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The Role of Intercultural Communication in Addressing Cultural Discrimination

1.0 Introduction

With the high prevalence of cultural discrimination today, the concept of intercultural communication remains of necessity as it plays significant role encouraging cultural diversity. The rapidly changing environment, which is impacted by migration, technology, travel as well as education, makes individuals be in contact with various co-cultures and cultures. Therefore, for individuals to survive the challenges related to with issues associated with the changing environment such as cultural discrimination, they must embrace the concept of intercultural communication. By using critical lens to understand as well as interpret the varying cultural dimensions in their intercultural interactions, individuals will be in a position to embrace diversity thus reduce the prevalence of cultural discrimination. In effect, this paper aims to delineate the issue of cultural discrimination today and the role of intercultural communication in addressing the problem

2.0 Cultural Discrimination

According to Fishbein (2014), cultural discrimination is associated with the exclusion, restriction or hate, which may be directed towards an individual or even a group of people based on perceived or real differences in beliefs as well as cultural values. Equally, Neuliep (2014) posits that discrimination can often be expressed through direct and indirect means hence leading to harassment as well as denial of rights. Some of the two forms of cultural discrimination being experienced in the world today are religious hate and racism, which will be highlighted in the subsequent sections.

2.1 Racism

Recent statistics indicate that at least one out of five people in Australia is a target of racial discrimination, which accounts for approximately 4.6 million people Hanasono, Chenand Wilson (2014). Further worrying statistics indicate that one out five people in Australia have in one way or another been a target of verbal racial abuse (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2016). Besides, research indicates that about half of the Australian residents that come from diverse linguistic as well cultural background have undergone some form of racism at some stage in their life.

In Australia, cultural discrimination against the Indigenous Austrians has been highlighted as one of the most common forms of discrimination. Research conducted Australian Human Rights Commission, (2016) showed that 1 out 5 admit that they have discriminated when sitting next to an Indigenous Australian in public places such as in the public train and restaurants.

In America, both the whites and blacks often experience some form of racial discrimination in their daily lives. Statics from the Pew Research Center indicate that more that more than 64% of Blacks in the United States posit that they have often been treated less fairly than whites in White dominated work environments (Stepler, 2016). On the other hand, 22% of whites also believe that they are often treated less fairly in Black-dominated work environments, which reflects a forty-two percent point gap (Stepler, 2016).

Research Report

2.2 Religious hate

As noted earlier, another form of cultural discrimination is religious hate . As Hanasono, Chen and Wilson, (2014) explicates, religious hate often takes when an individual is treated differently because of his or her religion hence making the individual to feel secluded. This type of discrimination can happen at work, school or even at the shopping center. Various studies have indicated that violence, as well as discrimination against religious groups by rival faiths and government, has hit a notch higher in all regions of the word including Australia. According to research conducted by Frosh (2015), one-third of 199 countries surveyed in 2015 were highly associated with social hostility such as attacks on minority faiths who were being pressurised to conform to certain norms which underrated their religious beliefs. A significant number of these countries are from the Middle East as well as North Africa (Reuters, 2016). In the same year, sectarian violence as well religious-related terrorism also occurred in one-fifth of the 199 countries surveyed.

The research also indicated that more than seventy-six percent of the population in restrictive countries such as Russia, china, Egypt and Indonesia often face some kind of informal or formal restriction with regard to their faith. A report filed by the Christina group Doors indicated that in 2015, more than 2,234 Christians had been killed because of their faith globally (Reuters, 2016). Out of those killed, half of the cases were reported from Syria. Besides, strong social hostility, which includes Islamist attacks on churches, anti-Semitic attacks as well as Buddhist agitation against Muslims are some of the prevalent forms of religious hate going on in the world today.

Europe and America are increasingly recording cases of religious-oriented hostility due to a rise in women harassment because of their religious dresses. For instance, after the deadly terrorist attack that took place in America in 2001, also known as the 9/11 attack, female Muslim students who often dress in their religious attire are often subjected to regular indirect and direct discrimination from their American counterparts. They usually fail to appreciate that religious dressing typically signifies the deep culture associated with Islam.

The prevalence of cultural discrimination, which has been delineated above has been majorly because many people do not want to embrace the concept of intercultural communication. Individuals from different cultures have formed negatives stereotypes about other cultures hence leading to cultural discrimination. However, with the embracement of the concept of intercultural communication, the issue of cultural discrimination will soon disappear thus encouraging globalisation.

