Personal Critical Incident Journal

Pages: 9 (3290 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Anthropology

Personal Narrative within a Cultural Context

It was late November in Madison, Wisconsin -- the leaves had begun to fall creating a crunchy undergrowth as you tramped across the quad to the oblong, totally glass encased building the undergraduates had aptly nicknamed "The Shark Tank," no doubt a symbol of their attitude towards young budding members of the Bar. It had been several weeks since my mid-term meeting with my on campus mentor who assisted me in crafting a well thought out, lucid, cogent cover letter that accompanied my resume which was dutifully sent out to a law firm next to the capital building in downtown Madison.

The firm was on the foremost and prestigious firms in the city -- and securing a clerkship within their hallowed halls was a prize many law students sought to attain. I was a non-traditional student, I was planning on taking summer courses to graduate earlier than my counterparts, so I was a "Spring Associate," this did not mean however the competition was any easier. I had good grades, a solid B-plus average and solid extra-curricular activities to present a well rounded application. Then the day came in late November that changed everything.

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I was standing in the student lounge on the main floor stirring a cup of hot tea that I had just produced from the microwave. Standing their talking to my best friend, Jerry-who was African-American, we were discussing our curriculum options when I noticed my cell phone started to vibrate in my pocket. I recognized the number as being from the law firm and immediately answered it. I don't recall the details of the conversation, I just remember that it was short, terse and to the point and that I would be joining the firm in January as a "Spring Associate" -- finally something felt like it had gone right.

TOPIC: Journal on Personal Critical Incident Assignment

Jerry wasted no time in telling everyone in our network of friends the good news, what I wasn't prepared for was what happened next from one of my competitors. It was a few days after I received the news that Jerry and I were standing, once again within the Student Lounge when another friend of ours and classmate, Carrie arrived. I could tell she was perturbed about something and it didn't take her long to divulge just what was causing her such great consternation. After telling her that I was granted a "Spring Associate" with the firm in Madison, she looked at me with all degrees of certainty and told me "You know you just got it because you are Mexican." This statement landed like a grenade in the middle of the room. I stood their simply stunned as she turned and walked away-for a brief moment I remembered that I was a Mexican-American law student. Up until that moment I had thought of myself as just another law student working as hard as I could and being judged on my merits; after all the law firm didn't ask me my ethnicity in the interview.

This narrative left a profound and deep impression upon me ever since that day. Since then I have always questioned individuals interacting with me in an academic setting. Prior, I had never found myself questioning the opinion of others-I viewed myself as equal but in an institution of higher learning that prided itself on being the penultimate purveyor of "Progressive" thought and tolerance that experience left a significantly negative impression. The purpose of this analysis is not to reminisce about a culturally significant moment but rather discuss this incident within the context of cultural paradigms provided by several leading scholars in the field of Intercultural Communications.

These scholars have promulgated various environments that dictate certain logical dynamics that can impact the interpretation of this event and allow for the derivation of various conclusions. This analysis will implement various aspects of this narrative into several Intercultural models whose sole premise will be to further the understanding of why the impact of this narrative can render such grossly negative consequences. Finally, this analysis will surmise the various constructs presented by the various scholars introduced within this analysis and review how each logical paradigm can influence the conclusion derived from the narrative and how this conclusion can impact further cultural interactions.

Discussion

The first cultural construct that will be discussed in relation to this narrative is the Intercultural relationships designed by Hofstede. Hofstede discusses the "mental processes" people develop in terms of dealing with individuals from other cultures. These "mental processes" are found at the universal, collective and individual levels. Hofstede defines culture as "collective programming of the mind"; it manifests itself only in values and these values are not often correct. These values represent and manifest themselves in superficial ways (Hofstede, 2001, p. 5).

"Mental Processes" dictate that cultural systems are not based on random events but a degree of predictability. This predictability shapes the assumption regarding certain cultural characteristics. These assumptions are predicated on what might be false narratives of how specific cultural groups behavior and furthermore may dictate how individuals perceive these other cultural groups in terms of intelligence and maturity (Hofstede, 2001, p. 6). These "mental processes" can be equated or defined as "software of the mind" that drive the cultural assumptions others have toward other cultural groups.

The "mental processes" model espoused by Hofstede lends itself quite nicely to the overall narrative described at the outset of this analysis. Given that Hofstede contends these "processes" and the culture that derives from them are based on predictable behavior that has its nexus in assumptions of how certain cultures and groups act may explain how Carrie could have thought I received the position due to my minority background. Perhaps, someone from her background, which is white, unfairly thought that minorities were only awarded spots in graduate school or within prestigious firms and other businesses simply because of a quota system. In other words her cultural assumptions may not have allowed for the idea that other minority groups may have worked just as hard or been as intelligent as someone from the majority group. This sort of "mental process" unfairly built into itself several negative and grossly incorrect assumptions that lead to a hasty generalized connotation of members of an ethnic group that possessed different traits and qualities and as a result these assumptions lead to the negative aspects of the narrative.

The Dutch Culturalist Charles Trompennar developed a series of Cultural Factors that can be used to explain the constructs that allow certain cultural to interact with others. Furthermore these factors can be used to place the narrative of this analysis within an academic framework in order to determine the nature of my colleague's behavior and its implication ("Trompennar's Cultural Factors," 2010).

These factors include: (1) Universalism v. Particularism. Universalism is about finding broad and general rules-much like the hasty generalization concept that a "quota" system was responsible for allowing me to secure the position. Particularism is about finding expectations-unfortunately my colleague did not allow for her cultural assumptions to account for exceptions;(2)Analyzing and Integration: Analyzing sees people who view the whole picture as being out of touch with reality, whereas Integration places all the details together in order for individuals to see the large picture; (3) Individualism v. Communitariansim; Individualism refers to the rights of the Individual and Communitariansim focus on the rights of society as a whole ("Trompennar's Cultural Factors," 2010). Clearly my colleague's comment toward me demonstrated a communitarian attitude in that there was an inherent assumption that all members of my ethnic group would have been given positions based solely on ethnic status; (4) Inner directed vs. Outer-Directed-Inner directed is about personal judgment, clearly the narrative clearly demonstrates that my counterpart engaged in a broad personal judgment about another minority group.

It is clear that Tompennar's Cultural Factors lay out the core principle that my colleague's comment described in the initial narrative fits the logical construct of being an unfair, hasty generalization. This fits with the previous construct derived by Hofstede regarding, "mental processes." In deed it could be asserted that both Tompennar and Hofstede's constructs intersect on a more general level-Trompennar and Hofstede's paradigms revolve around an essential core of faulty assumptions being integrated into one's decision making process regarding how certain cultural groups behave and furthermore these negative assumptions are reliant on predictability and personal judgments. Each of these core competencies for these negative assumptions when taking Tropennar and Hofstede together generate the harsh stereotype that was laid out in the narrative.

Edward T. Hall, an anthropologist, is responsible for developing a series of cultural factors. These cultural factors are imperative for defining specific interactions between cultural groups. Also, these factors provide yet another framework within which to place the factors of the narrative within to determine its significance and level of impact.

The most critical of Hall's cultural factors is the High-Context vs. Low-Context cultural factors ("Hall's Cultural Factors," 2010). High-Context cultural factors assumes there are many cultural contextual… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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