Its Problematic …

I’m a thinker and a truth seeker. So as I think on and search for truth in what is happening in America today, it’s problematic to me. For one thing, the view I have doesn’t line up with what I am seeing be portrayed. But as I seek after the truth, a few things keep rumbling around in my mind. It just doesn’t seem like a color/race problem, it seems like a culture issue. Because it’s a culture issue, the lines of division are multiplied as well as skewed.

In case you’re not tracking with me, let’s all take a quick little test. Read the music genre and get a mental picture of the hairstyle of a person you think would listen to it. Ready?  Okay, go!

  • Art Punk
  • Goth / Gothic Rock
  • Indie Rock
  • Classic Blues
  • Chant
  • Opera
  • Contemporary Country
  • Dubstep
  • Hip-Hop
  • Rap
  • Contemporary Christian
  • Gospel
  • Smooth Jazz
  • Pop/Rock
  • Motown
  • Reggae
  • Hard Rock

Now tell me, what was the color/race of the people you pictured? Was there a race? Cold hard truth, did race really matter? Wouldn’t the hairstyle you pictured fit on any race? And why did you picture that particular hairstyle? Why do we stereotype people like that? Don’t you think someone with a mohawk can listen to Opera? Or how about someone with dreads listen to Chant? And why can’t we picture someone with a grey beehive listening to Goth? Why? Culture.

A few definitions of Culture:

  • the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time
  • a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.
  • a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization

Culture is what we use to put people in a box. And it is what divides us. It’s what forms opinions and thoughts about another person. If we think someone listens to goth, we automatically place them in the goth box, use our own definition of what goth is to attribute all the beliefs, customs, ways of life, thinking, and behaving  on that person. That person may or may not fit that definition, regardless, we give it to them.

Here’s another exercise. Listed here are some common traits of various ethnic groups, as you read them, in your mind, assign a group to them:

  • We like to stand close to the people we talk with and are likely to touch them in a purely friendly way.
  • Lunch is typically a one-or-two-hour affair with a two-to-three course meal.
  • It is normal for us to have several members of the family with the same name.
  • Punctuality is not our strong point.
  • We have strong beliefs and stick to them.. some might even say stubborn!
  • Stuffed at an early age with official history, we often view as more authentic those people whose ancestors might have been sprinkled by an oil gusher.
  • We are modern, but have an old twist to life. We are exotic and seem to have a lot of natural energy.
  • Majority of us are Catholic.
  • We tend to have a hot temper.
  • We talk with our hands.
  • Quietness or silence is a value that serves many purposes in our life.
  • Work is always directed to a distinct purpose and is done when it needs to be done.
  • We view our grandmother and mother as key to the structure of family.
  • We are a very proud people.
  • We rarely show emotion.
  • We are usually very vocal.

Some of these could be applied to a variety of ethnic groups, it may depend on where you were raised which group you attribute to the characteristic. Oh, and guess what, some of these were actually characteristics of people from specific States in the US. Another culture divide we have. You know them right? Hillbillies, Red-Necks, Country Folk, Farmers, City Folk, Northerners, Southerners, Beach Bums, New Englanders, etc.

Look at all the boxes we have made. It’s because of our culture we have differences, not our skin tones. So why do we focus so much on that? Let’s just think about how we each react to a confrontation. Come on now, you know you will picture someone reacting, but are they reacting that way because of the color of their skin or the culture they were raised in? Here’s a good article on this topic.

What we need to do is learn to communicate cross-culturally. And not get upset when someone doesn’t react the way we think they should based on our own cultural up-bringing.

We also need to recognize some ways in our own culture which may be difficult for other to process and adjust them when dealing outside our normal culture.

I took training as a Guardian ad litem and in the training, they talked about culture differences in an open and frank way. I was very thankful for this as it made a difference in how I viewed the people I was assessing. For example, I dealt with a Hispanic cultured community. In training, they explained in the Hispanic culture, it isn’t unusual for several people to be talking at the same time. They weren’t kidding! Had I not been prepared, I would have felt like they didn’t respect me, they weren’t listening to me, and they were rude. Because in my culture (not my white background, but my country up bringing), this was very rude and obnoxious.

I have multi-culture friends, and was shocked when I found out in one of their culture’s, the immediately family of someone who has past is responsible for feeding visitors. WHAT! In the culture I was brought up in, people bring food to the family to feed them. So me showing up with a dish was normal to me, but odd to them, maybe even seen as disrespectful. So do I try to shove my culture down their throat, or theirs down mine, or do we recognize the difference and respect it?

Come on people, we know it’s there, we just don’t talk about it. It doesn’t matter what our skin color is! Given what I’ve learned over the years being raised in the country and moved to a city, skin color doesn’t matter. A person raised in the country acting like we are still living in the country would get beat up every day, or maybe even killed in the city! A person raised in the city living in the country but acting like they lived in the city would most likely get punched!

Listen, we all just have to remember we are all American. Maybe we need to drop all the extras, like Asian American, Euro-American, African-American, All American, drop it – just be American! Stand for what America was meant to stand for based on our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. And if you don’t like those, then don’t be American at all.

The beauty of America seems to be getting lost. The term “melting pot” may have been a bad one. We need it to be called a “stew pot.” Where each veggie gets to be what they were meant to be, while co-existing and getting along. It’s called a stew! And what veggies are in it doesn’t matter. They don’t change their name to be things like Carrot-Stew, Potato Stew, Onion-Stew, no they are just STEW! Each veggie maintains their own flavor (culture), which is what makes the stew great. Otherwise, it would be bland. And the sauce? Well the sauce is our underlying American values which gives us a commonality, it’s what holds us together, makes us unique. There will be people who don’t necessary like the sauce, but oh well, it’s all a part of being in the pot. Deal with it. For example, our American Flag is a part of the sauce. If you don’t like the flag, you have the right to, but if you want to be in the stew, you have to respect it. Doesn’t mean you have to fly it, you don’t even have to pledge allegiance to it, but you don’t stomp on it or burn it. Otherwise, go find another pot to be a part of.

I understand there are prejudices, and people are treated differently, but I don’t think it’s just because of the color of their skin. Let me be clear – I think sometimes it really IS about the color of their skin, but it doesn’t just happen to one culture, it happens to other’s as well. It just depends on where you are.

It’s also because of how we act. Truth – initially, it might have a little to do with the color of skin, but it usually boils down to the color of the attitude. It also makes a difference if they are law abiding or not. I know people who have been stopped for traffic violations and let go. I also know people who had a bad attitude, who had “the book thrown at them.” No difference in our sex, ethnicity, skin color, hair color, eye color, etc. Only difference was attitude.

It goes back to the city/country example above. If I mouth a mom in Texas, I might get smacked. If I mouth a mom in New York, it might not even be noticed. Maybe if we all watched our cultural attitudes, over time, skin tone will matter less and less.

I don’t know, maybe I haven’t a clue. Maybe I just don’t want to face the fact it is about skin tone. But it really does seem a lot deeper. Of course, we haven’t even factored in the hurt and bondage people are in. Nor how much media distorts things. One step at a time though.

Stop standing up for the rights of the potatoes and start standing up for the rights of the stew. Otherwise, it’s going to remain problematic for everyone.

YOUR life matters – be the best you, you can be, so the stew will be a good stew! We need you!

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