Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What Do we Really Know About "Them"?


What do you really know about them?

Some time ago I read an article about local high school graduation ceremonies. This article was a little bit of a rant rather than report. It was the smaller neighborhood paper so I expected nothing too ground breaking. What I did get was a great example of culture clashes still happening today.

The ceremonies in question were from the local Catholic schools. The Catholic school system here is the most viable option for those wishing to escape a drowning, and burning, public system, as opposed to the unaffordable ivy prep style private schools that also dot the city.

Where else would a Catholic graduation be held than in a cathedral? Makes sense.

The article was about the behavior of some “types” of parents and families. These people were designated as “newcomers”, a different “class”, and not “from” the usual neighborhood. What was not stated, but is true and obvious is that these people are black.

The behavior in question, and being complained about, was; shouting, clapping, cheering, and standing up. It was pointed out how inappropriate behavior this is for both a church and a ceremony such as this. The writer was deeply and vocally offended.

Has this person ever been to a black church?

What is appropriate to one is not always appropriate to another.
The writer saw these actions as inconsiderate at best and more deeply disrespectful.

Was it?

Did the writer consider that in the churches these “newcomers” attend, if you like, or approve of something you immediately let them know? Did the writer consider that in this culture NOT showing approval or excitement when one should be excited, is seen as disrespectful? Did the writer know anything of the black church’s association of spirit, progression, and making a “joyful noise”? I’m sure in the minds of these newcomers they were acting as expected and as is appropriate.

Now the inverse is true.

If you enter a new place or culture you should take some time to learn the ins and outs. Did the newcomers stop to think of what a Catholic would see as appropriate behavior in a catholic cathedral? Did they know or care what the “others” thought was appropriate?

The two cultures, black and white, are different. These differences are OK.

Who if anyone is paying attention?

Why is no one taking the time to educate each other on these things, or are they but no one wants to listen?


No, in stead we just watch, get offended, and talk about whats wrong with "them."

12 comments:

Corbie said...

Okay, this one was an easy one for me and my answer perhaps runs counter to many of my other answers. But I think, given that the example you gave is the Catholic school example, I have to say that the 'guests' (non-Catholics) should conform to whatever standards the congregation deems to be respectful. It would not be okay for someone to show up to an LDS baptism with bottles of wine just because that is their way of worshiping or celebrating...it is a simple case of 'when in Rome'.

Siditty said...

OK Maybe graduations are different where you are from, but when I graduated as one of four blacks in my high school, there was plenty of hooping and hollering. Maybe high school graduations are different there. Our school had to do a ban on fog horns and cow bells. Yes, cow bells, don't say nothing about Texas :p

I want to note, I went to a school located in the most affluent city in the nation, according to the U.S. census.

Corbie said...

Okay, I totally should have grown up in Texas. The cow bells, the hooping and hollering, plus my love of country music - how does a mouthy girl like me wind up in Utah? :)

Siditty said...

Texas welcomes everyone, including people from Utah, as long as you realize Texas is it's own country, you are ok :)

Amanda said...

I figure I have stalked your blog for long enough, I should probably comment.

"Them" isn't just a problem for race though-- its a fundamental problem humans have. We tend to group anyone we don't understand. Case in point-- "Those people" in Iraq are terrorists. We could go on and on. Gays want to destroy the sanctity of marriage. Whites hate blacks and blacks hate whites. Christians versus Muslims and everyone against the Jews.

It's the way our brains work. Unfortunate, but true. It doesn't mean that we can't control it, or learn to work around it-- over come it. We manage to control other innate drives, we SHOULD be civilized enough to accept that others are slightly different, but usually we're not.

If it had been the other way around-- everyone yelling and cheering and the Catholic sitting there quietly, people would probably talk about how uppity that darn Catholic was.

This post offers no solution, rather just my thought on the situation. I'm not constructive, I know.

Lisa said...

I have to throw in, Day, that I think this is more of a religious difference than a racial one. And I do think the most respectful way to treat each other is to conform to the vicinity...yes, the "when in Rome" philosophy. If we all took the time to educate ourselves about the culture before we entered it with the expectation of participating, we would avoid serious misunderstandings and offenses. And from doing so, we would gain respect and friendship. We would also reflect well on the culture that we represent. I think President Hinckley is a prime example of this. He was well loved all over the world - because he researched anything new to him and found commonality. He never backed down on who he was or what he stood for, yet he was always respectful of the cultures and traditions of those he was visiting. Education is key.

brohammas said...

There are a few things that should be noted here.

This is cultural. Religion plays a role in culture, and vice versa, but you will find that generally, despite the denomination, a black church will be more lively or expressive. Catholacism with its ritualistic services do not usually allow room for this... but this was not a mass. Religion has had an influence on the culture of the white catholics, with the stay in you seat and sit quietly til the ceremony is over attitude. But this bleeds over into, or plays off, the more general white populations idea of sit quietly as not to make a fool of yourself because people are watching syndrome.

Now of course in this instance, during the ceremony, if it is proper to sit and be quiet than all should do so, no matter your background. It is a Catholic Cathedral, hosting a Catholic school. All should learn how to act.

What I thin is worth pointing out is that when we come across these missteps in behavior our first reaction is to judge and usually condemn, end of story.

This is not productive and breeds futer animosity. If the communication lines were open between the two races than
A) the noisy ones would be more likely to know about and understand what and why the appropriate behavior is, or rather what the expextations are.

B)the writer of the article would know enough of cultures to realize this is an education and communication issue, not a write a story in the local paper fanning the flames of contempt issue.

This is less a who is right and who is wrong example, than it is an illustration of how the two groups actually do differ. Many of us do not want to accept this, but look from the outside, interpreting the situation without even trying to get an understanding of why the "others" do what they do.

Siditty said...

Catholacism with its ritualistic services do not usually allow room for this... but this was not a mass. Religion has had an influence on the culture of the white catholics, with the stay in you seat and sit quietly til the ceremony is over attitude. But this bleeds over into, or plays off, the more general white populations idea of sit quietly as not to make a fool of yourself because people are watching syndrome.


Very true,I know many black catholics in Texas and Louisiana, and their services are very quiet as well. Of course it freaked me out that many times they had white priests doing their sermons. In a Baptist church co-mingling was not allowed. You went to the black church or white church, and if you were black and went to a white church you committed some big taboo, when my uncle and his white wife attempted to attend a white church in the 1980s, they were asked to leave. That is why you have southern baptist=white, missionary baptist=black. The Southern Baptist Convention didn't really even have black church affiliates until 1995. They were very strongly embracing of segregation. 1995 was when they apologized for it.

In terms of differences, there are some obvious differences between certain groups of people. That isn't the issue, but gaining a perspective and appreciating the differences is the biggest issue that causes so much animosity.

Anonymous said...

"This is not productive and breeds futer animosity. If the communication lines were open between the two races than
A) the noisy ones would be more likely to know about and understand what and why the appropriate behavior is, or rather what the expextations are."


That's what I'd like to know. Were the "others" made aware of the expectations in such a setting prior to the ceremony? Or were they just unknowingly disrespecting the "civilized" crowd and the religious surroundings? Coming from graduations much like Siditty's in Texas (save the cowbells), I would at least cheer for the person for whom I was attending the graduation. That's the point of attending another's graduation. And if no one told me of the appropriate/allowed behavior before the ceremony, then how would I know that what I'm doing is wrong and offensive? Am I supposed to look it up on the internet and rent some books before I go?

brohammas said...

I'm sure a note was sent home with the students. We all know that messages carried by 17 year olds are a reliable method of communication and instruction.

Corbie, mouthy girls end up in Utah as pennance for a wayward parent... once you pay your due, you are allowed to leave.

Texas would be great if it wasnt for the Dallas Cowboys... Go EAGLES

Siditty said...

Uuuhhhhmmmm I know you did not talk about the Cowboys, I knew I couldn't be civil to you, and your uncouth Eagles. Ick.

Amber said...

I met this cultural difference when I worked w/poor schools in South Jersey... I was appalled that loudly boo at a dance performance. And then I attended a '76ers game. "Oh!," I thought,"folks are different out here."

Before one program, a principal explained to the students that this was not TV (where it's ok to talk during the show) or a sports game. She taught them about concert behavior, and that's all it took. They were the best school I worked with.

Blurbs in a program, or words from an MC usually work well.