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Running head: CULTURAL IMMERSION PLUNGER EXPERIENCE

Cultural Immersion Plunger Experience


Natoya Scott
Georgia State University

CULTURAL IMMERSION PLUNGER EXPERIENCE

Abstract
A cultural plunge is an individuals exposure to persons or groups markedly different in culture
from that of the plunger. Cultural plunges encourage individuals to come into contact with
other individuals who may be different from them to gain insights into that persons biases,
values and beliefs. The purpose of this assignment and paper was to help students to expand on
their ability and knowledge in which they already have to work with different disadvantaged
groups within the community. The client in this study was expected to experience four
experiences and of the four experiences, two will include an interview with a person of the
disadvantaged culture.
Keywords: Plunge, Disadvantaged, Culture, Experience, Exposure, Knowledge

CULTURAL IMMERSION PLUNGER EXPERIENCE

Cultural Immersion Plunger Experience


A cultural plunge is an individuals exposure to persons or groups markedly different in
culture from that of the plunger. Cultural plunges encourage individuals to come into contact
with other individuals who may be different from them. This interaction between different people
is what can be used to gain insights into that persons biases, values and beliefs. As a Social
Worker, this is important because one must learn how to become more culturally competent.
Prior to the activity: Muslims
Before the exposure to people of the Islamic faith, it was believed that all Muslims were
the same; suicidal, murderous terrorists that believed in Jihad. This point of view began to
surface when the subject was only eight years of age. There was not much level of exposure to
this groups of individuals before the experience except for what the media had depicted. After
the September 11th bombing and currently, the media began to shape the subjects mind making it
seem as though all Muslims were evil and wanted to get rid of all that had not believed in Allah.
At this instance, feeling sympathy for what Muslim individuals go through in America is quite
important because social workers come into contact with different people and must understand
that not everyone thinks or have the same beliefs as another. The subjects current view would
affect their work with someone from this group because being close-minded would cause one to
generalize and believe that everyone is the same as the other. This over-generalization would
cause one to judge or scorn everyone based on the actions of one person belonging to a specific
group.
The Muslim American group was chosen for this cultural immersion experience because
they are one of the most disadvantaged groups within America (Clay, 2011). One area of interest
to Muslim Americans chosen for this experience is Women in the Muslim faith. According to
Shirazi (2001), women in the Islamic faith wear veils that signify purity that is quite the opposite
of what the media is displaying to its viewers. In many instances, the Muslim faith and some of
the symbols, for example, the veil is being exploited and used to mock Islamic society while
making political statements.
Exposure
On Friday, October 16, 2015, the subject took a trip to a local mosque and decided to
interview a Muslim woman whose name was Fatimah Edwards. In the mosque men and women
were separated and there are no shoes allowed inside the prayer hall. This is one big difference as
compared to the different religious buildings in which the subject had ever entered. The
interview began with the informant asked about why it was so important to visit the mosque on
Fridays. She went on to explain that Friday is viewed as the holy day of the week and because of
that Muslims go for the purpose of congregational prayers. She also mentioned that men are
expected to be present at the mosque on Fridays however it is optional for women. The next
question asked was about her conversion to the Islam faith; she mentioned that she converted to
the faith mainly because of her husband and also her beliefs were more in line with those of the
Islam religion.
When asked if she had ever experienced oppression or discrimination she went on to
explain how people would stare at her with scorn when she was out in public wearing her veil.

