As the American population becomes increasingly diverse, issues of race, class, and culture become more pronounced. Daily, the effects of misunderstandings, discrimination, and damaging preconceptions are played out in our country—and our neighborhoods—too often leading to further separation and even violence. On all levels of our society, people struggle with challenges of communicating across cultures.
These video clips from the feature documentary “American Textures” take a close look at youth from diverse backgrounds addressing the challenges of understanding others. The documentary follows six American youth of Latino, Caucasian and African American backgrounds, as they travel together through North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina. Together these young heroes develop the courage, skills, and trust to risk entering frank dialogues. Their shared travel experiences, emotions of empathy, honest confrontations, and discoveries about each other become doorways to deepen their understanding of themselves, of the others, and of society.
“Confronting Stereotypes: Frank Discussion”: The students engage in open dialog about their experiences of feeling misunderstood and stereotyped by other cultures. The clip illustrates communication that supports the development of intercultural empathy and critical thinking skills.
“Breaking Down Barriers: Tarrah & Kenya”: The students share first impressions of each other—impressions often based on preconceptions or stereotypes—and openly confront the realities of these impressions. They honestly share their feelings and risk feeling vulnerable in order to get to know each other on deeper levels.
- Conflict mediation is not about avoiding conflicts. It is learning about and understanding the different sides of a conflict and deepening relationships in the process.
- Demographics of the U.S. are changing dramatically. Scientists project that within the next three decades ethnic minorities will grow to be more than 50% of the U.S. population.
- According to the 2012 U.S. Census, 20.5% of Americans lived in a home where a language other than English was spoken.
- Languages reported by the 2000 U.S. Census were English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7%. Although the U.S. has no official national language, English has acquired official status in 28 of the 50 states.