Unity and Diversity Project
Diversity issues where present twenty years ago when many immigrants from other countries migrated to the United States and are still present today. As immigrants made the decision to migrate to the states they were looking forward to a great future with new opportunities but unfortunately many of them experienced discrimination, racism, and stereotyping. On November 11, 1995 Yelena Gorbun stepped off the plane that arrived in Chicago. She was eleven years old at time and was so eager to see what this country had in store for her. As Yelena migrated to the United States from Ukraine she automatically was a part of the Ukrainian and female diversity groups. The many experiences Yelena went through as a teenager and as a female in the workplace where quite surprising to me to hear about. As I grew up she would tell us about the rude comments others students and teachers would say to her about the way she was dressed and because she couldn’t speak English she couldn’t stick up for herself so she would go to the restroom and cry.
In an article from the Journal of Leisure; Researching Diverse Populations (1998), “diverse populations are described as groups that are in our society that have often been considered out of the mainstream of “special” because of the uniqueness of their social, cultural, and historical experiences.” (Henderson, 1998, pg. 158) “Examples of groups might include women, people of color, people with disabilities, low income people, gays and lesbians, older adults, people for whom English is not their first language.” (Henderson, 1998, pg. 158) Yelena was part of the women and people for whom English was not their first language groups in which this one caused her the most problems but she not only experienced disadvantages but also saw some advantages as she grew up. The disadvantages of belong to either part of the diversity groups mostly played a big role in her life in her early teens. She states that as a new immigrant that didn’t know the language and wore the clothes that her mother gave her she experienced unfair treatment from both students and teachers. Students would many say rude comments to her about the way she was dressed, call her stupid for not knowing the English language, and tell her she a “special”.
The uniqueness of the society and culture she came from was simply not accepted by many at the time. As she grew up belonging to a group that didn’t have English as their first language it became an advantage many times. She states that not only was it an advantage to speak another language with friends when she didn’t want others to know what she was saying but that teachers and other students appreciated her knowing a different language to help other new immigrant that came to the states later. Another great advantage to speaking another language was that she did not have to learn a secondary language in high school and in college. She clearly belonged to a diverse population by the way she was dressed and the English language that she could not speak and that’s how others identified her a different or as they stated many other times that she was “special” or was not “up to date” with the current styles. The society she belonged had a different culture, had different styles, and a different language that she as a teen could not adjust to overnight. The types of disadvantages that Yelena encountered included her having to deal with rude comments that were said towards her regarding her clothes and her having to attend ESL to learn to language. Students would many times call her stupid and ugly.
Types of prejudice or discrimination that she has experience and anticipate to keep experiencing in the future would be mostly gender because as she got older the part that she was a race didn’t make that much of a difference to many people but rather more people found it “cool” that she was from another country and is able to speak, read and write in another language. But even then some people find such encounters with individuals fascinating while others do not. Even though racism, discrimination, and prejudice are said not to be present in the United States we still see occurrences such as the article from the Huffington Post that states, “But let’s be honest, we all know that racism still exists in American today.” (Wallis, 2009) Coping with unequal treatment as a child was a lot tougher because it affected more of her emotions and she wasn’t able to stick up for herself. The problem seemed to be solved after her family moved to a different community which transferred her to a new school where students and instructors seemed to be a lot friendlier and more helpful. Now even when she is told negative comments about where she is from or is treated unequally because of her believes and even though she finds it not right and unfair she is able to cope with such treatment a lot better for one because of her past experiences and also because she is older now and is able to deal with issues such as these a lot better. Stereotypes where also a factor that was not uncommon many times throughout the years she was in middle school and in high school. “Stereotypes stress a few traits and assume that these characteristics apply to all members of the group, regardless of individual characteristics.” (Healey, 2011, pg. 110) As being on of the few girls that was from Ukraine that attended the school with a few boys she was many times told by other students and teachers that all Ukrainians are rebels, rude, and aggressive. She states, “I think the biggest reason why others thought so of Ukrainians was because the boys that went to school with her bullied other kids, got into fights, and when they got kicked out they ended up just dropping out.”
Getting the first few jobs as a teenager and then when she was being to find jobs that fit her degree after college gender inequality, differential in power, and past-in-present institutional discrimination began to happen here and there. She talked about gender inequality as being one of the things she saw the most but it wasn’t the typical unequal treatment between men and women and even though many times was given greater opportunities the men that she worked with because the boss liked her and thought giving her more as an employee would convince her to be with him but that wasn’t as common as seeing male employers give large discounts to “cute” females as one of her former employers stated when she asked him why one patients bill was so much smaller than a patients in which both patients were females. Yet this is an ongoing concept employer’s use many times in their businesses in which when female employees find such things out it makes it a problem for them. As stated in an article from the National Women’s Law Center website, “By whatever measure is chosen, the evidence demonstrates the sad but undeniable truth: even today, women across the country continue to face a series of arbitrary and unfair barriers to equal opportunity in the workplace.” (National Women’s Law Center website, 2000) Sadly the same role played many times when she saw differential in power in the workplace. Even though differential in power is usually present when, “gender hierarchy allows for the rights of men to take precedence over the rights of women,” as stated in the book, American Multicultural Studies: Diversity of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality, but in the cases she witness was more of that the employer thought certain female employees where cute and excepted his verbal sexual harassment. (Pinder, 2012, pg. 135) A great example she brought up was when she worked for and employer that said inappropriate sexual comments to her and she did not except them but told him that she didn’t find that appropriate he began to treat her differently than a couple of the other employees that went along with his verbal sexual harassment.
