Part of my aim in studying abroad in Paris is finding myself in the social culture here, understanding it and actively participating in it as not just a tourist or an American exchange student, but like a Parisian would. As I have been slowly finding out, I am much more rooted in my American perspective than I thought. I never really considered how different the American experience must be to foreign exchange students at Brandeis, but gradually I am feeling just how different culture and shared consciousness are. Living in New York, there are certain cultural aspects that are just normal for me. Crackheads living in parks and stations right by where I live, knowing the subway like the back of my hand and the fact that I have only really known a city life were all differences I had been made aware of when first engaging with people from different states in college. But, being immersed in a world where there are different cultural minorities present, different perceptions on drinking, smoking and partying and different mentalities on freedoms, liberty and community are all aspects I have been awoken to and that intrinsically exaggerate my own American perspective.
I have had quite a few thoughts on these differences, but still feel like I have not met enough people or spent enough time here to really dumb down the French or European perspective. Especially considering that, truly, at the end of the day human nature persists through culture, race, ethnicity and gender. As many differences there are concerning mindsets, political leniences and social culture, there are even more similarities on the way we act and react emotionally as people regardless of the way they manifest themselves. This universality of behavior, of friendship or comradeship is what I love so much. It is what allows me to use body language, past experiences and human friendliness to connect with people here as much as I have. It is what I have learned so extensively about as I internally compare and contrast dynamics between people and groups, and what I have more strongly believed to be the reason why certain people refuse to respect or accept people of differing identities.
The bubbles that exist so profoundly all over suburbia in America are what have contributed to this American egotism that refuses to acknowledge that human behavior prevails cultural differences and that is the foundation of the xenophobia and white supremacy that holds an unfortunate grasp on so many Americans. While clinging to one’s culture is normal and present in quite literally all cultures, the way it manifests itself in America, a country that prides itself on immigration and being a “melting pot,” is a perpetual and intentional misunderstanding of those who are different and then equating that difference with inferiority. The advantage that Europe has, which I believe is what has contributed to their 60-plus-year-long journey to progressivism, is solely their proximity to the global south and Eastern hemisphere, in which they have more access to the mentality of engaging with and understanding the existence of other cultures. To say that Americans are inherently inept at cultural understanding and will never be able to cease being xenophobic or racist would simply be wrong despite the consistent notion fed to cultural minorities in America of the persistence of racism. Instead, I believe a mainstream culture has been so far institutionalized as a product of geographical history in America that it has allowed racism and the belief of cultural superiority in suburbia and white communities to be so rampant. Ultimately, re-education is necessary in America to step away from this hyper-analysis of solely American values and culture to the very basic level of even in the home so as to truly raise our American youth to understand their placement in the world and transversely the existence of a human community based on shared inherent human behavior.