By Carrington Tatum
Defining white culture is a difficult task for even the “whitest” of Americans. White culture is often even synonymous with oppression or supremacy. However, there may be a way to quantify white culture if we reassess how we perceive it.
First, while ethnicity is unquestionably practical, the boundaries and scales for which we categorize people are heavily subjective and determined by society. This may shed some light on why white culture is so difficult to describe.
Culture is often viewed as a shared identity, or the idea that a person is less of a stranger if they are the same ethnicity as you. While this may be true for many white people, historically the entirety of white people in America hasn’t needed unity in the way minority groups have.
If you are a minority, you may have an inherent sense of camaraderie with people of your ethnicity. To white people, others of their ethnicity are just people. However, this rule can change when you view culture more closely than the terms of white, black, etc. we so often use.
Just as it is unacceptable to say all Asian heritage is the same, it is misinformed to say all white heritage is the same. Some culture associated with European countries trickled down to white Americans.
This should seem evident in that even the cultures of minority groups seem to be not exact matches of their heritages, but adjusted versions of them. Their cultures mesh well with the lifestyle most minorities and immigrants adopt in America.
The culture of a family that moved from Nigeria to the United States 18 years ago is different from the black family that has been in the U.S. for generations, yet both are considered “black culture.” So, could the same be said for white Americans whose heritage came from colonial countries?
In the United States’ early days, the culture of Americans who were exclusively white at the time was viewed as a sort of “backwoods and improper” style by the Old World. In fact, Benjamin Franklin would wear a raccoon skin hat to meet with the king, as it represented the American’s simpler needs and contrasted the lavish and “proper” culture of the Old World.
White culture is centered on individualism, the idea the only thing that matters in the world is “me and mine.” This philosophy was popularized by the United States and is the basis of our values of freedom and justice. While it was constructed by white philosophers, the philosophy was reinforced, reworked and retained by a variety of minority cultures.
What we can take from this is white culture is the culmination of the European and colonial-American inspired aspects of today’s American culture. Although difficult to pinpoint white culture, there are many ways we can appreciate and recognize it as a valuable part of the beautifully diverse culture of the United States.
-Carrington Tatum is a business management freshman