Key Communication Issues of Interracial Relationships

Interracial friendships provide a context of equality in which intergroup differences may be addressed to reduce prejudice and conflict. Measures of the extent of interracial friendships also reflect the state of race relations in a society, capturing the positive feelings between group members rather than the negative sentiment so often emphasized in studies of racial attitudes. When friendships cut across racial lines, they represent a form of bonding capital and a form of bridging capital (Samovar& Porter, 1994).

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There are several communication issues which arise in interracial friendships, and these may cause communication barriers among friends (Samovar& Porter, 1994). The first issue is language, and this may prove to be a communication barrier if interracial friends do not adequately understand each others’ language. This may serve to affect the friendship, as they will not be able to understand each other. Another issue that may arise relates to culture. Differences in perception of culture, especially if friends see issues from different viewpoints, may be a barrier to communication. This issue is more pronounced when there are inherent differences in religious views, by friends from different religions.
Finally, differences in ideologies of perception of life between interracial friends may act as a barrier to effective communication. Some people are conservative while others are liberal, and when such friends are having conversation, this might degenerate into conflict due to different views and opinions. This happens if the friends are not accommodating the other person ‘s opinions.
Although interracial and intercultural romantic relationships have been present throughout history, they have rarely been culturally encouraged or even accepted. In fact, these relationships have often been prohibited. Ultimately, however, an increase in racial and/or ethnic diversity within the United States should cause a corresponding increase in interracial and intercultural dating and marriage, eventually promoting greater acceptance of these relationships (Gudykunst& Kim, 1992).
There are several communication issues which arise in interracial relationships , and these may cause conflicts among couples (Gudykunst& Kim, 1992). Similar to interracial friendships , language can prove to be a communication barrier if interracial couples do not adequately understand each others’ language . They may be unable to communicate effectively , and this may harm their relationship . Similarly , differences in perception of culture may be another communication issue in interracial romantic relationships.
Although many communication issues are the same across all romantic relationships, these relationship must also contend with issues of discrimination and identity. In interracial romantic relationships, the partners are aware of social disapproval. In some instances they are alienated from friends and families. They are required to consider social and historical forces concerning race and sexual identity in ways that other couples are not. Their communication behaviors reflect these concerns.
Romantic relationships and the communication that occurs within them vary widely. Cultural scripts guide how people conduct conversations in romantic relationships, too. The factors include individual differences like love style and the degree of security or certainty about the relationship, as well as contextual considerations like geographic distance and social sanctions.
Computer-mediated communication (CMC) refers to human-human interaction via the computer. Some of the popular applications of CMC are email, instant messaging (IM), chat rooms, bulletin boards, and newsgroups. Compared to face-to-face (FtF) communication, CMC liberates communicators from the need to be physically co-present and thus from the consequent influence of nonverbal cues. Although some theorists and researchers argue that CMC-based intercultural relationships cannot be as rich as those formed in FtF encounters, others have identified ways in which CMC can actually increase intimacy among intercultural relationships.
Research findings suggest that under Computer-mediated communication (CMC), intercultural contact can lead to reduced prejudice and positive attitude change (Klak& Martin, 2003; Rubin& Lannutti, 2001). These kinds of discussion facilitate person to fully describe and interpret the intercultural world and experiences in which they live.
online discussions can provide a dialogic starting point for connecting with persons’ lived experiences- their own and others’. online discussions facilitate dialogic learning is that they provide a comfortable venue in which people can explore controversial and/or ambivalent feelings about intercultural topics. People may not offer their true voices and experience on these issues in face-to-face discussions due to the fear of creating incommensurable or irreconcilable differences or because of a social desirability issue. However, the filtering out of nonverbal cues, not being able to see the reactions of others, or the identity characteristics (age, gender, race etc) that may hinder communication-makes everyone feel more at ease.
