Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 12 September 2011

Analyzing the Movie “Skin” on the Basis of Ethnocentrism

First of all, I’d like to encourage you all to watch the movie. I admit that it is a bit sugar coated and some of the drama has been left out but even without these details, the movie is a compelling story!

By Sünje Schwarz



Ethnocentrism is evident among all cultures and societies; it takes on different shapes, as it is based on the fear of the unknown. The movie “Skin” showed how ethnocentrism supported Apartheid and how one woman, who was born black into a white family, struggled to find her identity and a place to fit in. The question raised is how to solve issues, such as segregation, as a result of ethnocentrism.

Ethnocentrism is the evaluation of values and customs of unfamiliar cultures. The film “Skin” is based on real events and plays during times of Apartheid in South Africa. This is a culture very different to Europe and the film deeply moving for someone who grew up without having encountered anything like racial segregation. After watching the movie, the question how to eliminate ethnocentrism remained.

To understand the culture of Apartheid, it may be necessary to look at it, not from the European perspective, but from the South African Perspective (Ni, 2008).

Apartheid in South Africa was based on the idea that black Africans were somehow worth less than white Africans. This form of nonmaterial culture was not only based on societal perception but also manifested in laws and regulations to portray South Africa as a modern, developed country. Afrikaners wanted to set themselves apart, not only from the black population but also from their European roots (Edwards & Hecht, 2010). In the 18th century, laws were passed to severely limit the movement of the non-white population. As part of these laws, non-whites had to carry passes to be allowed to enter white areas and they were not allowed to own land (Wines, 2011). Although the white population in South Africa accounted for fewer than 10%, they were able to control the black population, as well as the mixed population, with these strict laws. Apartheid was finally abolished in 1991, after decades of social unrest and protests.

The fact that black people were unable to own land during apartheid is shown in the movie when bulldozers came and destroyed the settlement Sandra lived in after she left her parents to live with her husband Petrus. The drivers said the land the settlement was built on was re-zoned white and all the buildings were demolished. The people who lived in the settlement did not only lose their homes, they lost many of their possessions as well, leaving them only with whatever they were able to carry. Even today, many black people live in those so-called Shantytowns because they are too poor to afford better housing.

Although apartheid has ended 20 years ago, many cultural differences remain, partly because of the population’s diverse origins but also in part as a result of apartheid, which did not allow for the white population to become immersed in black culture and vice versa (Sharp & Vally, 2009).

Another striking aspect of the movie was seeing the way Sandra Laing was treated just because of her skin color was shocking to see for someone who has never learned to view people differently because they look differently. All signs of cultural familiarity were absent, aside from the love her family showed towards Sandra.

A brief exchange of words with a classmate and later with one of the workers employed by Sandra’s parents showed that color really is only a matter of perception. At Sandra’s school, a white girl told her that all her friends back at her home were black and Sandra replied that she was not black. At a different point in the movie, Sandra asked one of her parents’ workers if she was black, and the worker put her arm next to Sandra’s and told her that, she was not black.

It was a little surprising that even though Sandra had many difficulties trying to fit in with the white population, none of this held true for fitting in with the black population. It almost seems as if the black population, as it was diverse to begin with, was more tolerant.

At the same time, the movie showed in a very subtle manner that Sandra’s parents, Sannie and Abraham Laing, were subject to discrimination from other white Afrikaners because they stood up for their daughter, although they sternly believed in Apartheid (Ni, 2008). Other people always raised their eyebrows, looking at each other in disbelief whenever Sandra’s father told them that he was her biological father. It was as if they could not believe something like poly-generational inheritance was possible and Sandra had to have been the result of an affair between Sandra’s mother and a black man.

