Ethnocentric, derived from the Greek words of Ethnos, meaning
race, people or cultural group, and Kentrikos, meaning concentrated
about or directed to a center is a word that greatly describes many
cultures on this planet we call Earth . The official definition of
Ethnocentric is ” characterized or based on the attitude that ones own
group is superior” or “having race as a central interest”. There is a whole
world of problems, politics, and, other cultures, but it seems that the
average American’s only interest is that of themselves. The reason I chose
to focus more on the American being ethnocentric is because I have been
exposed the most to this culture.
Why is it that in most foreign countries being knowledgeable
about world politics is just as important as their own culture’s politics?
America is the melting pot of the world with so many different cultures
and we accept this variety into our country as we were accepted when our
ancestors came over. Today I feel that people are arrogant towards those
foreigners who don’t wash away their former demeanor. Why don’t we
realize that we are so lucky to live in a secure and free country that should
glorify diversity and not promote prejudice. When we make contact with
people whose beliefs and cultural tradition challenge our own perspective
most feel some sort of intimidation. Professor Michael Bond from Simon
Fraser University quoted:
the mere existence of different others is inherently
threatening because they either implicitly or explicitly
challenge the absolute validity of one’s own perspective.
According to this analysis, prejudice is a psychological
inability to tolerate the existence of different others and
results from a need to maintain absolute faith in one’s own
cultural world view”.
Ethnocentrism in my opinion is very ignorant, unintelligent, and closed
minded in that your normal rituals may seem just as strange to other
cultures, but are seen by them in a more understanding way.
Ethnocentrism has been instilled in us since birth, learning to
attach our selves to our cultural groups depending on them for comfort
and a sense of safety. Piaget’s theory on child development states that a
child believes he is the center of the universe until he learns to “de-center”
himself, i.e., he realizes that the world can be constructed from a number
of different perspectives. This is when the child starts to care for others
and takes a better understanding of respect and friendliness towards
them. People as a whole in a way have to “de-center” their strong
cultural beliefs, as well as the thought that their culture is the only one
important enough to concern themselves with. American sociologist,
political economist and the originator of the term ethnocentric, William
Graham Sumner, in 1904 defined ethnocentrism as :
the view of things in which one’s own group is the center of
everything and all others are scaled and rated, in
reference to one’s group. Each group thinks that its own
folkways are the only right ones. And if it observes that other
people have other folkways, these excite its scorn.
Ethnocentrism may manifest itself in behavior such as warfare,
attitudes of superiority, hostility, violence, discrimination, and verbal
aggression. In the past, groups such as the Nazi’s, the Crusaders and, the
Muslims have waged wars and death over cultural and religious
differences using ethnocentrism as there incentive. Hate groups are also
formed on this notion believing that their religious or cultural group is
superior to others when in reality their customs are simply different.
I realize that we are all ethnocentric to varying degrees because
we are born into a culture at birth and we cling to that culture as a