Popular culture could be defined as sets of values, beliefs, trends or modes of symbolic expression readily available to and acknowledged by ‘the masses’ (McCluskey, 2006). Popular culture is opposite from high culture which is widely accepted by high class and usually considered of great value and does not attempt to appeal the crowd’s attention. on the contrary, popular culture is wildly liked and propagated by the public, with the aim of attracting public’s attention and making profits. As Williams (1976) expounded, popular means being seen from the point of view of the people rather than from those seeking favour or power over them. In addition, popular culture is different from folk culture which is more ethnic and traditional while popular culture usually has nothing to do with ‘outmoded’ and it only deals with what is ‘in fashion’.
Popular culture was spread by commercial need. The products from popular culture such as films, magazines and fashionable dress are all goods merchants use for profit-making. From this point of view, commercial destination is a distinct from other forms of culture among popular culture’s identities.
Since popular culture was born, an indispensable friend of it which is so-called mass media has been accompanying with it, including newspapers, television, radio and internet. obviously, people have to use, at least one kind of mass media when they feel like learning news, searching something in the latest fad and keeping in touch with others. It infers that mass media is something like ligament and support of popular culture.
Another characteristic of popular culture is that it is often adopted by young people, almost the monopoly of the youth. Consequently expressions of popular culture in everyday life are always exciting and fashionable, such as Hip-hop and Bungee jumping. Also, most enthusiasts of fast food, short text message and rock ‘n’ music are youth. Young people enjoy themselves in popular culture with no doubts.
In the international arena, scholars have turned to the notions of cultural imperialism developed in 1920s in the critique of popular culture, especially U.S. domination of the resources and media market in the world and its implications on intercultural communication (Condon& Yousef, 1975). These scholars believe that people are informed about other cultures from popular media and cultural products. The media representations of other cultures can be used to remove the misconceptions and stereotypes of other cultures.
one of the incredible uses of popopular culture as medium of intercultural communications is hidden behind its own cultural icons. The cultural role-models, could be distinguish to be based on two types real and fictitious (Gudykunst& Kim, 1992)
Popular culture icons can penetrate in the cultural communication on a multi-ethnic multi-cultural level. The first level is the representation of the real life, success stories, of a few dozens of people who are incredibly blessed and through their work and dedication had managed to achieve an international fame and glory. The vast wealth that they had acquired in the process is there just there to complement their stardom stature. Their real power, at lest in the context of pop-culture, is their ability to communicate and moreover to reach their followers through the world, a loyal army of supporters ready at all times to spend parts of their often moderated income on products or memorabilia with which to add to the financial wealth of their role-models, celebrities of different status ex: actresses musicians etc.
The perfect example of the popular icons could be the one of the most controversial celebrities “Madonna”. She had undergone, different image transformation, form a boy-toy playgirl in the 80’s through a flamboyant queer/gay culture supporter to a loving and down to earth mother in a matter of few decades. However, throughout all stages of her constant image change she had mange sharply to influence cultural change trough out the globe and to raise and promote and established new ideas and social values.
The role of the popular icons as a role models, should not been underestimated, as that power is by far the most useful tool which the pop culture posses as the means of intercultural communication.
Through media people are taught and reminded of their social position by all three kinds of representation-race, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality. Gender, race, and sexuality are all part of an interlinked system of representation that helps describe and define who has power in relationship to others. In this interlocking system, some are constructed as having power and dominance, and others are depicted as being powerless and submissive, and sometimes subservient. The subordination of some is requisite for the empowerment of others. In this world of media representations, visible differences are highlighted and some time accentuated so as to clarify who has power and who does not. Whiteness comes to having meaning in relation to the representation of racialized others. As the late Ruth Frankenberg suggested, whiteness is a product of negative difference; people come to understand themselves as white through a process by which they know who they are by what they are not. Another way of saying this in relation to Asia and Asian Americans is that whiteness becomes meaningful when contrasted to Asianess. Whiteness is therefore a default racial identity, an identity that does not come from the inside so much as being define by what is not observed to be constitutive of the other.
Historically, the media relied on stereotypes to attract the largest possible audience, thus they reinforced rather than challenged the attitudes of society. The left maintains stereotypical depictions and coverage emphasizing minorities are problems that remain. Studies show African Americans and Hispanics are still more likely to believe the media are biased in their coverage of race and ethnicity than whites, supporting the notion the media are skewed right (Gonzalez et al., 2004).
