Friday, December 21, 2012

Your Culture and You

What is your culture?
Your race? Your religion? Your social affiliations? Your neighborhood?

I often ask myself this question.

When I am filling out the questionnaires I come across boxes which should define how I describe myself...

Hispanic or Latino/a
Black, not of Hispanic or Latin descent...
White, not of Hispanic or Latin descent...
Native American

The boxes change based on the importance of the era. Now, people want to know- who is of Hispanic or Latin descent?

I wonder, does Japan have this same categorization? In Japan it may matter if you are from the mainland or Okinawa.

Some countries may care about tribal affiliations.

It is not only your race- color.
This can also be related to your nationality.
What about my Chinese friend that was born in Nigeria and has Chinese parents and American citizenship?

The county I live in is quite segregated. The freeways clearly separate the wealthy from the unwealthy. The housing is more affordable and condensed on one side of the freeway. There are more mom and pop shops on one side versus the name brand companies and large industrial centers on the one side. The signs are in English on one side and usually in Spanish on the other side. On one side you may only see skinny blonde singles and young couples while on the other side you will see tired mothers and men selling from vending carts and trucks.

The schools are better on one side.

The traffic still sucks though!!!

Some places you will feel safe walking at night if your car breaks down.

This is just the physical layout of the city.

How it looks.

Many of us call ourselves Americans.

Where I attended public school there were not a lot of people who looked like me. The same thing happened during the upper division years in university. I was surrounded by Japanese, Koreans, and Caucasian kids in high school. And in university I experienced the same thing.

During graduate school I was told that 65% of the population was Latino. I stayed near campus and I was better off shopping at the markets speaking in Spanish. I got a job tutoring kids in that same area. Same routine! Espanol por favor ^_^

While tutoring I learned that the Catholic Latino culture celebrates Christmas with the baby Jesus. There was a Nativity scene in each home. A doll or baby with a trough and animals. The surrogate mother Mary and the adopted father Joseph watching over the newborn.

Additionally, I learned this year, through a tutoring session, that there is a long mass service on the birthday of the mother Mary! This was last week! I hadn't a clue.

I would classify myself as Christian, but I have never done these things. And I actually do not subscribe to the typical ideal Christmas.

I am Black.
I have an immigrant African father.
I have an American mother who is mixed with West African missionaries, slaves from somewhere, Blackfoot, and Crow.
I was born in the Mid-West.
I live on the West Coast.

I just described my city to you.

I know which box I check. But is it really so obvious?
What really determines who I am?
Most of my friends growing up were either Mexican or Japanese?
If I knew fluent Spanish and Japanese I would not need to learn English where I live. I could get by. I know people who get by.

I am Black, and when I walk around my neighborhood and see Black people I often wonder "Do they live here?" The neighborhoods are changing. This is awesome. Things are getting more diverse. But I see each label getting harder to define.

Example: Watch an 80s or 90s movie. You rarely see Asians or Latinos. You see token Blacks. Now, you see shows like Modern Family! The families are mixed racially, based on sexuality, many roles are flipped. Yet, I see this as more normal. Compare the Modern Family pilot to the movie Boyz 'N The Hood.

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