- Personal acquaintances
- media reports
for your cultural information.
Many people never get to interact with people from foreign countries; not because they don't want to or because they are prejudiced, but because there are none of them around.
So they are entirely dependent on media reports and novels.
Media reports tend to focus on the sensational, as in the case of the recent rape in India. Reading some of the articles and comments to the articles in that story, I was pulling out my hair. Commentors saying things like "India hates all women!" and "Indian men are all monsters!"
This is the kind of information normal people get. Also, all the usual cliches about India. How can you blame someone who does not have the advantage of exposure, if they believe even half of those reports, and develop a warped view of whatever culture they are reading about? Remember that the media makes its living by presenting the unusual, the weird, the dangerous, the quirky. So how is a normal, unexposed person to differentiate?
Take even an innocuous and little known country like Guyana. You wouldn't believe the ignorance I hear about my homeland, the conclusions people draw just because it is a Third World country. YOu would think we were all living in mud huts and wearing grass skirts!
So really, the only really valid information they can get is through fiction, and we are the ones to tell those authentic stories. And I think people who were once ignorant but still open-minded can be trusted to follow those stories and correct whatever warped understanding they may have. And I think it's best done not in an index-finger-wagging, you-stupid-white-moron, way, but with understanding and compassion; compassion because, though they might be in a position of mainstream-majority-privilege, they still know jack-shit about the world we live in.