrants, particularly in the past 40 years. Well, this may bring about a picture of a quite uniform country with quite similar people of the same nation, skin color, culture and history. This is not really the case, though; in facts, driving from north to south and east to west, one meet totally different individuals. Due to modern urbanism, many people have been moving to big cities, such as Tehran the capital city of Iran, where suddenly they find new accents, lifestyles and looks. And then the “difference seeking” engine starts generating prejudgments: Turks are this, Kurds are that, Balochs are this, Arabs are that, blah blah blah.
During the past four years of my life in the US, I have experienced another level of living in a multicultural country. The appearance differences are substantially significant, so that not only all Iranians are grouped in one cluster, but also many times people of our neighboring countries are added to our group, and we make a larger cluster called Middle Easterners! And, again, the same story repeats: Whites are this, Blacks are that, Asians are this, Browns are that, blah blah blah. This time, just the prejudgments are applied to larger groups of people with remarkable visual differences, but the essence of such statements are the same:
- We have a backpack of features specific to each cluster. Simply, whenever we meet a person who looks like a member of that cluster, without having a enough knowledge about his/her background, we assign those feature to that person.
- We feel excited to share our backpacks with fellow citizens, and make it updated!
- After a while, we become even more expert and make small bags in our backpacks, e.g. eastern and western Europeans bags inside the Europeans bag.
Academic environments are of the most diverse places where local/international scholars get together. It is definitely very crucial to train students, faculties and staff of such environments to learn more about (1) the “hidden brain” which implicitly generates the above prejudgments, (2) techniques to terminate/dilute these thoughts, (3) polite yet frank dialogues to deal with discriminating conversations. What if we consider the whole community as one organ whose members endeavor to LEARN, and all speak in one language called SCIENCE? Is not it a more respectful, inclusive and effectual alternative?