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Pet Sins January 2007 Issue
Does cross-cultural interests necessarily indicate respect for 'diversity'?

Does membership in an 'oppressed' minority group guarantee open-mindedness and an empathy with all other oppreseed people? In some instances, minority individuals have acted as if they are above reproach - "I'm already 'oppressed' so no one can accuse me of being an 'oppressor'", or so the reasoning goes. Some of us expect to be exempt, based on our minority status, from the standards of fairness/civil speech the larger society is held to, while demanding 'equal rights' for ourselves. Is that really 'equal'?

On another note, does being interested in another culture necessarily indicate a healthy appreciation for 'cultural diversity'? We've heard about non-Mexican Americans who love Mexican food but hate Mexican immigrants. And this is but one example of the contradictions some of us carry into our enjoyment of "things" from other ethnic groups. People of color often face such contradictory behavior from people we encounter on a daily pasis.

This paradoxical "love-hate" relationship with different aspects of the Other culture is due to the desire of some of us to enjoy the "exotic Other" on our terms - we are fine with having people from certain ethnic groups around as long as they are they are our cooks, waiters, janitors and gardeners. Similarly, some people like having immigrants coming to them to ask for help about what to do in a new land - it gives them a sense of power. In playing "guide" and "teacher" to the needy newcomer, the 'old-timer' can claim to be "open-minded" and "supportive of diversity". But once the power balance is reversed - when a 'representative' of the 'exotic Other' becomes their boss, their teacher or their leader, then the same "lovers of diversity" become uncomfortable.