Ethnocentrism is evident throughout the entire movie, from the time Sandra was old enough to enter school and most schools rejected her based on her color alone and never considered her intellect. It should be noted that, although not evident in the movie, Sandra was likely to be able to speak Afrikaans, as well as English. For black children, however, education was limited to English only, Afrikaans being the language of the Afrikaner, the white population. This means that even after Apartheid ended, many black South Africans cannot speak Afrikaans and are cut out from institutions that teach in Afrikaans (Sharp & Vally, 2009). This language barrier, which still very much exists means that black students still do not receive quality education that would enable them to seek high-paying jobs, such as doctors or engineers. The problem lies within the education of the teachers themselves; many did not receive quality education either as a result of apartheid (Dugger & Smith, 2010). However, English is steadily gaining ground in educational facilities as the white population recognizes the importance of the English language over Afrikaans (Sharp & Vally, 2009).

With the end of Apartheid, the racial inequality has not ended and religious reasons to justify this type of racism, using the example of Cain, still persist (Punt, 2009).

During the movie, thoughts of segregation in the United States emerged as well. Racial segregation may have officially been outlawed in the United States in 1964 but it is still very much alive and evident in every day life, where people with white sounding names have better chances to get a job interview than those with black sounding names (Harris-Lacewell, 2005). At the same time, black people in the United States still often lack the economic opportunity to move to the suburbs, and are left in the inner cities, the poorer neighborhoods (Beers & Hembree, 1987). This creates a kind of economic segregation, in which those who are trying to survive and often rely on welfare and other social services are seen as lazy and not capable of the hard works it takes to make it out of the suburbs (Harris-Lacewell, 2005).

Even Germany still battles ethnocentrism. Especially after the reunification, several issues hit Germans at the same time. First, there were the East Germans, who had to live under a communist regime and whose culture was regarded inferior by many as a result. Then there were the immigrants that came right afterwards, many of them ethnic Germans, who lived under oppression in the Soviet Union and hoped for a better life. Thirdly, there are constant streams of asylum seekers from non-European countries, who still have a difficult path ahead of them even today, to be granted temporary or permanent residency (Castles, 1993). Both of these groups face grave difficulties, in part because of their inability to speak German or because their skin color and culture is vastly different. Nevertheless, the question of integration is always researched and pondered in Germany because historical mistakes cannot and should not be repeated.

The biggest question left to answer is how ethnocentrism could be eliminated. Racial quotas have done little to eliminate segregation and foster a deeper understanding of a different color and even the implementation of multiculturalism often leads to further segregation between the different cultures (Sharp & Vally, 2009). One step would certainly be to learn about different cultures in a way that enhances that culture’s understanding, but this can only happen alongside the creation more economic equality, which will bring people closer together and take down imaginary fences brought on by fears and stereotypes of another culture (Ni, 2008). In the end, both sides are needed to create an environment that fosters the knowledgeable exchange of cultures and interest in understanding and accepting differences.


Beers, D., & Hembree, D. (1987). A Tale of Two Cities. Nation, 244(11), 357-360. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.Dugger, C. W., & Smith, P. (2010). APARTHEID’S LONG SHADOW. New York Times Upfront, 142(10), 10-13. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Castles, S. (1993). Explaining Racism in the New Germany. Social Alternatives, 12(1), 9-12. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Edwards, P. N., & Hecht, G. (2010). History and the Technopolitics of Identity: The Case of Apartheid South Africa. Journal of Southern African Studies, 36(3), 619-639. doi:10.1080/03057070.2010.507568

Harris-Lacewell, M. (2005, July 18). Business community must remember: Race still matters. Crain’s Chicago Business. p. 20. Retrieved from EBSCOhost..

NI, C. (2008). Analysis of ethnocentrism. US-China Foreign Language, 6(3), 78-81. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Punt, J. (2009). Post-Apartheid Racism in South Africa The Bible, Social Identity and Stereotyping. Religion & Theology, 16(3/4), 246-272. doi:10.1163/102308009X12561890523672

Sharp, J., & Vally, R. (2009). Unequal ‘cultures’? Racial integration at a South African university. Anthropology Today, 25(3), 3-6. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8322.2009.00665.x

Wines, M. (2011). 1991 The End of Apartheid. New York Times Upfront, 143(12), 16-19. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 12 September 2011

The Problem of Teen Pregnancy

By Sünje Schwarz



Teen pregnancy is a difficult problem to diagnose as it withstands many of the risk factors at least for some ethnic and racial groups. What seems more important is to provide access to information and healthcare to teens, in order to curb prejudices and stigma. Improved contraception use is one major reason teen pregnancy rates have declined.

