Living in two worlds or one?

We are not living in two worlds, there is but one world.-David Katzeek.

This message in particular resonated with me because your cultural world is not something you just step into and out of when needed. However, I imagine some people attempt to, and in doing so they are not fully present in and preserving their culture. This is an important thing to consider for a multicultural education. While listening to the Elders its easy to see the oppression they endured but it’s difficult for me (although I try) to empathize with a people who have lost their lands, languages, traditions, and values. I just have no frame of reference to draw from, its almost unfathomable. I cannot imagine the difficulty in trying to live one culture at home and leaving that behind when walking into school or work. But I think living by David’s message might be even harder.

By using the on/off switch method of living you can protect yourself. You can pretend to be assimilated into the majority culture to save face and avoid the culture shaming that still persists even today. The only white culture example that I can come up with to illustrate this idea is the movie Mean Girls, in which a kind smart and caring daughter is a conceited bully at school to fit in with the culture of her peer group. She turns on and off the act until she almost loses herself.

Although this example maybe silly its an example of living in two worlds. The challenge with living in one world is that everyone else will try to change you to fit in. They will try to impose their ideals, ridicule your clothing, and require the correct language to be spoken. The only choice you seem to have is to use the on/off switch or to completely despair and forsake one culture or the other.

Thats where our job as multiculturally aware teachers comes in. We need to celebrate the different cultures we have in our classrooms. Allowing our students to be proud and joyful at bringing their culture to school with them, not leaving it at home. It’s our tone that will also set the stage for our students to revel in their beautiful differences.

5 thoughts on “Living in two worlds or one?”

  1. I love your analogy to Mean Girls- such a classic for bringing out stereotypes, structures, and caricatures of society! I agree that it is difficult to think about living in a dual world and what that’s like- but maybe our experience as females in a patriarchal society can help us give some frame of reference?

  2. I think this is a very interesting idea Meghan, I wrote about the same quote. I grew up “walking in two worlds” but I think what I like about David’s message is that by “walking in two worlds” we are really just walking in one world and that the two worlds scenario is just a choice or like you said an on/off switch, but we are still the same person inside. Am I making sense? See I took the example of Mean Girls in a totally different way, I felt like she became a totally different person and transformed. That she was navigating the values of two different cultures in one body, which is what I thought David’s words meant.

    I really liked reading your different take on what it meant to you, and evoke Erin Popek’s words that everyone’s story is ok!

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Yes, I appreciated that quote as well. It is part of the genius of the Western mind to break all things up and categorize and compartmentalize. And so we have our “home-life,” “work-life,” “love-life,” etc. And while on some level I think we all know that these things are part of the same whole, often times we break them too far apart and it leaves us with a feeling of confusion, alienation, or dejection.

    Fr. Steven Freeman of Tennessee talks periodically about how the Western view of reality has often evolved into a “two story universe,” where there is the “natural” and the “supernatural.” He is quite firm in saying that for classical Christianity (like classical culture in most places) there is only “one story” in the universe. There is only one world that we’re sharing. It’s all interconnected, all part of the same grand reality.

    So yes, I too appreciated David’s comment.

  4. Some people do put on costumes and then remove them to disengage with the culture and to reengage with the dominant one. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. If you have time check out what Double Consciousness means and how it is applicable in this context.

  5. I love that you referenced Mean Girls. I don’t think my mind would have even gone there! Thank you for your post! David’s words throughout the past three weeks have had much influence and guidance for all of us. I really like reading how people have taken his words to heart!

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