3.0 Literature Review

3.1 Impact of Cultural Stereotyping on Cultural Discrimination

According to Whitley and Kite (2006), cultural stereotype is associated with the opinions as well beliefs about the behaviors, characteristics and attitudes of members belonging to various groups with different cultures. Equally, Hollingshead (n.d.) defines cultural stereotyping as the tendency of individuals to profile others and subsequently portraying them as they would expect to see them. As Hollingshead (n.d.) posits, cultural stereotyping is significantly influenced by the mass media, peers, schools as well as families. However, Buchtel, (2014) points out that more often than not the effects of stereotyping go beyond the imagination of an individual and can be extremely damaging, derogatory, harmful as well as discriminatory. Besides, stereotypes have often led to high prevalence of cultural discrimination and even unjust conviction and imprisonment.

3.3 How intercultural communication addresses Cultural discrimination

Buchtel (2014) is of the opinion that intercultural relationships often have the capability to form as well break stereotypes, which usually lead to cultural discrimination. Student as well as well friendship interaction across cultures in class is a revelation of this. For instance, negative perceptions associated with the Civil War, Holocaust, Indian Indentureship as well as Middle Passage can usually be dispelled through the concept of intercultural communication by interacting students whose ancestors once experience these events in history. As discussed in the class readings, especially in relation to the Identity Management Theory, individuals often strive to manage the face they present to others. In other words, an individual will want to depict a positive face in order to be accepted in a new culture. In essence, this strengthens encourages the concept of cultural diversity as people will develop positive faces in order to fit in different regions of the world for the pursuit of their careers or expansion of the businesses. Through intercultural communication, individuals from different cultural backgrounds often endeavour to mitigate face-threat as well as work towards maintaining the mutually agreed upon identities they construct (Ting-Toomey, 2005) hence dissolving strongly held negative stereotypes.

One current negative stereotype that has largely contributed to the issue of cultural discrimination in America, for example, is the aftermath associated with the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in September 11, which left thousands of people dead and injured. The incident which was subsequently fuelled by the media has triggered a stereotype which aims at turning all Muslims as terrorists. This stereotype has had negative impacts on Muslims as they are often profiled by custom checks and immigration policies as well as government policies. Negative stereotypes play a significant role in fueling of cultural discrimination as they often lead to suspicion, hate as well fear for ethnic groups and this might take many years for such stereotypes to be eliminated. For instance, it has been more than fourteen years since the 9/11 attack in the U.S happened, but there is still a significant resistance and objection towards the construction of a Mosque near the Twin Tower carnage.

According to the Identity Management Theory, individuals are likely to experience a threat to their positive face when their culture is ignored Oetzel, Garcia and Ting-Toomey (2008). In other words, cultural ignorance can considerably lead cultural discrimination. Cultural ignorance, also known as cultural appropriation, often occurs when one’s culture is disrespected and ignored hence being considered as harmful and negative. Cultural ignorance is negative as individuals from one culture may choose to discriminate a minority group because they believe that their culture is associated with retrogressive acts while in the real sense they are not. A good example, is the long-held concept that the black community in the United States are associated with crime and disharmony while in real sense they are not. Accordingly, this sense of cultural ignorance can be dangerous as it undermines cultural diversity or the embracing of other cultures.

The concept of intercultural communication has been considered significant in limiting the issue of cultural discrimination. Through the concept of intercultural communications, individuals from different cultures are in a position to interact hence learning profoundly from each other. Subsequently, this leads to the dispelling of prior-held stereotypes, which often resulted in cultural discrimination. As the Identity Negotiation Theory posits, individuals must be mindful of other cultures by accepting to move beyond their familiar cultural frames of reference in order to understand other cultures (Neuliep, 2014). This is important has individuals learn to appreciate other cultures as well as accommodate other world views.

4.0 Recommendation and Conclusion

This report has successfully highlighted the issue of cultural discrimination in today’s global world and how the aspect of intercultural communication helps to downplay or limit this vice. The paper discussed two forms of cultural discrimination, that is, racism and religious hate, as well as their prevalence in various of the world including Australia. The world today is composed of a society that has people from diverse cultures because of a significant number of individuals who have migrated to various countries thus integrating with other cultures. Despite the rapid rate of globalisation, which has integrated various sub-cultures, cultural discrimination still exists. All citizens from different countries should learn to accept multiple identities owing to their association with various subcultures. It is without doubt that the familiarity as well as recognition with other racial identities helps in encouraging the demand for a shared understanding of the community in order to create an environment that would be free of any type of cultural discrimination. Ultimately, people should be willing to adopt the concept of intercultural communication whereby they will be in a position to learn other people’s way of living thus learning to understand them and live with them peacefully.


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Fishbein, H.D., 2014. Peer prejudice and discrimination: The origins of prejudice. Psychology Press.

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