Native Americans are often portrayed as stoic warriors. News and entertainment coverage of Native Americans reinforces the notion that their cultures are almost dead, as current issues are rarely addressed and they are often depicted in traditional garb. Asian men are most often depicted as martial arts experts, while Asian women suffer from too-frequent portrayals as geishas.
Women in all media are portrayed as being in relationships rather than careers and as seeking romance more frequently than male characters on television and in film; in essence, the media stresses their domestic interests. The dominant ideology of gender coverage is patriarchal.
Today, the representation of many minority groups in media remains small for the population and representation of all groups remains somewhat inaccurate or restricted but strides continue.
Intercultural conflict occurs because of an individual’s lack of knowledge regarding external cultural norms and values. Neither of these individuals communicated effectively with each other and the messages conveyed were not as the communicator intended. This created a sense of vulnerability and frustration for both the parties involved (Jameson, 2007).
The major characteristics of intercultural conflict are the following: (1) conflict involves intercultural perceptions–perceptions are filtered through our lenses of ethnocentrism and stereotypes, and perceptions color our conflict attribution process; (2) conflict involves interaction–conflict is sustained and managed via verbal and nonverbal behaviors, and verbal and nonverbal behaviors are culture-bound concepts; (3) conflict involves interdependence–for a conflict to arise, the behavior of one or both parties must have consequences for the other, for otherwise the conflict parties can walk away from each other easily; (4) conflict involves both self-interest and mutual-interest goals–conflict is a mixed-up and incomplete jigsaw puzzle, both parties needing something from each other in order to complete the entire picture; and (5) conflict involves the protection of intergroup images–in an intercultural or intergroup conflict situation, conflict parties have to worry about protecting both individual and group-based images.
Interracial/ethnic conflict is a dynamic process; any one episode is typically the result of multiple sources of conflict (Hall and Mildred, 1987). In other words, conflict can simultaneously involve personal and cultural issues. In order to provide insight into how conflict often becomes racialized, we describe various sources of interracial/ethnic conflicts.
Improper communication is a key source of intercultural anxiety and disagreement. The communication process is quite different among other cultures by how, when and why something is said. Communicating to one group may have different meaning to another based on tone, facial expression or nonverbal indicators. These ideas consist of a person’s communication style. Miscommunication can happen when an individual communication styles are unique from someone else. In today’s diverse workplace, we may have to deal with a co worker whose communication style differs from ours.
Learning effectively to communicate among all different cultures is essential regardless of our line of work. For example, arguing, in some cultures is normal, others it is an unfriendly behavior, and for some the argument is highly emotional. Some culture’s characteristics might be more reserve while another tends to be more forward in communication. In some cases, a cultures frankness, and values, such as “telling it like it is” while other groups maintain harmony. A person’s accent varies greatly especially within the same language. We should not pre judge one’s accent and make assumptions about that person’s background.
Conflicts often arise in any form of relationship. Whether be in an intimate relationship between a husband and wife, employee with a co-employee, superior officer and employee, friend and friend, parents and children, teacher and student, brother and brother, and so many other relationships. In our lives, we often face many conflicts and disagreement on certain issues (Gudykunst and Young, 1992). These conflicts and disagreement are often based on different ethnicity, gender or religion. But even with the existence of conflicts, there are good ways for conflict communication resolution.
Conflict communication does not mean that you have to sacrifice your principles; it simply requires one to come to a point to recognize the other person’s view, respect it and to further avoid another conflict communication in the future.
Any conflict communication must be resolved at the earliest time to prevent further injury to both parties. Although at times, this is not easy for either party, it is still the best way to do it. When there is an impending conflict communication, the best remedy is to talk and not to wait for any future time to settle a conflict.
Because of the busy lives of most persons today, conflict communication is often times unavoidable. However, this could be solved and apprehended immediately as long as you keep an open mind to it. Conflict communication should be seen as a means to enhance relationships by finding out a conflict, giving solutions to it and building stronger and better relationships between two different ethnicities, genders, religions.

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