Pupils and students from minority cultures in the UK or elsewhere do not have to go to school and be told that their cultures are backward or expected to assimilate into the host culture. What is needed is integration and the process of integration is getting to know, understand and celebrate other cultures just like yours.
One very good example about African community-focused culture is that everyone is your brother and sister even if they are not biologically related to you (we do this with faith too and it’s done in the military as comradeship). It is mostly in Africa that you will see someone calling a man or woman who is not his/her biological parent “daddy or mummy” – that is simply the beauty of the culture.
An unfortunate incidence was reported to us where it was stated that a caseworker became hostile to an African lady who said she left her child with her sister when she (caseworker) discovered that the so called “sister” was not her biological sister. She felt deceived and would not accept any explanation.
This is how one culture differs from another to the point that the lack of understanding of a culture, especially by public service providers like the Social Work has continued to unfairly dealt with African women (of course) with negative consequences on the children the system claimed to want to protect.
A record number of African children are falling into care and African working in care and fostering are extremely low. This leaves hundreds, if not thousands of African children in the care of those who do not understand their culture and as these children are mostly at their very young age, it makes rehabilitation to the original parent extremely difficult.
These children also, having been exposed to cultural conflicts right from their tender ages grow up to struggle with self-identity and which affects their self-esteem. We know that these could knock a child out at adulthood or seriously impede the child reaching his/her potentials in life.
The UK government and especially the Scottish Parliament need to look into this and act accordingly as this requires urgency.
Still talking about the language of communication and its uniqueness to each culture.
Laura Plummer (Briton under arrest in Egypt) was reported to have “entered an incorrect plea and admitted importing the drugs by mistake” after questions and responses in court were “lost in translation.” The family were reported to have said further “She’s answered some questions wrong because she’s not understanding them” It’s reported that trial will commence once the defence has found a new interpreter.
The 33-year-old shop worker was arrested after carrying 320 Tramadol tablets into Egypt. The painkiller, an opiate like codeine, morphine and heroin is legal in UK but banned in Egypt.
We continue to raise the need for the UK’s authority, government agencies, Social services, the police and others to understand not just the language of immigrants but also their mode of communication. Many ethnic mirnority people in the UK have been stopped by the police, interviewed by the police and Social services and even allocated solicitors without interpreters and/or without understanding the mode of communication of these cultures.
The society will continue to drag in unfairness and injustices as long as the host community is limiting the narratives of events to only the dictates of its culture.
What has happened to the Briton in Egypt is what is happening to many migrants in the UK and which we have been making several efforts to ensure that the UK government understands the implication of many of its agencies’ disregard for other people’s culture while celebrating UK’s multiculturalism.
We at AFCAE believe cultural pluralism is what we need which fosters not just learning the language of another culture but accepting and celebrating their ways of life and which is very different from multiculturalism which focuses only on the host community culture and expects other cultures to abandon their cultures and fuse into the host culture.
The Egypt case is a good example of communication breakdown because of information “lost in translation”
We all know the importance of greenhouses but for the sake of clarity, a greenhouse is a structure mostly made with transparent materials for the purpose of growing plants which require regulated climate control.
The greenhouse technology was a major scientific breakthrough because with it, a beneficial plant could be transplanted away from its location of natural environment and grown in another location under a simulated environment. For an example, a plant could be transplanted from Rwanda and grown in Scotland despite the climates of the two regions not being the same. What happens in Scotland is that the plant is kept in a greenhouse and the environment of the greenhouse is regulated to simulate the sort of climatic condition that obtains in Rwanda. The plant grows and the people in Scotland can enjoy the benefit without having to go to Rwanda from time to time. Thereby saving money, energy and time.
There is the possibility that UNESCO had this scenario in mind when it stated that cultural humans should be beneficial to one another just like the plant world or simply said, biodiversity by appreciating and understanding the minor cultures within a host community.
If we care so much about beneficial plants that we develop and construct greenhouses for them since we know that the climate of the host communities may be adverse to them, why do we find it difficult to understand the synergy of humans of different cultural background and identities through integration in the host communities and not by expecting them or ”forcing” their children to adopt the culture of the host community?
At Action for Culture and Ethics, it’s integration for us and not assimilation. Things have to change for our mutual benefits. ”Greenhouse ’em”
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While delivering a presentation on the activities of Action for Culture and Ethics at an Equality and Diversity group meeting, I relayed a personal experience to show how the simple composition of an African body system reacts differently to that of a Caucasian and how the understanding of that could help us to understand how people of different culture/ethnicity would behave differently. Such an understanding will foster integration, where we appreciate other people’s cultures and ways of doing things. What we’ve had so far is the expectation of the minority cultures (mostly migrants) to adopt the behaviours of the host communities and which is causing cultural conflicts with the host communities and even within African families in the UK.
My experience: ”About 2 years ago, I suddenly noticed that I was getting very tired around the middle of the day for no obvious reason. Getting a good night rest or staying longer on the bed seemed not to have any impact on this new status of my system and I had to approach my GP. Series of blood tests were carried out over a course of 3 months before my GP discovered that I was short of Vitamin D. That’s the vitamin you get from the sun and since we have limited sunlight hours in the UK, my body had run short. In fact, Vitamin D level was at the borderline according to my GP and I was prescribed a Vitamin D supplement.”
After the meeting, a lady who also gave a presentation stopped me on my way out and sort of, approved what I said about Melanin. She told me how the GPs at the area where Asylum Seekers were housed many years ago were prescribing anti-depressant to a whole lot of these Asylum Seekers because of low mood until someone got worried about a sizeable percentage of the Asylum Seekers, mostly from the African countries suffering from low mood at the same time. That concern led to the discovery that it was the shortage of Vitamin D because of the limited sunlight hours in the UK.
In Greek language, Melanin (a group of natural pigments) is termed ”dark” or ”black” and the dark skin of an African person is due to the presence of melanin which is a natural sunscreen preventing the penetration of the sun’s UV rays through his/her skin. The presence of melanin in an African person is connected to his/her natural and cultural location, which is Africa. The melanin is then inherited by his/her offspring/s.
The fact that a Caucasian lives in Africa for many years, and may be tanned, will not automatically make him/her to have dark-skin offspring and neither will an African give birth to a Caucasian-like child because he/she has lived in Europe for many years. This shows further that if an African has to automatically carry about that natural and cultural identities wherever he/she goes, then, it would be futile and retrogressive for us to consider that his/her cultural behaviours must be changed to that of the host communities before he/she could be accommodated as integrated.
The fact that my GP did not ask me to go and get acclimatised to the weather of the UK (neither the ones involved with the Asylum Seekers) but gave me the supplement which is necessary to boost my depleted Vitamin D, we believe, at Action for Culture and Ethics, that the host communities should consider giving the minor cultures a breathing space to practise their cultures (as long as it is not crime and does not violate other’s rights) and stop criticising them or judging them because they do things differently.
There is the need, and urgently so, for the service providers and government agencies like the Police, Social Services and the NHS to engage in trainings geared towards understanding the cultural differences so that we could have society which is just, fair and equitable. There is an urgent need for persons of African origin and the African-led organisations to also engage in similar training so as to foster confidence and stability in the members of its community and especially among the younger generation who have to deal with two cultures and are expected to be balanced.
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“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell
Your culture is your historical values. That is the reason it is very important to tell your own story. Other people cannot tell your story without missing something very important. For an example, we Africans speak with our whole body, that’s the power of expression and it gives meaning to the words being spoken. Meanwhile, another culture considers that excited expression as aggressiveness. Now, what do you think if someone from that other culture is given the duty to tell the story of Africans? This applies to other cultures too.
Every culture undergoes evolution and the positive evolution of a culture is for the evolution to take place within the values of that culture. That is the progressive way for a culture to deal with its past no matter how crude or cruel it was and not by attempting to force the values of another culture (which had obviously gone through its own evolution within its cultural values) into your own.
Your past is an investment and if you handle it well today (rather than denying or running away from it), a brighter future is ahead of you.
African parents in diaspora are unfortunately failing in this regard.
How does misunderstanding of other cultures foster an unfair society?
In the UK, you need to sustain an eye contact during conversation otherwise it is taken that you are not saying the truth or not interested in the subject of discussion. In Africa, you don’t sustain an eye contact with an elder or a superior officer as a mark of respect.
I read a social caseworker’s report after a contact observation suggesting that the parent and child were EMOTIONALLY DISCONNECTED because they were not sustaining an eye contact. Unfortunately, this together with other things (some as simple as them not holding hands) were used as a standard to justify the insistence not to rehabilitate the child and the parent but to keep them separated.
Would the caseworker be of the same opinion if she understood the cultural ethics of the people concerned?
Unlike the caseworker above, the manager of YMCA Paisley who experienced a similar situation when he had a talk-session with the teens from the African community came to us to make inquiries so as to understand this behavioural trait and did not rely on his own earlier formed personal views that the teens were not interested in the talk-session.
There are some activities by some host cultures that are not discrimination per se (or, on their own) and are merely a misunderstanding of the smaller cultures but unfortunately both discrimination and actions based on misunderstanding of the smaller cultures lead to an unfair and an inequitable society.
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