The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Estel Reeves '22 RGLP Reflection: Seeing with New Eyes: A Voyage of Multicultural Understanding and Discovery

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“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes,” I wish I could be credited with this quote by Marcel Proust--nonetheless, I believe he captures more-or-less the same sentiment I wish to convey here.

In our discussion with Fua Nascimento, we discussed how one’s cultural upbringing informs their perception and worldview and, by extension, their unique experience of reality. The question then shifts from what is reality to--how reality is perceived due to one’s unique culturally specific lens and, alternatively, how that may limit one’s awareness.

Reflecting on these concepts, I realized my personal culture has been shaped by my experience of being a woman, growing up in a multicultural and multiracial household, and learning the norms, teachings, and insights fostered within a dominant and minority culture--both of which I was able to experience and see reflected in my family. Growing up, I absorbed the lessons from different elements of my family--both the Scott-Irish and Lakota Sioux. While I was able to enjoy and appreciate the rich traditions of my multicultural heritage, I was also able to witness the prejudice my indigenous grandmother experienced on the border towns and the scars of colonizations still felt by the tribe. Thus, how I view the world has been fundamentally shaped by my heritage and I perceive the importance of adaptability between cultures, cross-cultural communication, and also awareness in terms of diversity and the lived experiences of those within different communities.

The impact of these experiences is also mirrored by my Intercultural Conflict Styles, with Discussion bordering on Accommodation--both styles generally reflected in my cultural heritage. This finding also suggests that while I am able to adopt and embrace two styles of communication, which are utilized more broadly in either the European-American or Indigenous communities respectively--that I am nonetheless limited to these forms of understanding and communicating. Although we discussed how it is important to remain consistent in terms of communication style so that others can better understand one’s behavioral and reasoning--this also points to the need for continued growth, to recognize your own limits in awareness and communicating, and learn new ways of understanding and engaging in dialogue.

In short, although my heritage has allowed me to exist as a woman with a foot in two cultural worlds--RGLP has impressed upon me the need to widen my cultural footprint so-to-speak, to further educate myself in terms of other forms of dialogue and ways of being, and of the necessity of opening yourself up to new experiences and perspectives.

Written by Estel Reeves, a member of the Spring 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences