It’s so easy to share our opinions on politics and events going on around the world, but when something is said about the country of our birth or one that we grew up in, certain comments can have a personal effect on us.
We can have ingrained opinions that are formed due to a number of factors, these could include:
- Our cultural upbringing
- Faiths and beliefs
- Workplace and career experiences
- Early education
Some people choose to conceal their opinion for purposes of complying with social or legal norms. However, there is also a term referred to as ‘Unconscious bias’, which refers to beliefs or attitudes that are activated automatically without an individual’s awareness.
Regardless of the two examples above it is best to understand the impact of our comments, before your opinions have an undesired effect on those within your social or societal circles.
The Black Eyed Peas – Where Is The Love?
If you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate
What some may see as a throwaway comment may actually have a profound impact on the individual due to their cultural, political or social experiences.
As an example, I have many friends and family who are American. The political climate has been a strong talking point for many with very little thought about the effect their comments can have on an individual citizen of this country. Although no harm is generally intended, certain comments can be deeply hurtful and upsetting.
The following examples were provided to me by a friend stating comments most commonly experienced over the past few years:
- Americans are Non-Intelligent
- Americans are Violent
- Americans are Politically Conservative
- All Americans care about is money
- All Americans eat is fast food
- Americans have no cultural awareness
- Americans DESERVE IT
These comments, I’m sure you can imagine, are hurtful and the impact of them can have far-reaching consequences. It is unfortunate and wrongly assumed, that it is ok to subtly and openly insult, threaten and discriminate against Americans in society. This is thought of as a socially acceptable country to target due to the thought they are not really a “minority”, and that they may actually deserve it because of “what the US does” politically.
I personally have felt deeply upset that there is sometimes a superiority complex that is developed where opinions such as these are acceptable and a right of many people to express.
Johnny Cash – Ragged Old Flag
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that’s a ragged old flag you got hanging on it
He said, have a seat, and I sat down
Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town?
I said, I think it is
He said, I don’t like to brag
But we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag
Things to watch out for:
Be aware of your intentions when discussing topics such as a country’s international policies, wars they have been involved in or ones they are currently deployed at, or a person’s political affiliation.
It’s sometimes seen as socially acceptable to make ‘Jokes’ about someone’s nationality. Unfortunately, these can take the form of insults and negative discussions about a country’s leaders. The use of such topics of discussions inevitably are voiced as a blanket statement regarding the country and the people themselves.
Terminology not to use:
- That country
- You Lot
- You People
- Your ancestors
If your discussion is intended to make a statement of personal opinion regarding a specific country, the above examples will not be received well.
If you have identified that you have insulted or upset someone during a discussion regarding their country of birth or one that they grew up in, you should address this as soon as possible:
- Assess the harm that may have been caused by your comments
- Take time to understand the impact and why it might have upset them.
- Don’t catastrophize
- People who are prone to guilty thoughts tend to be harder on themselves. If you find yourself in a shame spiral, try reframing your internal narrative about the event into something more realistic, supportive and helpful. Everyone makes mistakes.
- Don’t ignore it
- You might be tempted to put the issue on the back burner, but that’d be a mistake. Not only will you spend more time worrying about the situation, but the longer you delay bringing up the mistake, the more awkward it will be.
We all have opinions and a human right to have freedom of speech, this freedom to say whatever we would like comes with responsibility. We all make mistakes and say things we don’t mean at times throughout life. However, it is essential that once we have identified a mistake following sharing of an opinion, we must make sure to correct it.
Educating yourself on specific opinions and not just taking what someone else says as fact is very good practice. Every country has its political downfalls, but this does not directly relate to the people of that country, we all need to be careful not to make snap judgements and lay responsibility on the country’s people due to the actions of their leaders.
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