The high rate of teen pregnancies in the United States continues to be a problem. Lack of information and healthcare and stigmatization can be cited as reasons for this problem.

Although the rate of teen births fell to the lowest rate of 39.1 births per 1,000 teenagers in 2009 (Vital signs: teen pregnancy, 2011), it is still much higher than teen birth rates in comparable industrialized countries, such as the Netherlands, which has about 4 births per 1,000 teenagers or Japan, with about 5 births per 1,000 teenagers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). This high rate of teen births has a severe impact on society since about half of teen mothers will receive welfare within 5 years of giving birth (General Accounting Office, 1998).

Looking at the demographics of teen pregnancy, Hispanics in southern states were most likely to become pregnant and give birth and white teens in the Northeast and Midwest were least likely to become pregnant and give birth (Vital signs: teen pregnancy, 2011). Additionally, teens growing up in urban areas are at a higher risk for pregnancy than their peers in rural areas (Robinson, Price, Thompson, & Schmalzried, 1998).

Knowing the demographics is a first step to identifying the risk factors that can lead to teen pregnancy, however, the demographics alone will not suffice in developing a comprehensive approach to combat the problem.

More importantly, the teens and their motivations need to be understood. Research has shown that parents are the most influential people on a teen’s decision to have sex. Parents are even more influential than their peers or any media outlet (Melby, 2010). Parental guidance can be an effective deterrent to teen pregnancy if sex is discussed at home (Vital signs: teen pregnancy, 2011), however, some of that effect is lost in white teens if the mother had given birth as a teenager as well (General Accounting Office, 1998).

The socioeconomic status of the family can also have an impact on teen pregnancy; however, it is different for each racial and ethnic group, without a consistent pattern. A low socioeconomic status increases the risk for Hispanic teens but lowers it for black teens, while a higher socioeconomic status increases the risk for black teens. At the same time, the family structure had no impact on pregnancy rates of blacks, but living in a two-parent family home reduced the risk of teen pregnancy for Hispanic and white teens, hinting at a greater importance of family life for these groups (General Accounting Office, 1998).

While teens generally report being aware of the consequences of having sex and they know preventive measures are available (Crump, Haynie, Aarons, Adair, et al, 1999), the school’s education on the subject varies greatly. A vast majority of female and male teens received information on abstinence only, fewer received information on birth control and the fewest percentage of teens reported having received information on both (Vital signs: teen pregnancy, 2011).

Another problem area is the perception of teen pregnancy. As a result of experiences from their friends, as well as various media outlets, teens are lead to believe that the impact of pregnancy would be small on them. They believe that while teen pregnancy may not be ideal, it would certainly be a manageable and even positive experience for some. At the same time, they do not believe their friendships with their peers would be impacted in a negative way by the pregnancy, but that the pregnancy may provide an opportunity for them to love and be loved. This would mean that social isolation is an important risk factor (Crump, Haynie, Aarons, Adair, et al, 1999).

At the same time, while religion seems to play a significant role in teens’ sexual behavior, the effect varies widely. Jewish teens are least likely to believe in abstinence, however, they do not think teen pregnancy is a desirable outcome and tend to use contraceptive measures to prevent pregnancy or wait. Another large group, the evangelical protestant teens, are most likely to believe in abstinence, yet, they are the least likely group to use contraception and they are the most sexually active group (Talbot, 2008).

All these implications make it difficult to solve the problem of teen pregnancy. Schools tried to further educate teens about the implications by introducing dolls that mimic infant behavior, however, these dolls are often a poor imitation and do not realistically reflect the impact a baby can have on a teen. As a result, they may not be enough of a deterrent for teens to prevent pregnancy (Somers & Fahlman, 2001).

Although over half of sexually active females received birth control (Vital signs: teen pregnancy, 2011), teens are concerned about contraceptive methods as a result of stories they heard from friends, family and media when contraception failed, or their boyfriend’s disapproval of the use of contraception (Crump, Haynie, Aarons, Adair, et al, 1999).

