Ethnic Minority Group Investigation: Mexican Americans

Introduction

For the present investigation, the Mexican American group was chosen. Nowadays, their population amounts to 11% of the total population of the US (United States Census Bureau, 2016). Consequently, being familiar with their culture appears important, especially for an educator and healthcare professional like myself. Furthermore, despite being of Hispanic origin, I am not sure that I am familiar with the culture of Mexican Americans and addressing Hispanic cultures as identical ones is detrimental to their understanding (Gomez & Martínez, 2017). I have a few ideas about Mexican Americans which are based on my personal experience and literature, but during an additional investigation, which included visiting an event and interviewing a Mexican American, I discovered more information that is pertinent to clinical practice and workplace diversity management.

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Contextual Background

The Mexican American population is steadily growing (Diaz & Bui, 2016; Knight et al., 2010), and in 2016, over 36 million of the US people were Mexican American (United States Census Bureau, 2016). According to the data provided by the United States Census Bureau (2016), it is the largest Hispanic American group. However, the investigation of its culture is not particularly extensive. Mostly, the present research was able to locate the literature on Hispanic culture in general. Still, a few conclusions can be drawn from the existing studies.

The significance of family, which is common in the Hispanic culture, seems to apply to Mexican Americans (Diaz & Bui, 2016; Ojeda, Piña-Watson, & Gonzalez, 2016). This concept is associated with some additional values like collectivism and the importance of respect towards the elderly (Ojeda et al., 2016). Furthermore, the significance of religion and traditional family roles have been attributed to the group (Knight, Carlo, Basilio, & Jacobson, 2014). The latter factor can be predictive of sexist attitudes and male supremacy that are associated with machismo, which is the standards of hypermasculinity that are applied to men, and “caballerismo,” which is a version of chivalry (Ojeda et al., 2016, p. 374). These cultural features are typically viewed as pertinent to the analysis of the Mexican American culture.

Event Discussion: Knowledge-Sharing Meeting at a Community Center

Event Description

To meet Mexican Americans, I visited a Hispanic community center that provides various engagement activities, including knowledge-sharing evenings that consist of exercises that are specific for each event and focus on providing the community with an opportunity to meet and converse. I managed to attend an event devoted to piñata-making, and during and after it, I was able to converse with three Mexican Americans who I found due to the efforts of one of the attendees. I informed them about my intent to learn about their culture, and they agreed.

Preconceived Notions, Biases, and Stereotypes Before the Event

I am not intimately familiar with the Mexican American culture, but I am also of Hispanic origin, and I have been in contact with Mexican Americans. Also, as a healthcare professional, I read some literature about the Hispanic culture. When I considered my ideas about Mexican Americans, I was able to come up with three things: focus on hard work, family orientation, and attention to traditional family roles that might be signaling sexism and male supremacy ideas. The latter two of these ideas are supported by literature (Knight et al., 2010; Ojeda et al., 2016). However, studies might perpetuate bias (Hunt, Schneider, & Comer, 2004). Thus, the additional investigation was necessary for me to become familiar with the Mexican American culture.

Observations Framed with Empirical Literature

The Mexican Americans that I met during the event were female; one of them was probably in her early twenties, and the other two must have been in their fifties. We spoke in Spanish at the request of one of the older women who could speak English but preferred Spanish. Neither of us was familiar with the history of the piñata, even though all of us have participated in a celebration that would involve one. When I asked the women what other cultural aspects they might celebrate during events like these, they named figures of cultural importance, music, dancing, and foods. In general, they seemed to be enthusiastic about their culture and reported experiencing positive emotions when participating in the events connected to Hispanic heritage. In this regard, there exists evidence that the enculturation into the ethnic culture can be beneficial for the well-being of the Mexican American population (Ojeda et al., 2016), although the effect differs depending on various individual characteristics (Ojeda, Edwards, Hardin, & Piña-Watson, 2014). The women’s statements might indicate that similar enculturation and engagement activities might improve the well-being of some Mexican Americans.

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I used the discussion about the religious interpretations of piñata to ask about religious preferences, and it turned out that all the women were raised in Catholic families. The two older ones also identified as Catholics; the youngest one was not sure if she could do the same. I noted that this comment did not prompt any hostility towards her. Thus, the idea that religion may play an important part in Mexican American culture, which is present in the literature (Knight et al., 2014), was supported by this observation.

