Monday, October 6, 2014

Mentality v. Culture v. Appropriation

First, 2 distinctions must be made. One is defining Culture as separate from Mentality. Which is hard. 

Culture in its IDEAL is an accumulation of foods, clothes, language, traditions, dances, artistry... often based on a geographic location.

Mentality is something outside of a Culture that can sometimes be confused for it when it is engrained or acted upon on a systematic level.

A Culture is: Indian Culture is known for having henna tattoos used to celebrate special occasions like wedding ceremonies, they have spicy foods, and is often associated with practices of yoga for spiritual enlightenment.

A Mentality is: Women should stay in the home because if they have jobs then they won't be able to take care of the kids which is their fundamental role as a being a member of this species.

Mentalities arise and are implemented based on Social Constructs and Behaviors. More like Attitudes. Culture is usually based more on Tangible things and traditional practices representing pride in ones ethnicity and nationality. Culture is kind of like Patriotism in that sense. 

"ALL people in America should own guns because our forefather's owned guns!"

What is actually being said is, it has been a cultural practice in America to own guns and my Mentality is that the practice should continue (despite of gun violence issues) because it is Tradition. They of course would only be half right since The SOUTH tends to have more of a gun culture than other parts of America as a whole country.

The next distinction that needs to be made has to do with Culture Itself. Culture has 2 external modifiers that often keep them from remaining consistent: TIME and OTHER CULTURES

1) Other Cultures

Scalping used to be a part of the Native American culture until it was outlawed by White Settler Culture. 

Many indigenous cultures have been nearly ended thanks to Imperialism and one culture dominating and wiping out/changing the other.

There is also "cross contamination" of cultures from time to time where 2 cultures will BLEND and ADOPT from each and become something "new" thanks to the influences of Trade and Cosmopolitan Centers. Many people have actually THRIVED in these kinds of prosperous environments where multiple cultures embrace one and other and people are the better for it.

2) Time 

As time goes on within a culture, people find that certain things are less successful as practices and new revelations of science and technology often change cultures to evolve in some ways.

Smoking a pipe was often something people did in British culture until it was found that smoking can lead to lung issues including cancer.

Saying "bless you" every time someone sneezes used to be because people believed your heart STOPS when you sneeze and they were Genuinely Praying for you especially with issues like the black plague going around. Now it's become a cultural norm to say "bless you" out of politeness.

This leads to our last series of distinctions about culture. This has to do more with One Culture's Influence On Another in a Negative Way. This is often called Cultural Appropriation. 

There are 3 kinds of Cultural Influences one culture can have on another: 

1) Cultural Appropriation

This occurs when one culture "wipes out" another. Usually through occupation, "white washing", or Imperialism. This is the practice of saying, "What your culture does is weird. Don't do that. Do what my culture does." 

In the worst cases one culture will actually make it ILLEGAL to practice non-harmful activities that fall under the heading of culture. For instance, in the Middle East wearing hijab's is ingrained in the culture because the Religion has such strong influences over the culture. Muslims in America wear hijabs. It harms no one. It's just a head scarf. But some people say that it is anti-American culture and therefore should be made illegal in America. Which is ironic considering it started out within the hands of Natives and Hispanics and was then taken over by European Colonialists and then became a melting pot for everyone from Europe AND then people from Africa. 

Unless you're Native American or descended from Hispanics who lived along the South West/West Coast -you're technically an "immigrant". So a European-based mentality is imposing itself on what is clearly now a Cosmopolitanism Culture and perpetuating a Mentality of Colonialism.
2) Cultural Degradation

This is the one that's practiced most commonly because it is the most IGNORANT of other cultures. It is NOT attempting to wipe out a culture or make it disappear. It is turning a culture into a Stereotype. 

Dressing up like a Geisha for Halloween because you think the dresses they wear are pretty is a blatant display of cultural insensitivity. Geishas are prostitutes. And since no woman WANTS to be used sexually for someone else's gain in a system where women are then treated like cattle -it's a form of Sex Trafficking and suffering.  

Dressing up in traditional Indian Garb to make a music video because you think the dress is pretty or "cool" is not considered a compliment by most Indians from that culture.

This has less to do with culture, but just for the record, dressing up like a Black Person when you're white in order to resemble a black teen that was murdered because you thought that was funny is NOT ok by anyone's standards. 

3) Cultural Integration 

Cultural Integration is something I have also seen. There reaches a point where RACE becomes an issue with regard to culture. Can someone of a different race or culture "adopt" or "appreciate" or "respectfully display" something from a foreign culture. 

With this you have to consider:

-Spiritual Practices

With regard to ALL of these things is it wrong for a black person to prepare a dinner of Chinese-inspired food like chow mein for themselves? Is it wrong for a Chinese person to speak French because they find the language to be beautiful? Is it ok for a French person to dance the Merengue? Is it ok for a Spanish person to do Yoga so they can connect to the divine Source in a meaningful way because they read about Buddhism and have been a practicing Buddhist for the past 7 years. WHERE DO YOU DRAW THE LINE WHEN A CULTURE IS BEING RESPECTED?

Personally I don't think culture belongs to ANY of us. In Heaven there are at least 14 cultures -including some from ancient times long since past like the language Latin. These cultures in Heaven blend and yet maintain their differences. A Harmonious UNION.
No 1 person in Heaven says, "This is MY culture." Because ALL good things come from GOD. God purposely designed for Variety because He likes Variety. Why should any person say a culture is their own when they were just "born and raised into it". Culture is something that shouldn't be FORCED on people, it's something they adopt for themselves and associate Themselves with. Culture should never Trump HUMANITY. Or stick them in a confined BOX. 

So yes, the young black girl CAN dress like a Japanese character for Halloween because she LOVES the show and that PERSON being represented without someone yelling at her saying she should dress like Oprah instead because it would be "more appropriate". 

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