Words can cause strong emotions, emotions that can stimulate, drive, and inspire many to do great things for great causes. But strong words can also form strong impulsive actions that can lead to suffering, tragedy, and separation. Race and culture, these words seemed to have popped up more and more in recent American politics. They have been used in many different ways by many great speakers and are two very powerful words that can be used to communicate different beliefs and ideas. Many may view these two words as one and the same in American politics and when used improperly may be completely overlooked. But race and culture are still very different from each other and can cause indirect confusion as well as lead many to incorrect assumptions and interpretations.
This paper is intending to define these words by their exact definition, explain how they are different, show examples of how they could be used in everyday politics, and lastly give a final thought of the use of these words in American politics. First, let me state that this paper is intended to be as apolitical as possible. This paper is submitted to the idea that each individual has their own personal views and perspectives and does not intend to favor, default to, or have a bias towards any or all political parties. Second, it should be noted that this paper doesn’t intend to make the claim that race and culture are completely separate. With these notions in mind let us begin by defining what each word means and what they represent in order to fully understand race and culture. In this argument, I will be using the word race as in the Oxford dictionary definition: “the fact or condition of belonging to a racial division or group; the qualities or characteristics associated with this.” and I will be using the word Culture as also in the Oxford dictionary definition: “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively” and “the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group”.
Out of the multiple definitions of race and culture, I chose these specifically because these seem to be the most commonly used definitions in American politics. Race and culture are so intertwined with each other in American Politics that it can sometimes become hard to know when to use one rather than the other, but alas there must always be a clear line between the two. Dr. Tomas Sowell is a well-known economist, author, scholar, Marine Corps veteran and Senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and has received the Francis Boyer Award, National Humanities Medal, Bradley Prize, and getAbstract Int’l Book Award. He Wrote a book in 1994 titled, Race and Culture: A World View that I believe helps support why culture and race should not be completely transparent in American politics. The book references many examples in history about how race and culture are similar in some aspects, but also how they remain separated. “While we can all agree on the influence of “environment” in some very general sense, there is a vast difference between (1) regarding groups as being shaped by immediate circumstances, including the people and institutions around them, and (2) regarding groups as having their own internal cultural patterns, antedating the environment in which they currently find themselves, and transcending the beliefs, biases, and decisions of others.” (Sowell, x) Another example of this comes from a political debate on May 6th, 2015 at Seattle University.
The participants in this event were Dr. Sherely Secrest, a candidate for the Washington state Senate in 2014, Charles Mudede a Zimbabwean writer, filmmaker, and leftwing cultural critic, Ben Shapiro an American conservative political commentator, writer, and lawyer, Monique Valenzuela, a Republican candidate for the house of representatives in 2014, and David Boze a broadcaster who served as the moderator for the debate. What immediately caught attention in this debate was the aftermath that accrued right after Dave Boze asked Ben the following question: “According to Peer Research, the net worth of white families in 2014 was one-hundred-and-forty-one-thousand while black families it was eleven-thousand. Even less than the nineteen-thousand that it was in 2017. According to Economist Edward Wolf from the University of New York excluding vehicles and other durables, the medium black family worth is just seventeen-hundred dollars, while forty percent of black families have zero or negative wealth. White family Worth, in terms of financial worth, is sixty-nine times more than that of black families. Given this disparity, how can you argue that racism is not a drawing factor when it comes to income inequality?” Ben Shapiro replied, “Because it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with culture.” Immediately after Bens response, before he could continue, Dr. Shereley extended her arm up in exaggeration and irritation to his response. Ben Shapiro fired back to his debating panelists saying: “Explain to me why black kids aren’t graduating high school,’ Shapiro continued. ‘Explain to me why black kids are shooting each other at significantly higher rates than whites are shooting each other.
Explain to me why 13 percent of the population is responsible for 50 percent of the murder. Explain to me why the number of black kids in prison is so high. Explain to me, if it has nothing to do with culture, why the single-motherhood rate in the black community jumped from 20 percent to 70 percent in the same course of time that the civil rights movement has made such tremendous strides. Is America more racist now than it was in 1960? And if it is please explain to me how that happened.’ Dr. Sherely Secrest Charles Mudede paused for a few moments and were unable to immediately respond to Ben Shapiro’s questions. I then stumbled upon a journal that talked about how race and culture played a big roll in an incident on a plane in 2006. The title of this journal is called Islamaphobia, Culture, and Race in the Age of Empire. This article talks about how culture and race were used inaccurately on both sides of the spectrum, which led each side to weaken their overall political agendas. “…we find our choices, in the official and popular reactions to 9/11, for thinking about the politics of terrorism. On the one hand, the officials, the punditry class, and right-wing religious groups entertain no such thoughts, believe it to be blasphemy, and in the process see terrorism as the pathology of an inferior culture, civilization, and religion.
On the other hand, in an American version of ‘multicultural’ sensibility, the response is to try to understand the religion and culture of the ‘Other’ and rescue ‘Islam’ from those who give it a bad name.14 As Zˇizˇek (2002) has argued, this is a ‘gesture of ideological mystification par excellence.” (Samati, 262-263) I chose this quote because it is a perfect example of how both parties can twist events, history, and facts related to culture and race and use it to their advantage. Near the end of the article, it says “The evidence is unclear as to whether blacks and whites differ in their attitudes toward violence (e.g., Blumenthal 1972; Cao et al. 1997; Erlanger 1974; Markowitz and Felson 1998; Rossi et al. 1974). On the other hand, race differences in violence have been observed at colleges and prisons where blacks and whites are living in similar circumstances (e.g., Harer and Steffensmeier 1996; Vblkwein et al. 1995). These results suggest that there may be cultural differences” (Felson, 1359). this states that studies have been done on violence in different races, and with there studies, they have come to the conclusion that “there may be cultural differences.” (Felson, 1359) This shows a perfect example of separating race from culture correctly in possibly political data. I feel like this article showed multiple examples of good race and cultural differences and similarities and how the terms should be used during any political events correctly.
The video “9 Differences Between Race and Ethnicity” talks about some of the differences between race and ethnicity. I know that it wasn’t race and culture, but I substituted ethnicity for culture because of the close relationship each of the words had. The first difference the video pointed out: “1. Race is associated with biology, whereas ethnicity is associated with culture.” This helped me better understand my argument and helped me further my understanding of each word. In conclusion, the reason that cultures aren’t received nor transmitted through genes but just in symbols is the same reasoning for why race is through genes and culture is not. Since race is given to people based on their appearance culture should be a community of shared beliefs and values. At the end of the day, I fully believe that in order to fully resolve any and all issues and differences in American politics in regards race and culture starts by always showing respect to all.