We discussed the opportunities and barriers that the US has for Hispanics. The women seemed to focus on negative things, especially on discrimination issues, discussing the instances of individual and symbolic racism. All of them expressed negative feelings towards the portrayal of Mexican Americans by Donal Trump, which is understandable since his statements appear to focus on Mexicans, who he called “the most unwanted people” (Vasquez, 2015, para. 1). The discriminatory aspect of Mexican American life is documented (Vallejo, 2015). During this discussion, the women’s families were often brought up; the older women would express worry about their children, and all of them tended to use the stories from the life of their relatives to illustrate some discrimination instances. It appears that the value of families, which is present in the literature (Knight et al., 2014), may be supported by this recurring theme

I did not feel comfortable with asking the women about sexism in their culture, but I inquired about their daily routines. Two of them (the older ones) are married and have children, and even though only one of them is a housewife, both seem to be carrying out the majority of all of the housework. The younger woman lives alone, and her daily routine is not similarly symptomatic of inequality. Thus, the notion of the prevalence of traditional roles in Hispanic culture, which is mentioned in the literature (Ojeda et al., 2016), might receive some indirect evidence through this observation.

Interview with a Mexican American

The youngest Mexican American woman who I had met during the event agreed to participate in a short interview. She was born in the US into a family of Mexican immigrants. To anonymize her, I will use the letter M in the present paper. I asked her the set of questions that were based on the task for this paper, and the following summary of her answers can be offered.

In her discussion of the norms of her community, M focused on the positive things and included the ideals of hard work, big and happy families, respect towards the elder people, and care for children. When asked about the less positive norms, M said that she knew what I expected and proceeded to discuss gender roles. M believes that Mexican Americans can be viewed as sexist, but, according to her, other cultures are also sexist. This statement is true for the US; in fact, the racism and sexism that Mexican Americans can encounter in the US is a major concern for their mental health (Yakushko & Chronister, 2005). M believes that sexism is characteristic of every modern culture and every group present in the US society. Consequently, she suggests not viewing Mexican American sexism as something unique, but she wants it to be addressed.

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According to M, in her social group, sexism has always been present. Both her parents have sexist ideas that are deeply ingrained in their worldview. In particular, M claims that her mother thinks and acts like a feminist but somehow still upholds a sexist worldview. For example, they have been having conversations about double standards for women and men since before M learned about feminism, but despite acknowledging the issue, M’s mother reverts to the idea that “it is how it is,” implying that it will always be that way. M also finds it very difficult to promote feminist thinking in her family.

In connection to this, M suggested that the sexism of the culture can indeed be a barrier both for females and males. However, the idea that Mexican Americans are especially sexist and chauvinistic appears to be stereotypical to M because she notes the movement towards greater equality. Such trends towards the elimination of sexist attitudes are supported by the literature on the topic (Ojeda et al., 2016), and M reports that she knows Mexican Americans who are feminists.

Consequently, we started to discuss stereotypes, and M stated that they are a major barrier and problem that decreases the well-being of Mexican Americans. She and her parents are visibly Hispanic and speak with an accent (in fact, her mother does not speak English very well). A few things that bother M are the idea that all Mexican Americans are illegal immigrants, the belief that Mexicans are uneducated and involved in criminal activity, and the habit of starting to speak slowly or with the inclusion of Spanish words to “help” M understand English better. M says that the first two issues become particularly prominent when people want to insult her: their slurs are always connected to her ethnicity (and gender).

Apart from that, M points out that to Mexican American immigrants, language can be a major cultural barrier. She reports that her mother still struggles with English. In M’s opinion, this issue is connected to her becoming self-conscious when she needs to use English, which prevents her from engaging in situations that would be beneficial for her acquiring the language. M’s mother is not comfortable with using English and does not want to do it. In instances when she expects that she would need to speak English (for example, at a hospital), she tries to find some help; for example, take M with her.

M also offered her suggestions about the possible benefits of belonging to the culture. She pointed out that all the positive norms are likely to be a positive influence. She noted that her employers always enjoyed the fact that she was hard-working, as well as polite and respectful. M believes that she developed all these qualities due to her mother who nurtured them specifically to make her a good person in the eyes of their Mexican American community. Therefore, this upbringing was beneficial for her employment.

Similarly, the same norms could yield social benefits. M believes that she easily builds rapport with other people, even from different cultures. Finally, M thinks that the family-oriented norms made their family happy and supportive despite the ways in which sexism has warped the perception of reality of her parents. When asked to define the key roles within her culture, M suggested that family-connected roles were central, and the family network (especially the extended family) is also crucial. Apparently, M supports the idea that family values are important for Mexican Americans.

When discussing acculturation, M suggested that it depends on the generation. She thinks that the younger generation is more likely to have adopted more of the mainstream culture, especially related to preferences (music, food, and so on), but the older generation tends to be particularly conservative. This statement seems to imply that within her community, different acculturation strategies are employed, which appears logical since the latter depends on a variety of factors, including individual ones (Berry, 2003; Tabor & Milfont, 2011). M also notes that she experiences the influence of more than one culture; she reports having very diverse music tastes and states a preference for Asian foods. In other words, she appears to stress the heterogeneity of the modern American culture and the multiculturalism of its society. However, she emphasizes that in her community, there is a notable desire to uphold and celebrate the ethnic culture, which is why she visits the center.

