Demonstrating an Understanding of Multiple Perspectives

Instructor: Celeste Bright

Celeste has taught college English for four years and holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature.

In order to live or lead peacefully in a multicultural society, it's important to show that you understand multiple perspectives. This is an especially difficult problem in the U.S. today. We'll learn about this using examples from current political events.

Why Is Demonstrating an Understanding of Multiple Perspectives Important?

The United States is made up of different races, genders, religions, education levels, and other factors, which means that we all have different perspectives. Because the U.S. today prides itself on guaranteeing equal rights to all Americans, it's important that we understand multiple worldviews to ensure a just society. This is no easy task, since each group is likely to view their own perspective as the most important one.

Race Relations, Diplomacy, and Former President Obama

A major example of the need for diplomacy (fair, open-minded communication) is race relations, or the way people of different ethnic groups perceive and interact with each other. Recently, race relations have become an especially serious American concern because of incidents in which police officers used violent tactics to subdue non-white criminal suspects. Many believe police officers target people of other races, unfairly assuming they're guilty or disregarding their rights and safety. Others believe police are doing a difficult job well, and that racism isn't usually a factor in their behavior.

A good example of racial diplomacy comes from former President Obama, who is half black and half white. In an interview, comedian Trevor Noah asked Obama how he managed to speak his true opinions about race without offending anyone. Obama responded: ''...(T)hose who are not subject to racism can sometimes have blind spots or lack appreciation of what it feels to be on the receiving end of that, but that doesn't mean that they're not open to learning and caring about equality and justice, (and) I can win them over because there's goodness in the majority of people.'' He means that in speaking about race, he considers other people's perspectives and convinces them to listen by appealing to their better nature, or assuming that they have good intentions.

Obama at a meeting with business owners of diverse backgrounds
Obama at a meeting with business owners of diverse backgrounds

The Perspective of the Working Class in Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign

Hillary Clinton's loss of the 2016 presidential campaign to Donald Trump deeply surprised Americans. Clinton is a conventional politician with considerable relevant experience, while Trump is a political outsider with no public service experience. One major reason for her loss is likely her failure to show empathy for white working-class Americans (generally speaking, blue-collar workers without a college degree). 67% of white non-college-educated voters favored Trump; only 28% supported Clinton. This group hasn't favored any candidate that strongly since 1980.

This group already perceived Obama as a member of the ''liberal elite,'' meaning wealthy, educated, liberal politicians who seem unconcerned about people with blue-collar jobs (jobs generally involving manual labor). Because Obama had already been in office for two terms, and because Clinton promised to continue his presidential legacy, working-class (and some other middle-class) Americans viewed her as just another liberal elite candidate who didn't care about them. Clinton further alienated herself from this group by showing contempt for Trump supporters rather than trying to win them over.

Ironically, Donald Trump is also wealthy and Ivy League-educated, and he has a history of not paying blue-collar workers and small business owners he employed. However, he promised to save and create jobs for working-class Americans, and those voters viewed him more favorably than Clinton.

A welder hard at work (one example of a blue-collar worker)
A welder hard at work (one example of a blue-collar worker)

Civil Rights and Donald Trump's Presidency

Donald Trump won the election, but many major protests against his presidency were staged across the U.S. during and after his campaign. Many groups, particularly Muslims, non-whites, immigrants, and women, feel their civil rights are threatened because Trump unapologetically demonstrates ignorance about their worldview. Although he seemed to demonstrate an understanding of the working class's perspective, Trump alienated people from these other groups by making many offensive comments about them.

Because of the extreme disparity between Clinton and Trump's campaigns and their failure to unify and show empathy with various voter groups, Americans are now experiencing dramatic political division and tension.

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