When We Assume Sameness

We look the same, well kind of, my husband and I.  Both caucasian, both tall, early to mid-thirties, quick to smile and seemingly always taking care of a child.  Our values are pretty much the same, our hopes and dreams.  We aspire to be the best parents we can be.  We aspire to be secure, in love, and involved adults.  We dream much the same.  And yet, even with all of our similarities, we are quite different.  We come from different cultures and backgrounds that permeate every decision we make.  Yet, to an untrained eye one would never assume that I hail from a country other than the USA.  To an untrained eye I look as American as apple pie.

But those differences linger and they erupt from time to time.  Our norms are slightly different, our expectations widely so at times.  The way we treat friends, what we consider the norms of social behavior are different.  Small tiffs can erupt based on this, moments where we do not see eye to eye and have a hard time doing so because our background dictates a different world view.  The expectations we have for our children and their behavior vary, much of it based on what is deemed appropriate and respectful in our differing nations.  And yet we look the same so you would never know but those differences linger just below the surface, ready to show themselves whenever a situation arises.

How often do we do that to students who look like us?  We assume they must have been raised in a society and culture much like our own and thus set our expectations accordingly.  We speak so much about recognizing students from other cultures and embracing them and our differences but often only apply it to those that look markedly different than us.  If a child speaks another language, well then we expect differences in norms and behaviors   But when a white kid, blonde, blue eyed like myself doesn’t act like a “typical” white, blonde blue-eyed kid, then we get confused.  We might have to do a little digging to find out that  child is not from the same background as ours.  And then we realize, oh, they are different, not quite what I had expected.

And as for me?  I get assumed American all the time and yet Denmark raises its children markedly different than the typical American ways.  The differences are subtle, but they are there, and they explain many parts of my personality.  So perhaps our assumptions of likeness need to just stop.  Yes, it is nice to assume that w all come from the same background, but we don’t.  Perhaps when we embrace children from other cultures we need to move past the skin color and language they speak and truly see the whole gamut of differences we may have.  I know my life would be slightly easier if we did.

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