Reflection

I think that my ideas about Mexican Americans did not change as much as they were expanded. Technically, M and the other two women supported my guesses, but they offered additional information that helped me to get a more comprehensive outlook on their group. Consequently, I now know a little more about their culture and norms, as well as the issues that they face and the opportunities that they have. I believe that the methodology of this short research was beneficial for getting the illustrations of Mexican American life, but I have to admit that it is also associated with multiple limitations.

First of all, my sample is very small, and even though the observation and interview are framed with literature, they are not enough to fully comprehend the other group. As a result, the investigation’s results are hardly representative. I also was not able to probe for machismo ideas since I did not encounter any male Mexican Americans. Finally, my methodology of conducting interviews might have guided M towards the topics that I knew about: I used prompts when M seemed at a loss. Consequently, her interview is a relatively appropriate measure for testing my ideas about Mexican Americans, but it might not be very representative of M’s perspective. Thus, I would need more experience in conducting interviews to get better results from this method of data collection. However, the fact that the gathered information corresponded to that obtained from the literature review suggests that I can use it to make some tentative conclusions.

Informing Clinical Practice and Workplace Diversity Management

The event and interview with M have covered a couple of topics that I think should be taken into account in clinical practice and, possibly, workplace diversity management. When working with Mexican American people, it is necessary to pay attention to the typical guidelines for cultural sensitivity, which includes respect and appropriate curiosity towards their culture and cultural identity, as well as individual identity, beliefs, norms, and values (Yakushko & Chronister, 2005). Similarly, specialists who work with a culturally diverse population need to learn about its cultures as a professional development activity (Rojas, Grzywacz, Zapata Roblyer, Crain, & Cervantes, 2016; Yakushko & Chronister, 2005). Diversity education and training are evidenced to reduce bias and prejudice and promote a discrimination-free environment, although more research may be needed in specific settings (Alhejji, Garavan, Carbery, O’Brien, & McGuire, 2015). Apart from that, some more specific suggestions can be made.

As a mental health professional, I was interested in language barriers. I will not propose an intervention for M’s mother (I would need to meet her for that). However, I agree that language barriers are a major problem in education and healthcare. It is crucial to ensure communication with the patient or student, and steps need to be taken to promote it. In particular, the employment of the staff that knows several languages is practiced, as well as the use of translation and interpretation services (Steinberg, Valenzuela-Araujo, Zickafoose, Kieffer, & DeCamp, 2016). It is also noteworthy that language barriers can indeed be associated with stress and discomfort, and there is some limited evidence suggesting that they restrict access to care, including mental care (Ohtani, Suzuki, Takeuchi, & Uchida, 2015; Steinberg et al., 2016). This fact highlights the importance of addressing the issue.

The idea that Mexican Americans are rather family-oriented to the point where certain stressors can be alleviated or aggravated by the feature highlights the importance of offering them opportunities for family-work balance to Mexican American employees (Rojas et al., 2016). There is some evidence indicating that measures like flexible scheduling and workplace support can help Hispanic women to manage the balance (Gomez & Martínez, 2017, p. 124). It appears important to assist Hispanic women from this perspective.

Finally, some opportunities should be mentioned. For example, the women’s statements about enjoying culture-related events suggest that an employer can use such activities to promote the well-being of their employees. Similarly, by helping Mexican American women (as well as other workers) with their family-work balance, employers can improve their job satisfaction (AlAzzam, AbuAlRub, & Nazzal, 2017). In summary, the knowledge of the culture of one’s patients and employees is important for successfully managing cases and diversity. The present paper demonstrates that by studying literature and learning about the perspectives of the members of a group, one can expand their understanding of its culture and then employ it to improve the well-being of the society in a variety of ways.

References

AlAzzam, M., AbuAlRub, R., & Nazzal, A. (2017). The relationship between work-family conflict and job satisfaction among hospital nurses. Nursing Forum, 52(4), 278-288. Web.

Alhejji, H., Garavan, T., Carbery, R., O’Brien, F., & McGuire, D. (2015). Diversity training programme outcomes: A systematic review. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 27(1), 95-149. Web.

Berry, J. (2003). Conceptual approaches to acculturation. In K. Chun, P. Organista & G. Marin (Eds.), Acculturation: Advances in theory, measurement, and applied research (pp. 17-37). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Diaz, T., & Bui, N. (2016). Subjective well-being in Mexican and Mexican American women: The role of acculturation, ethnic identity, gender roles, and perceived social support. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18(2), 607-624. Web.

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Ojeda, L., Piña-Watson, B., & Gonzalez, G. (2016). The role of social class, ethnocultural adaptation, and masculinity ideology on Mexican American college men’s well-being. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 17(4), 373-379. Web.

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Yakushko, O., & Chronister, K. (2005). Immigrant women and counseling: The invisible others. Journal of Counseling & Development, 83(3), 292-298. Web.

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