CULTURAL IMMERSION PLUNGER EXPERIENCE

However, the worse type of oppression she experienced came from her family when she told
them that she had decided to convert to Islam. She went on to say that her family was
disappointed and shunned her but have recently begun to come around. Finally, she was asked
about what she believed could be done to help stop the oppression of Muslim individuals. She
stated that Islam is a religion based on peace, love and respect and to prevent oppression of her
people Muslims must be shown the same amount of respect as any other religious groups in the
world. Fatimah believes that the media plays a great role in educating the mass and if they have a
program that teaches about what this Islam faith is all about then oppression could be minimized.
After the activity
After the visit to the mosque and then the sit-down with the informant from the Muslim
community it is safe to say that this experience had a significant impact on the individual. The
effects of this immersion were both a personal and a mental one. After this activity, the subjects
viewpoints were challenged in a major way. For example, the subject grew and learned not to
judge nor to scorn people who might be from a different cultural group as ones self. Muslim
women experience constant oppression whether it is in the work environment or even in the
school environment. These various forms of abuses and discrimination observed come from them
expressing their religion whether it be by wearing the veils or even practicing their faiths by
praying. This experience impacted the subjects future career objectives as a social worker
because of the lesson that was learned. This lesson was to be open-minded and be a motivating
force in peoples lives. To work with Muslim individuals, women to be exact, one thing in which
can be done to increase cultural competency and recognized previous misconceptions about this
group is by doing research and trying to educate individuals in the Muslim faith. It is a belief
that teaching different individuals about the Muslim faith can in turn help to make them more
aware and to understand that indeed all Muslims are not the same.
Prior to the activity: Elderly
Life experiences can have both positive and adverse effects on a persons life. Often,
when looking at an elderly person what comes to mind is that they are old, vulnerable, wise,
experienced, or even keepers of tradition. At about the age of eight is when the interaction with
this group of people occurred and caused this viewpoint. There was a great deal of exposure
coming from this population since there were a lot of older family members around the subject.
The older folks in which the subject was exposed to help to teach about different culture and
background and also molded the individual. In the media today there are many stereotypes and
prejudices about the elderly, often it is believed that older individuals lack the ability to function
and are in poor physical or mental health. Different forms of media portray older women as
being wrinkle free and thin and because of this the ideal older woman is made to feel insecure
and undesirable because of this image. Based on the different stereotypes that the elderly
population face both in the media and in their community, there is a great sense of sympathy
towards them because age is sometimes viewed as such a negative thing. The subjects current
view of this population would affect work with this group in a very positive way because it
makes one more understanding of this population when it comes to dealing with them.
Exposure

CULTURAL IMMERSION PLUNGER EXPERIENCE

The elderly population was chosen for the second cultural immersion experience because
that population is a fascinating group. One area of interest when it comes to the elderly
population selected for this experience is those that are intellectually and developmentally
impaired. So to complete this immersion the subject along with a family member visited a
nursing home while in New York. According to research done by Decalmer (1993), abuse of
elderly people is quite frequent in the world. However, the most common form of violence
comes from the institution itself. They mentioned the different practices, environments, and rules
of these systems were an object of ill-treatment. Developmentally and intellectually impaired
older individuals often their needs are more when linked to that of the normal functioning older
individuals. Most of these individuals in which are in the nursing home are there because their
family members have abandoned them.
After the activity
After the visit to the nursing home, it is safe to say that the experience affected the
subject in a personal way. The experience was positive and helped to reinforce the different
viewpoints in which the subject had about the elderly population. Now that the experience is
over, the individual has gained a lot more understanding about this populations everyday life
which would make it much easier to provide different services to them. There are many different
stereotypes in which affect the elderly population. For example, like mentioned before how they
lack what it takes to function in todays society. In addition to the stereotypes, various forms of
oppression and discrimination were observed. One way in which this population is being
victimized within the nursing home is that the worker believe that because these people are old
that they are incompetent and unable to get little tasks done, however, this is not always the case.
This experience impacted the subjects future career objectives as a social worker in a great way
mainly because of what was reinforced. It taught her to be more patient understanding and
compassionate when dealing with vulnerable populations because one day one might make it as
far as to be an elder. As a social worker, it is important to be culturally competent to provide
adequate services. To work with the elderly population, one activity that can be implemented to
increase ones cultural competency are attending workshops that focus on the elderly population
preferably those that are developmentally and intellectually impaired. It is quite important to
build up cultural competence because it would help to bridge the gap when it comes to dealing
with or handling different situations within the workforce or anywhere for that matter.
Prior to the activity: Homeless
When thinking of the term homeless individuals, the first thing that comes to mind is that
they got to this point because of their drug use/ abuse; either this or that theyre lazy and
prideful, and would rather not have a job than to have a minimum wage job. Some of them are
always pushing carts with recycled bottles to earn extra change. Homeless individuals all appear
to be manipulative, and when they ask for money, it is assumed to go towards drugs. This
preconceived notion has always been there because growing up in Guyana most of the homeless
individuals were people on drugs. Personally, I do not know any homeless people but have
always been in contact with them, especially while living in New York City where they would
roam the streets and subways. The media portrays this group in many ways. Besides being drug/