At the same time, teens may hesitate to terminate a pregnancy and choose giving birth instead because this subject has become a highly politicized and divisive issue (Gulli, Lunau, MacQueen, & McKinnell, 2008).

In order to further decrease the rates of teen pregnancy, teens need to be educated even more, and most importantly, they need access to health services that would help them prevent getting pregnant (New data on abstinence, 2010). The drop in teen pregnancy rates since 1991 can be contributed to the most part to the increased use of contraception but also to the fact that teens wait longer to have sex (U.S. teen pregnancy rates, 2007). Further action could include removing the stigma that comes with teen pregnancy, leading to an even broader acceptance and increased support for pregnant teens (Gulli, Lunau, MacQueen, & McKinnell, 2008). This could be done using mass media campaigns emphasizing the importance of safe sex, not only as a contraceptive method but also to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. This widespread distribution of information, in connection with unbiased comprehensive education in schools could lead to a change in how sexuality is viewed and present it as a normal behavior (Berne & Huberman, 2000).

The high teen pregnancy rates pose a significant burden for taxpayers, costing them at least $9.1 billion in 2004. To make matters worse, children of teen mothers are more likely to be placed in foster care, be incarcerated later in life or be subject to child abuse (Koch, 2006). The sociological dangers children of teen mothers face is high and a good support structure is needed for mother and child.

In the end, teens will be sexually active as it is a part of human life. To reduce the risk of teen pregnancy, teens need to be able to receive the information and healthcare they need. Additionally, teens need to be able to grow up knowing that they won’t be stigmatized for engaging in sexual activity.


Berne, L. A., & Huberman, B. K. (2000). Lessons Learned: European Approaches to Adolescent Sexual Behavior and Responsibility. Journal of Sex Education & Therapy, 25(2/3), 189-199. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011, July 1). Teen birth rates declined again in 2009. Retrieved from

Crump, A., Haynie, D., Aarons, S., Adair, E., Woodward, K., & Simons-Morton, B. (1999). Pregnancy among urban African-American teens: ambivalence about prevention. American Journal of Health Behavior, 23(1), 32-42. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

General Accounting Office, W. v. (1998). Teen Mothers: Selected Socio-Demographic Characteristics and Risk Factors. Report to the Honorable Charles B. Rangel, House of Representatives. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Gulli, C., Lunau, K., MacQueen, K., & McKinnell, J. (2008). Suddenly teen pregnancy is cool? (cover story). Maclean’s, 121(3), 40. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Koch, W. (2006, October 30). Fewer teens are giving birth, but cost to taxpayers still .. USA Today. Retrieved from EBSCOhost..

Melby, T. (2010). New study explains rise in teen birth rate. Contemporary Sexuality, 44(8), 1. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Robinson, K., Price, J., Thompson, C., & Schmalzried, H. (1998). Rural junior high school students’ risk factors for and perceptions of teen-age parenthood. Journal of School Health, 68(8), 334-338. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

New data on abstinence — what do they mean for teen pregnancy prevention? U.S. teen pregnancy rate rose 3% in 2006 after decade of decline. (2010). Contraceptive Technology Update, 31(4), 37-39. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Somers C, Fahlman M. (2001, May). Effectiveness of the “Baby Think It Over” teen pregnancy prevention program. Journal of School Health [serial online], 71(5):188-195. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA.

Talbot, M. (2008). RED SEX, BLUE SEX. New Yorker, 84(35), 64. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

U.S. teen pregnancy rates decline due to improved contraceptive use: abstinence promotion alone won’t stem unintended pregnancy rate. (2007). Contraceptive Technology Update, 28(3), 25-27. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Vital signs: teen pregnancy–United States, 1991–2009. (2011). MMWR: Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, 60(13), 414-420. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 10 September 2011

Saint Petersburg AIDS Walk 2011

Today was AIDS Walk day in Saint Petersburg. I have been wanting to go but the past two years for some reason or another I wasn’t able to go. I have to say that it was a great event, which was probably ended a little too soon because of rain. The turnout, however, was good, I was impressed at the amount of people who showed up in the end to raise money for HIV/AIDS, which continues to be a problem, not only in Africa but in our very neighborhoods. Needless to say, it’s a very expensive disease, too, and requires either a great job with tremendous health insurance or charities and organizations that can help cover the cost of medication.

