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Cultural Identify - Part Two - Leadership & Diversity
Cultural identity is a way of thinking about how you fit into the social, religious, socio-economic and/or ethnic group to which belong. Individuals raised in a specific group can have different interpretations of their cultural identity based on these factors.
Continued from Cultural Identiry Part One - Leadership & Diversity
The ratios of other races to Asian races for donation were akin to 1:10000. It astounded me and made me wonder what in their culture prohibited them from this type of action. After all, an individual could earn up to $60 a week in donations, or $240 a month. An enormous sum if you are homeless and in need of money. Racially African-Americans and Caucasians were represented fairly equally. Occasionally I saw a Native American or Middle Eastern individual. What was interesting was how they interacted. They shared bus passes with each other, tips on how to get services and housing, employment advice, clothes, shoes and food. Anyone coming in wearing gang attire was ignored and frowned upon by both races. Interestingly enough the African-Americans seemed to be physically cleaner than the Caucasians. I tried to determine the reasoning behind this, but it was never apparent. I met a woman with nothing but the clothes on her back and her knapsack that insisted I share her cranberries with her and another man who talked about his life and family as if we were sitting in a comfortable coffee shop.
In this same day I left the center and drove 2 miles to my neighborhood with quaint coffee houses and upscale shops. I sat in the café at Barnes and Noble and typed up my experiences while watching my contemporaries. Individuals of all races avoided each other unless they already had a personal connection. Clothing was clean, expensive and well kept. Politeness seemed to be more about satisfying convention than actually being concerned about how others were affected by ones behavior, and there was no feeling of comradery or shared experiences. The difference seemed to be in the plasma center an individual had nothing left to hide so they crossed racial and religious boundaries to share out of necessity, while in my lovely little coffee café we kept from each other all of our secrets and fears, hoping no one would notice our inadequacies.
I discovered while we can blame our preachers, politicians, leaders, and others from our current economic problems, we can only blame ourselves for how we are handling them. The economically poor seemed to be the richest among us. They cannot afford to be biased against on another when their physical survival depends on cooperation. When one is always afraid for their safety and that of their family it changes the way one thinks about culture. The culture becomes one of survival, not prejudice. Lines are blurred and necessity takes over. In shared experiences we find a common ground to put aside the discriminatory and separatist attitudes we may have learned in our lifetime. How do we transition this attitude to be prevalent in everyone’s lives? If we all think of survival and growth as belonging to the community maybe we will stop evaluating others on their lack or differences and start attempting to do what is best for all.
Cultural identity is a complicated amalgam of ideas and concept that can and do change based on each individuals unique history and orientations. Only by embracing these differences and accepting their order in a distinct culture can a true identity be formed. Creation of this identity remains and individual choice as today’s participants can often refuse to acknowledge the identity they have inherited and remove themselves from its influences, or deny their existence altogether. The possibilities of this are staggering as cultural identities may be lost in the desire for sameness faced by many in a globally merging society. Tylor (1871) stated culture “is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society" (p. 1) As a result, our cultural identity is individual to each of us even if we share the same characteristics because our interpretation is at the core of what defines our meaning of culture. Perhaps someday the cover of Time and The Atlantic will say “Our Culture; What Makes Us Unique?”
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Learn more about the author, Annie Sabarte Echevarria MA....
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