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What is white culture?

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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

12 COMMENTS

  1. White culture is the biggest and most influential of them all. If it wasn’t for Europeans we wouldn’t live in the civilisation that we live in today. I don’t know what’s so hard to understand about that.

    The only reason you can’t pinpoint it, is because EVERYONE uses it, you wouldn’t be able to live the way you do without it, because it is literally everything around us. And that is okay, I’m not going to tell every race other in the whole fucking western world they’re “culturally appropriating” white culture. Even though it is the case following the definition. That’s why I think the concept of cultural appropriation is bullshit. I’m not going to be the one taking everything away from people of different races because almost everything of it is white culture.

    • Bullshit White Americans do not have a culture of their very own and as far as you talking about white culture is all around is ridiculous. Who and what is everyone using of white culture? They are the culture vultures who take what minority groups have and try to make it their own. What they claim to have is actually adopted from the European region of the world not America and that really frustrates them so much so that they then turn around and try to diminish the values, practices, lifestyles etc. of other groups to make them irrelevant. So don’t get on here with that non-sense.

      • No D… hmm is right.
        White culture is the collective of European heritage and american colonialism and enlightenment values that make up the very fabric of our national Principles and identity.
        Whiteness (culture) is the upholding of Democratic Liberalism and Western Culture, and anyone is free to share in this as a fellow American but these are “white culture” and if ya want to be a part of it, great!

      • whites are rich cause they invented things like the rest of the world like to buy, Blue jeans is white culture a suit and tie is white culture. Silk would be chinese culture. bamboo and a bone through the nose would be african culture.

      • Modern White culture in America is hard to define because of the way America was formed. Would you consider Computers white culture, or movies, clothing style, how about fast food? Maybe planes? Figures of speech? America has shared it’s identity, it’s ideas it’s culture with the world. At the same time we saw other cultures and picked out what was attractive to us. The common argument is that these cultures were not sharing with us and if they were, we ran off with what we wanted while leaving the people behind. It would seem though, people enjoy cherry picking. Pointing out what we have “Appropriated” from different cultures without acknowledging what America has done to western society as a whole.

  2. @hmm

    Sadly, white culture is our history. We appropriate everyone else. We have stolen everything from every other culture to date. If you really dig into the history, life originated in Africa. the moors (black/African) taught Europeans math and science (years before they were enslaved). Then Europeans denied blacks (after slavery) the right to learn what their ancestors had already taught the Europeans. When I truly dug into the history, I can see why people feel white culture is either non existent, or simply appropriation and oppression. Because that’s the sad truth. White people have done nothing but brutalize, steal from and kill other people and culture for centuries

    • Sarah…
      Yer unfortunate narritive is entirely false and full of strawmaning and false equivalency.
      Self hate isnt doesnt make you a more virtuous SJW.

      Every culture has borrowed knowledge and tech from every other culture.
      We didnt come from Black Africa as the environment didnt nessecitate the darker pigment during the same time that proto European groups left Africa.

      Even the Egyptian civilization that shared with Greece wasnt Nubian in culture at its height and has always had slaves even to this day.

      Europeans were the first culture in the history of the world to ban slavery on the basis of moral principle.

      Youve not read history and dont deserve citation, your ignorance and lack of contextual prespectus is embarasing and grossly inacurate.

      • Pfft has pinned the tail on the proverbial donkey I do believe! Well done, Pfft. This isn’t about “appropriation.” This is about reality and the process of time and history. We can’t rewrite our personal beliefs and wants/wishes as history, Sarah.

      • I understand it completely and stealing culture is WRONG. I just do not think that because I am white that I, for some reason, am excluded from culture. That because I was born white and that white is my ethnicity, I am automatically a “culture vulture” and any culture I portray is culture appropriation not cultural celebration. I get it, white people historically, fucking suck. That doesn’t mean we aren’t still here trying. Trying to understand and value other cultures. Trying to respect what we have previously trampled on carelessly. Trying to make progress towards an equalitarian society, but if you are right about white people not having culture do you know what it is like to not have roots? To not know where you are from and to not have land to call home. It’s not the worst problem that there is, but I can say it sucks. It’s a feeling of eternal loneliness. Also I have this feeling of overwhelming regret and embarrassment. Just because i’m white. I hate that being white comes with such a horrible history. A history of carelessness and a thirst for power wreaks havoc on our past and our present. If my culture, as a white woman, is as horrible as our history then I certainly want no part of it. Does being fascinated and intranced by another culture and wanting to celebrate the culture, not because I want to STEAL that culture but because I want to PRAISE that culture. Because white culture is shit. Why can’t we start now with creating a new white culture. One that respects other cultures for their individuality as well as their unity. A culture that is built on the promises of a better world and a better society to move forward with. I am either ignorant, confused, or both. Either way, I am trying to understand. To be better for this world.
        Sincerely,
        A human being

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