I find it very important to not only raise awareness that this disease is still around but also to point to the tremendous cost. Today, I met someone, who still manages to live with HIV, after having been infected 30 years ago. Yes, he was one of the first and he’s still alive to tell his story. Most importantly for him, though, is helping children with HIV. That’s why he has those little teddy bears; each teddy bear will help a child with HIV. He had the idea after his first sponsored HIV positive child died. I found this tremendously sad.

I was able to walk most of the walk, although my MS kicked in at the wrong moment and I had to cut it short by about half a mile or so (it was a 5K walk). It was fun and I am proud to have walked with this number of people who are either positive or know someone who is or just want to raise awareness.

If you have an AIDS Walk in your city, please, attend the event and walk! Raise awareness to a disease that still kills people, even in the United States!

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 9 August 2011

Rain in paradise

Sometimes it actually rain for almost a whole day in Florida. Those are the days I’m most homesick. The grey, dreary color scheme reminds me of home, even though at home these days usually require jackets and pants instead of t-shirt and shorts.
Nevertheless I disregarded the rain and took a few pictures.

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 6 August 2011

Odin & Kurtis

We may decide when we want to pet our bunnies but they definitely decide when they have had enough!
Odin started nibbling and scratching Kurtis’ skin after he decided he had enough petting.

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 4 August 2011

Sunset in#stpete

Taken at The Pier

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 2 August 2011

It’s all about choice, isn’t it?

After reading this article, I thought about posting a comment but then decided to blog instead. Coincidentally, I have been thinking about a similar issue for a while and my simple answer is that I would choose neither. Isn’t that what everybody wants, to live a healthy life? I have MS, a disease that can potentially be very disabling, that can slowly destroy your life. So is HIV. But this is where the common things end. At least people with HIV know what caused it, there is research into a cure, a lot can be done to prevent it. MS on the other hand is a big unknown. Nobody knows what causes it, nobody knows what can be done to prevent it and a cure? Far, far away. I am not even sure why this is. Is it because MS doesn’t kill people? Does that make it unimportant except for those affected?

I try to ignore the fact that I have this disease for the most part. I’m only reminded by it when I take my medicines which will multiply as the disease progresses and I hate my body for not cooperating whenever existing or new symptoms show up. I want to put blame on somebody, even if it is myself for a wrong decision I made but there is nobody because nothing is known about it. Research simply doesn’t seem to progress, all that is known is that MS slowly destroys the central nervous system. About the why, there’s much speculation and no answer. This makes me hate the disease even more. It makes me hate my doctors, the researchers, the drug companies who think they should be able to charge over $100/day for their prescriptions. Generics are not available.

Don’t frown upon me for being jealous of the HIV+ people. I’m not jealous of their status, I’m jealous of the progress that is made in preventing and curing their disease. I’m jealous of the help and aid they are getting. All I’m ever told is to spend my days in air-conditioned rooms, don’t venture outside, and god forbid, don’t EVER dare to spend the entire day at the beach because I could overheat and make the disease worse. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not doing well with limitations and prohibitions. I have been prohibited from doing the things I would have liked to do all my life… all because of lack of adequate medicine and/or a cure. I’m simply fed up with it and will not allow anyone, not even my own body to limit me in the things I want to do!

HIV is a very preventable disease and most people have the choice to take actions to prevent it. People with MS don’t have this choice… at least not yet.

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 1 August 2011

Creative Activity

I decided to share some of my creative activity here. I take so many photos and most of them just end up on my phone, get transferred to the computer and that’s where they stay.

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 1 August 2011

Time for a break!

Taken at Kahwa Coffee

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 30 July 2011

The sun has risen

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