By Rebecca Diers – SUNY Cortland
Before going to college, I had never been exposed to anthropology in all my years of prior education. As I began to take courses in it, I was shocked that this wasn’t a more widespread discipline. While anthropology by definition is the study of human societies and cultures and their development, it is actually much more than that. Anthropology teaches individuals how to be more aware about the world, instead of settling for ignorance. It teaches respect for all cultures and people, and the ways in which us humans have failed other generations. It teaches acceptance. It teaches humanity. And it teaches individuals to seek the truth and expand their worldview. This source of enlightenment is why anthropology needs to become more implemented in the education system—so that more people can develop an anthropological mind and make the world a more accepting place.
It is critical for anthropologists who do fieldwork to develop an “anthropological mind.” This is when you take into account other people’s viewpoints and realities, instead of viewing their life through the lens of your own. This concept is one that more people should be aware of and learn to implement into their own lives. Too many people have an ethnocentric view of the world, and judge other people’s customs, cultures, and lifestyle based on their own. This is what drives a wedge between people. The more people who are able to develop this “anthropological mind,” the more accepting people will become of one another because they will realize that not everyone’s realities are the same, but these differences are what ultimately make us equal to one another.
One of the main aspects taught in anthropology courses is the fact that everyone is equally human. People in the world today seem stuck on the idea of different “races,” and that some people are more entitled to certain things to others. What many people fail to realize is that “races” do not exist. “Race” was a concept developed by Europeans in order to justify colonialism. When people are still stuck on these colonially-constructed ideas to assert dominance over certain groups, that is when situations involving prejudice and discrimination occur. By educating oneself and familiarizing oneself with these realities, that is when change in this world will be able to happen.
This is especially important in terms of parents trying to create a better world for their children. Children are not born with the concepts of “race” and “discrimination” and other terms that separate humans from one another already known to them. When they see their parents and other adults talking in certain ways or doing certain actions, they think it is the norm and that they should do it as well. More widespread anthropological education for both adults and children would be the catalyst for change. When more adults—especially parents—have developed an anthropological mind, those ideas will naturally be passed down to the children, and will create a cycle that would hopefully drive out all ideas of divisions between people.
I have a lot of hope for the future of anthropology. I especially think new generations of students have a desire for change and a desire to make the world a better place. In order to improve their chances of success in making the world a more inclusive and more culturally-accepting place, I think anthropology needs to become implemented more in the education system. There are too many people that I have spoken to in the past few years that do not even know what anthropology is. Exposing more people to this discipline is the first step in improving their worldview, and breaking down their biases and misconceptions about certain cultures and groups of people. Those who have an understanding of anthropology should also make every effort to communicate anthropological concepts with people in their lives, and to not shy away from trying to educate people on their ignorant views. The more people who develop an anthropological mind, the more accepting the world will become.
Rebecca Diers is interning with Pressenza as a part of her Professional Writing major at SUNY Cortland. Her other major in Anthropology fuels her passion for understanding different cultures and making connections with people. She uses writing as a way to make sense of the world, and to inspire a sense of humanity in her audience.