Diversity and difference in communication
Diversity and difference in communication

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Diversity and difference in communication

3.9 Being on the receiving end

Case Study 2: The Cameron family

David and Marie Cameron, a married couple in their 40s, live in a middle-class suburb. Marie teaches French at the local secondary school, while David is a full-time official for a clerical workers’ union. Both are active in the local Labour Party but, although Marie is from a Catholic background, they are not particularly religious. Both David and Marie were born and educated in the UK, although their parents were migrants from the Caribbean in the 1950s: David’s from Jamaica and Marie’s from Martinique. Their son, Michael, is away at university, while their daughter, Louise, is studying for her GCSEs. Louise has recently come under peer pressure at school to hang out with a group of white boys, and at a particularly wild party one of the boys forced Louise to have sex. The family have recently discovered Louise is pregnant. The young man, whose father is an influential local businessman, denies using force and, under pressure from the police, the Camerons have decided not to press charges. After a lot of family discussion and heart searching, Louise has decided to keep the child, and her parents have agreed to help look after him or her, when she eventually leaves home to pursue her ambition to train as a psychiatric nurse. David wanted to be present for the meeting with the advice worker, but was called away at the last minute for an urgent union meeting.

Activity 8

0 hours 15 minutes

The case study above is of a family in similar circumstances to those described in the previous activity.

Now imagine that you are either Louise or Marie, her mother, and that you are meeting the advice worker. Imagine, too, that the advice worker brings to the meeting the kinds of assumptions about African–Caribbean families expressed in Activity 6. How do you think you would feel in this situation? In answering this question, you might want to draw on any experiences you have had of being on the receiving end of ‘racialisation’ of this kind.

Discussion

It is difficult to imagine how this might feel, unless you had experienced something similar. I guess that I would feel as though my individual needs and circumstances were being pushed to one side, and that I was being treated as a ‘type’, rather than as an individual. I would probably feel as though one aspect of my identity, my ethnicity, was being made to count more than other elements of my personality and experience, such as my education, class, political beliefs, and so on. I might also feel as though I were being treated as an ‘other’, as different from the majority (represented by the white worker), rather than as having anything in common with other people in similar circumstances. I imagine that I would feel angry at being ‘positioned’ in this way and at any suggestion of being looked down on because of certain aspects of my background.

So the process of ‘racialising’ particular people, defining them in terms of their supposed ‘differences’ from the wider population and overlooking diversity within groups can have significant consequences. It can lead to poor communication and the failure to provide adequate or appropriate services that meet individual needs.

Key points

  1. ‘Racialisation’ is the process whereby certain people are defined as ‘different’ on the basis of an apparent ethnic identity. It involves making stereotypical generalisations that overlook diversity within groups.

  2. Assumptions based on racial or ethnic stereotypes can lead inadequate or inappropriate provision of services.

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