CULTURAL IMMERSION PLUNGER EXPERIENCE

alcohol abusers, they are portrayed as obnoxious and selfish, and as people who suffer from
many different diseases or health issues. When we see homeless people, we just want them gone.
Some ways they do this is by depicting them as a statistic portrayed as a result of their life
choices. It is the same way that many lower class members represented. The media also doesnt
do much to portray them in a positive way; instead we are left to make our assumptions about all
homeless people based on our interactions with a small percentage of them. Being sympathetic to
this group is unavoidable because no one should lack the necessities of living like shelter, heat
and water. The current views in which the subject has to this group of people affects working
with them because it would create a bias towards these individuals.
Exposure
Homeless individuals were chosen for this assignment because they are misunderstood
and it seemed to be an excellent way to challenge oneself. The subjects inquisitive nature is
what led to research. The study showed how many different situations can lead someone to be
homeless. Many people immediately think that homeless persons chose this route versus finding
government assistance, but it is surprising how many people are denied space at homeless
shelters and denied public assistance. Like many stereotypes, the drug/ alcohol abusers tale
tells only a portion of the story. Some people have used and abused drugs or alcohol, but many
also couldnt find the support that was needed to prevent them from the state of being homeless.
The rate of documented crimes against homeless people in 2005 was 30% higher than of those in
1999, and 75% of all perpetrators, who are from various economic classes, are under the age of
25. A 12-year-old was accused of shooting a 54-year-old homeless man on July 28, 2015, in
Jacksonville, Florida. Two young teenagers in Syracuse, New York, were charged with throwing
rocks at a homeless woman on July 31, 2015. At the same time, the majority of violent crimes
against homeless people are perpetrated by other homeless people. Being homeless puts those all
in a state of vulnerability, and therefore, anything can happen. Some states now classify these
crimes as hate crimes. You can only imagine what hate crimes against homeless people exist in
Los Angeles, whose homeless population rose 20% this year, to more than 41,000 persons (The
National Coalition for the Homeless).
After the activity
Thanksgiving day was spent preparing food for the many homeless people in the city of
Atlanta. Then at about eight that thanksgiving night the subject along with her family made the
trip to distribute the food. This experience had both a mental and a personal effect on the subject.
The reason for this is because it helped to challenge the numerous misconceptions in which the
subject had before coming into close contact with homeless individuals. The different forms of
oppression, discrimination and stereotypes on which were observed in this cultural group was the
same as was believed before the experience. Asking questions to different people in Atlanta lead
to the confirmation of the preconceived notion that all homeless individuals are on drugs and
have been on drugs, and that is why that individual is in a certain situation. This experience
would impact the subjects future career objectives as a social worker because like the other
experiences; this experience is teaching one how to be more understanding and sympathetic. To
work with someone from this group, one would need to engage in philanthropy to increase
cultural competency and recognized previous misconceptions. Some of which can be

