Love thy neighbor: Does America lack cultural understanding?

Kya Vaughn | Contributing Writer

Language is the mediator between personality and people. There are other ways, of course, to express thoughts—body language being one of them. However, the main expression of one’s mind or one’s thoughts is displayed through words. Language, thus, is a form of connection.

With this in mind, it’s imperative that we are able to connect with each other—it is essential that we know the tongues of our friends and allies. You see this a lot in other countries. Many people raised in different parts of the world know English in addition to their native tongues. So why is it that, here in America, our primary focus is on our native language and that alone?

It seems as if the value of other languages is diminished in America, as if English is the only one of importance.
Yes, there are those who learn languages in school. Perhaps it’s due merely to interest in the culture, or maybe students are genuine in their efforts to learn more about the world around them. But this number of students is small.

It’s important to know the language of others; it’s important to be able to connect with people on their own level, to meet them halfway. But here in America, this concept is not valued. What does this say about American culture? It’s almost as if American pride stems from that, perhaps even reaching into a realm of perceived superiority.

Language is merely an example for perhaps a greater American crisis: a lack of cultural education. America has always had a fair amount of racial division (something that goes against the premise of the nation’s foundry to begin with), although it has improved with time. Even in recent years, the nation seems to have digressed from progress into more modernized states of division.

This division is a result of people not understanding their neighbors, their coworkers or their friends because no one taught them this understanding was important. We shun differences instead of accepting them because of ignorance to other worldly perspectives. American culture boasts pride within the borders of the nation but seldom recognizes the beauty of any culture that isn’t American. Growing up, we are taught about the greatness of our own lands, but what about the greatness of the lands and ideas shared with folks who chose America as a second home?

In grade school, we learn everything about American history and culture but little to nothing about various cultures on a global scale. Naturally, this is a mistake; children are perhaps the most impressionable group of people. They value the words of their parents and teachers as law. What if instead of preaching only admiration of American beliefs, schools began to educate students on the values of other cultures? Would this solve the issue of cultural divides within America or is it more than that—could it change the way Americans view the world around them?

We are so embodied within these four walls that we forget to see the rooms outside of our own. In order to love our neighbors, we must first know them, and this is a choice that everyone has the power to make.