Unraveling hidden privileges
“There is in our society a gulf opening up, a kind of cultural apartheid, between those who are brought up to feel our national culture is theirs, to take ownership of it, and enjoy the privileges of that, and those who are completely disfranchised, those – for example – who will never be taken to the theatre to see Shakespeare.” -Richard Eyre
So far, it is about 3 months into my study abroad experience. One of my top goals for studying here was to learn Spanish, and a part of learning a new language is also adopting a new cultural perspective. Before coming to Argentina, I expected to get a mix between European and Latin American culture while being in this modern city. In a sense, I was almost hoping to remove myself from American culture in order to reunderstand it from a foreigner’s perspective. What I have come to learn to realize is how much American culture permeates culture here, and in all other countries in the world (from speaking with other international students). This aspect is most present in the music scene here.
It is no longer surprising to hear an English song in a cafe, or play in the background of the number one film, or to have some restaurants use English to call themselves a “juicer” or “restaurant” instead of restaurante. Although the majority of this city is made up of immigrants and many working or studying extranjeros, realizing how much American culture permeates the culture here has made me realize what an advantage I have by living in the US and by speaking English fluently.
For example, I have many Latin American artists that I listen to on the regular, but maybe only 3 or 4 of them have made it to the American music scene. These 4 names are easily recognized by a US audience: Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Prince Royce, and J. Balvin. But other musicians, like Samo, Rombai, and Maramba are not as popular because they have not reached the American audience yet. Upon browsing the albums of Shakira and Enrique Iglesias over the years, it is not surprising to see how, with each new album release, there are more and more songs in English.
We hold the world’s target market and target production in almost every type of media, especially music and film. It is not to say that we have the best quality music or film, but it does speak volumes that we produce more films and more music than what is produced in Latin America. From speaking with international friends who know American music as well as their own local music, I realize how much desire and necessity there is to speak English and to understand its culture. I have felt that living in the United States and having already spoken English, there is little incentive to learn another language or engage with other cultures because we dominate the global cultural movement in media. After now understanding what privilege I have, I am frustrated at the US educational system for not making international relations a more pressing concern within schools. But I am also encouraged to look for opportunities to share the privilege I have by teaching English to those who are not as fluent.