CULTURAL IMMERSION PLUNGER EXPERIENCE

volunteering at homeless shelters, especially during the holiday season where soup kitchen
volunteers are continually encouraged.
Prior to the activity: Homosexual
Before the exposure experience of homosexual individuals, the subject believed that these
individuals were an abomination. Also, the subject felt as though once these persons kept their
distance then there would not be any problems. Being from Guyana; a country where being a
homosexual is frowned upon, this point of view has always been around. One way in which this
is demonstrated is when it comes to participating in different activities, the subject was always
told that she was not feminine enough. And because of these experiences there was a great deal
of exposure to this group of individuals. The media does not portray these individuals in a
negative light, however, they are described weak and oppressed, and this tends to have an impact
on ones viewpoint. For example, the biggest thing in the media right now is about this group of
people fighting for equal rights or being abused because of their sexual orientation. In a way, the
one must be sympathetic, however, understanding that every man is to their order is important. If
a client is gay, that is entirely okay because they have a right to choose the lifestyle that they
want to live which may come with many different challenges and consequences. Social workers
must be understanding, compassionate and non-judgmental. Current view of these individuals
would not affect their work with someone from this group because it would be strictly business,
however, if they cross the line then other professional measures would have to be taken.
People who may identify as being a part of the LGBTQIQIA population was chosen for
the ultimate cultural immersion experience because these individuals are being oppressed on a
daily basis even though they are slowly but surely gaining rights or, in other words, being
accepted in todays society. This is one of the most oppressed communities of them all. The
amount of hate and scorn that these individuals face is quite impeccable. According to Gnuse
(2015), there are seven different passages from the Bible in which are used to condemn
homosexual individuals. Also, the author stated that the Bible is a dense book that support
slavery, suppresses women and condemn homosexuals.
Exposure
For this immersion, the subject spent time with a diverse family. This family consisted of
two moms and a baby girl. On September 12, 2015, the subject decided to spend some time with
a gay couple and their daughter just to see life from their point of view. During this staycation,
the subject asked many questions of the informants, some of which triggered many different
emotions. The name of one of the Women was Ciara Lamb. She and he spouse have been
married for many years and recently became parents in 2012. The interview began with one of
the most obvious questions; how exactly did the child come about, the informants mentioned
that they had done in vitro fertilization to have their daughter. She went on to explain that herself
and her wife did know who the father of the child was and were willing to have her meet her
father when she is old enough. The next question asked was about her coming out to her family;
she stated that turning out to her family and friends was one of the hardest decisions that she had
ever made. Her family wanted nothing to do with her which was hard for her.
When asked if she had ever experienced any form of discrimination or scorn she
mentioned that the only oppression she feels necessary to address came from the government.
She feels as though the different laws in which are in place are hindering homosexual

CULTURAL IMMERSION PLUNGER EXPERIENCE

individuals progress within society. She also talked about a time she was attacked at the train
station by a group of younger girls because they thought that she was hitting on one of their
friends. In addition to these questions, she was also asked what measures can be taken to stop
and to prevent future discrimination in which she replied that the passing of the laws that allow
gay individuals to marry was the first step to equality, however, so much more can be done.
After this interview so much was learned. For example, the subject learned to be more
sympathetic, patient and understanding to homosexual individuals.
After the activity
This particular experience has affected the subject in many ways. In addition to this
experience affecting the subject in a personal, mental and spiritual way, the experience also had a
social effect. This experience challenged and changed the previous viewpoint about this group of
people because it gave clarity that these individuals are not weak, what they are is oppressed and
singled out. One current social issue in which was found out about this group was about the fight
for equal rights and justice for gay individuals. Recently gay marriage laws have been passed.
However, these individuals are still being oppressed all over the United States of America. As a
future social worker, to increase cultural competency with these individuals one must engage in
different activities or events. One of these activities or events may include going to LGBTQ
events such as pride parade. In addition to attending pride parade, one could also educate
homosexuals about what rights they may have in whatever state they may reside. These different
things would help to bridge the very apparent gap I that is present in society because it could
help to eliminate the different misconceptions in which may exist.

CULTURAL IMMERSION PLUNGER EXPERIENCE

References
Clay, R. (2011, September 1). Muslims in America, post 9/11. Retrieved September 24, 2015,
from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/09/muslims.aspx
Decalmer, P., & Glendenning, F. (Eds.). (1993). The Mistreatment of elderly people (2nd ed.).
London: Sage Publications.
Gnuse, R. K. (2015). Seven Gay Texts: Biblical Passages Used to Condemn Homosexuality.
Biblical Theology Bulletin, 45(2), 68-87. doi:10.1177/0146107915577097
Shirazi, F. (2001). The veil unveiled : the hijab in modern culture. Gainesville : University Press
of Florida, c2001.
The National Coalition for the Homeless - National Coalition for the Homeless. (n.d.). Retrieved
November 26, 2015, from http://nationalhomeless.org/