I’m not gonna really dig into this idea, I just sort of want to outline it and then throw it out there for us all to chew over. Because you are all really intelligent deep thinking people, and many of you are dealing with cultural awareness in terms of watching films from a culture that is not yours, so I think you will have good ideas.
Years and years and years ago, I went to some cultural awareness seminar thing for a job I had. And the leader gave this really brilliant simple concept that I have used ever since then, “Wonder versus Assume”. If you assume, you are stereotyping. But if you wonder, you are being culturally aware.
For example, something I am guessing we have all experienced, if you meet a desi person who is married you might wonder if it was an arranged marriage. But you won’t assume it was an arranged marriage. Your mind is simply open to that possibility because you know it is a possibility within the larger culture of this person.
I love the “wonder” versus “assume” line more for the “wonder” part of it than the “assume”. I knew assumptions were bad, but on the other hand it seemed silly for me to pretend all people are blank slates. Saying “it’s okay, acknowledge statistical likelihoods that you know about, just don’t assume” is so much better.
But here’s the thing that has started to puzzle me recently. When is it not even okay to “wonder”? Like, if I meet a desi person, is it okay to “wonder” if they are an undocumented immigrant? No, it isn’t. But why? What is a simple rule to follow? Is it anything that overlaps with a negative stereotype? Or is it anything that has no statistical backing? How am I supposed to determine what is statistically likely or not? If I don’t know for sure, should I struggle to reject even the “wonder”? Like, I have no idea what the statistics are on meth addiction in rural America, so if I meet someone from a small town, should I not even wonder if their family includes addicts?
Do any of you have an answer for this? Or just a general thought branching out from the discussion? Or your own personal struggles with the whole “wonder” versus “assume” versus “racism”?