Due to increased hostility at the Port of New Harbor, Robert Johnson has been asked to facilitate a four-session workshop on diversity and cultural understanding for employees who recently emigrated from Syria.
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The main areas Robert should focus on are the attitude of the immigrants towards mental health, family, social interactions, and the difference between individualism and collectivism. First, since some of the workers are immigrants from Syria, they might experience mental health problems linked to the war. This, in return, can lead to reluctance to communicate with other employees who cannot understand their experiences. Furthermore, it is common among Arab/Muslim immigrants not to look for help when facing mental health problems because of their view of psychological problems as not important or not deserving attention (Diller, 2010). Thus, one of the main reasons why these employees are not willing to communicate with others might be the suppressed emotional and mental issues that are directly linked to the war and losses they had to endure.
At the same time, Robert should also consider that most of the immigrants decide to move because of the economic or political reasons and not because they want to assimilate into the Western world (Diller, 2010). Therefore, a more respectful approach towards the beliefs and traditions of Arab/Muslim Americans is needed when working with this group. What is more, Robert should also work with other employees who are not part of this group in order to explain how mistrust and prejudice towards immigrants can undermine the relationships between them. It would be reasonable to ask veteran longshoremen to understand their struggles and present a friendlier attitude towards the dockworkers since the friendly attitude of individuals can positively influence the perception of a particular group (Khan & Ecklund, 2012). The commitment to one’s culture and traditions also should not be seen as the unwillingness to assimilate but rather perceived positively and with empathy (Diller, 2010). The difference between individualism and collectivism should not be viewed as a dividing one; instead, both of the groups should see that these differences do not interfere with communication if respected and discussed appropriately.
One should also consider the fact that the depiction of Arabs/Muslims in the media often leads to the emergence of unpleasant stereotypes. Some Americans tend to see Arabs and Muslims as violent and cruel, and this view is supported by movies and news that prefer depicting the group as villains (Sides & Gross, 2013). The hostility between the workers is partially fuelled by the stereotypes that were used in the media prior to 9/11 and after it (Khan & Ecklund, 2012). The unwillingness to communicate with the immigrants with respect only complicates the immigrants’ ability to adjust and assimilate.
The approach to authority among Arab and Muslim Americans should also be considered. These families are usually (although not always) more authoritarian and have clear power distances (Diller, 2010). This authority of fathers and husbands should not be challenged since it can lead to further disruptions in relationships with families, wives, and children. What is valued by some of the Americans might not be as important for Arab/Muslim Americans and vice versa. It does not mean that the groups should clash in discussions about the beliefs and values; instead, they should focus on respect towards each other.
It is also advisable for diverse groups to focus on those themes and topics that might be familiar to all participants; thus, instead of dividing, the members of the group will have the opportunity to establish relationships based on shared interests.
Diller, J. (2010). Cultural diversity: A primer for the human services. Ontario, Canada: Nelson Education.
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Khan, M., & Ecklund, K. (2012). Attitudes toward Muslim Americans post-9/11. Journal of Muslim Mental Health, 7(1), 1-16.
Sides, J., & Gross, K. (2013). Stereotypes of Muslims and support for the War on Terror. The Journal of Politics, 75(3), 583-598.