John, Thanks for the thoughtful piece. It got me thinking and that’s always a good thing. I understand the premise that a normative culture will by its very nature exclude some. But I fail to see or understand how that is inherently wrong. Every country, every culture has its norms, its accepted behaviors and expectations. Its what defines us. America is unique in that the culture is more diverse and less entrenched in history being only 240+ years old vs cultures of countries like Japan, China and Europe. When I visit a foreign country, I research and become familiar with their cultural norms so I don’t unintentionally offend someone and fit in as best a visitor can. I don’t start off on the premise that since their culture is different than mine that it must be bigoted, racist or oppressive. Learning and accepting it is a sign of respect, not subservience.
United States “Culture” is without a doubt based primarily on white European traditions and values although it has and will continue to evolve as new cultures mix and become part of our collective identity. Just because words, or traditions grew out of a period a slavery, doesn’t mean they continue to carry their racist roots. I don’t take offense to using a french word due to their past subjugation of Great Britain. American culture is a living growing identity that absorbs new ideas, traditions, words and beliefs into the norm as they prove value or through percentage of population. As the hispanic population of the US grows, so does the acceptance of traditional hispanic culture into the “Norm”. That’s not wrong, or oppressive; that’s the reality of the Human culture.
If a people who hold to a cultural identity outside of the accepted “Norm” choose to stand against the normalized culture, they will encounter resistance. Fact of human interactions. Why should people change? What makes Black culture so great that the normative culture should change? American’s are very tolerant, not that you’d get that from our mainstream media but that is the reality. Can multiple cultures exist side by side; Certainly but they will always remain mostly separate. I don’t go to Saudi and rant and protest to get a liquor store on every block just because I like to drink an occasional beer or glass of wine. Do I feel uncomfortable when I encounter a woman in a full burka in my neighborhood supermarket, yes. It’s not that I’m Islamophobic, a racist or a bigot. It’s because it's outside of my cultural norm for where I live. I will naturally avoid interaction since I don’t know her norms of behavior. That’s not wrong, that’s life in a multi-cultural world. Put me on a street in Saudi and I better have learned the cultural norms of behavior or else I could find myself in a world of sh-t.
In the end I found no solution proposed in your article; just complaints. If you want to change the normalized culture, you have to show why the change is better or necessary. You want to wear a brightly colored robe to work — go for it. I could care less. You want to eat with your hands or chopsticks, again I don’t care if you do but that doesn’t mean I have to change nor does it mean the cultural norms do. In most areas they’re flexible enough to exist side by side. Complaining that American culture is by its roots and nature racist and those of us who are comfortable with it need to change will get you nowhere. I have seen and met racists and I don’t like them anymore than you. Thankfully they are becoming the abnormal and no longer reflective of the culture as a whole. Respect for each other, race and culture is what will advance all of us. Forcing someone to accept your culture as the new norm will not. You want to avoid cultural conflict; educate us on what your cultural norms are. I may not agree with them or accept and adopt them as my own but then, I don’t expect you to become me either. But if you're looking to interact with the normalized culture (e.g. looking for a job) and you go to a business that is and serves the predominant culture and you show up all defensive because it doesn’t reflect your culture — you probably won’t get the job. Again, that’s not because of racism, it's called respect or lack of it. You want me to respect you, respect me.
So why is it always about race? It isn’t.