To her surprise shortly after she accidently came across a co-workers paycheck stub that was receiving as she states, “special treatment” from the doctor, she realized her pay was doubled and her paid vacation time was just about doubled as well even though she had less experience and worked for him for only a short period of time. A few months down the road she was invited to a work after party for the bosses birthday that she attended and when she was offered beer, wine, or any other alcoholic drink by him or anyone she refused to have any and when she was asked by her formal employee why she did not drink she told him that she was raised in a Christian family in which she was taught that drinking wasn’t acceptable. His response to her answered followed, “well that explains everything, Christians are stupid like that and that’s why I can’t stand them.” After that things changed, she no longer received the pay raises she was promised, the bonuses she usually got at the end of the year, and her hours where cut. Such treatment is a great example of past-in-present institutional discrimination because as stated in the book, Diversity of America, “Religion, a meaningful component of everyday life in the 18th century, was cause for out-group prejudice and avoidance, and we must not overlook its significant impact on intergroup relations.” (Parillo, 2008, pg. 15)
While interviewing and discussing that many situations Yelena went through throughout her school years and early employment years I have learned a lot about the discrimination, prejudice, stereotypes, gender inequalities, diversity and differential in power that went on only about ten years ago and according to many sources still goes on today. Even though I belong to the same diversity groups just like my interviewee that belongs to the Ukrainian and women diversity groups I can’t say I have ever really experienced as much as she has. When I asked Yelena what she has learned from her experiences just because of the fact that she belong to certain diversity group she states, “It defiantly taught me that not everything is life is fair. It to me to not judge people by the way they look, dress, are where they are from because even though I was treated inequality a lot of times just for those reasons I knew I was better than what others said about me. Therefore, each and every person has good in them and just because the look different, dress different, or can’t speak a the language doesn’t mean they are worse than I am. Actually being a part of such situations as many of us only hear about today made me into a stronger person that can stick up for myself today.” After such a response I thought it would be interesting to see if any of the unfair treatment she received made her have thoughts about certain groups or in other words be prejudice towards other diversity groups but even though all that she went through she doesn’t find her judging certain diversity groups differently or negatively. She believes that each diversity group has good people and also have people that are the rebels and cause trouble which is true for the groups she so happens to be a part of as well.
Diversity in plays a huge role in our society today and yet there are some many people that tend to think treating someone differently than somebody else just because they are a different race, look different, dress differently, or have different beliefs is right. Just like the article from the Huffington Post that talks about United States being one of the few countries that have a president of a different minority group that was elected by the people in this country yet so many residents of the United States still make racist comments and discriminate other diversity groups. It just makes me think about the fact that there are some many immigrants in the United States already and so many more still arriving here and adding to the total population of immigrants that are permanent residents and yet so many years after immigration to the states began many diversity groups are still discriminated against. Thinking about if all the immigrants in the states where not here helping for all the goods and products be produced the I think the United States would have an issue. Diversity in the society not only helps expand the views of many issues in businesses but also helps the society in so many different ways. I not only learned about different diversity groups in our society today but also about all the issues we still have today that go by unaddressed and ignored because employees are simply scared to speak up and fight for what they deserve. After hearing all the thing Yelena has been through I later asked her why she never filed any cases and she simply said that she didn’t want to deal with courts, lawyers, and then all the enemies she would have. Listening to her story and examples left me to wonder how many more people from various diversity groups go by with receiving unfair treatment for things they never choose themselves and leave it as it is simply because they don’t want to deal with it.
Henderson, K. (1998). Researching Diverse Populations. Journal of Leisure, Vol. 30, No. 1, pg.158. Retrieved from http://repository.lib.ncsu.edu/publications/bitstream/1840.2/1966/1/henderson%205.pdf Wallis, J. The Huffington Post. (2009, September 17). What?! Racism still in America?. Retrieved August 5, 2013, from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/what-racism-still-in-amer_b_290042.html
National Women’s Law Center. (2000, July 1). Sex Discrimination in the American Workplace, Still a fact of Life. Retrieved August 13, 2013, from: http://www.nwlc.org/resource/sex-discrimination-american-workplace-still-fact-life
Parillo, V. (2008). Diversity in America. (Third Edition). pg. 15.
Pinder, S. (2012). American Multicultural Studies: Diversity of Race Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality. pg. 135.
Healey, J. 2011. Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Class: The Sociology of Group Conflict and Change. pg. 110.
Unity and Diversity Project