Culture and race are totally different things.

While the statement in the title to this post should be self-evident, it sadly is not.

Race is something we are born into. No person can either choose nor change their race (despite the best efforts of Michael Jackson). There are some pretty clear but overall minor physiological distinctions between races but it is pretty commonly understood that no race is inherently superior or inferior to another race. It is because of that fact that most people rightly find racial supremacism to be abhorrent in it’s very basis and call down those trying to practice or spread such repugnant ideals.

Culture is not like race. While some cultures are more predominant among some races and indeed of course originated among racial groups; culture is not at all like race in that a person can choose whether or not to practice a culture. Cultures can and do evolve and change and people may take on some elements of some cultures while rejecting elements of other cultures. While the differences between races are truly small once the clear aesthetic differences are set aside, the differences between cultures can be and are indeed often vast.

While we can’t realistically or morally be critical of an immutable state such as a person’s race, we can and should keep a critical eye on cultures.

Many have put culture on a pedestal next to race and tried to halt all discussion of the merits or shortcomings of any cultures. Many have acted as if cultures are things that cannot or should not ever be allowed to change or evolve. Some have treated cultures as if they are sacred things that must be preserved no matter how repugnant or obsolete some of their practices may be.

We need to get something straight in this increasingly hypersensitive world; not all cultures are equal, not all cultural practices and ideals are worthy of embracing or preserving and there is not a damn thing wrong with saying so!

Should we really accept the disgusting cultural practices against women in many parts of the Middle East simply because those traditions have been in place for centuries? Will we ever see live fox-hunts come back into fashion in England? How about bullfighting? What about some of the ingrained acts of animal cruelty in parts of Asia? Is the caste system of India worthy of preservation? Are we allowed to be critical of widespread female genital mutilation in Northern Africa? What about warlike cultures or those that practiced cannibalism?

None of the above cultural practices are acceptable to most modern eyes. Those practices are fading quickly thanks to our living in a world where the widespread sharing of information and a general and growing empathy has led to outside pressures being able to effect entrenched but outdated and often cruel cultural practices in some societies. This is a great trend for humanity in general and I look forward to seeing this new modern empathy spreading. It has not been through direct intervention in culture that cultures are evolving like this nearly as much as a general spreading of education and of modern world values.

One thing that will hinder this fast leap in worldwide cultural evolution though is the practice of acting as if cultures are immutable things that are above critique and must be protected from change at all costs. Cultures change and shed practices all the time and this is a good thing.

Healthy cultures are things that are constantly evolving to reflect and respond to a changing world. Some aspects of culture are retained while others fall by the wayside as time passes. Some cultures have gotten more complex and evolved more than others for a number of reasons leading to some cultures being more functional in a modern world than others. Some have had to make larger leaps in evolution to keep up with the modern world than others and it has led to challenges. Cultures with written languages had more complex social and legal structures than those who still remained in a hunter-gatherer stage until relatively recently. This is not an insult to those who’s ancestors were so recently nomadic gatherers, it is simply a statement of fact and it has utterly nothing to do with race.

It has to be accepted though that embracing elements of the more evolved cultures is critical to these current dysfunctional cultures in North America that are caught straddling a fence between pressures from academics and naïve urban dwellers who want to keep some sort of anthropological zoos of ancient culture in what we call native reserves and the cultural demands of a generation exposed to modern communications and seeing the advantages of living within the current modern culture even if the path to that lifestyle is muddied.

Cultural evolution is not assimilation!! The most destructive assholes we truly have in society today are those have convinced themselves and as many reserve dwelling natives as possible that all change from a primitive hunter-gatherer society is “assimilation” or even “genocide”. This leads only to cultural confusion and has made such a damned mess of the culture on reserves that most of the residents there reflect neither modern North American culture nor ancient Native culture; they simply now are mired in a culture of defeat, depression, misery and dependency. It is indeed a unique culture but it is a revolting one to observe in a modern world.

What is needed is not an attempt to intervene in cultures. Indeed, it is much of that idiocy that led to the residential school system and attempted forcing of cultural evolution that failed terrible and caused so much damage. What is needed now is to damn well leave culture alone. It is not the role of government, nor academics, nor non-profits, nor activists, nor pretty much anybody not living on a Native reserve to change or preserve Native cultures. Culture on native reserves will evolve to wherever it belongs as soon as we quit messing with it.

Getting back to that original point; we can’t treat cultures like races as they are utterly different. The cultural evolution of all modern people will be stunted if we let this foolish trend of shutting down all critique and objective examination of cultures through the screeching of “racism” at all who may dare question the cultural status quo. The lightning fast evolution of world cultures in this last century has been one of the most breathtaking advancements in the evolution of humanity. Let’s not let fools try to halt or stunt this progress through hysteric and unrelated comparisons to things like race.

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3 thoughts on “Culture and race are totally different things.

  1. Well said indeed.

    Having been involved in the language controversy years ago here in Ottawa, I once wrote that, contrary to false assumptions, language is not a culture but rather just one aspect of a culture. Culture is a reflection of the character of the people and language is part of the expression of that culture. But, again contrary to the expressed opinions of those you mention above like academics and activists, language is not an indispensable part of the culture, which history has proven over and over again, however emotional the loss of a language might be to some. The loss of a language does not destroy the culture.

    Language is, in fact, nothing more than a tool, a means of verbal communication. And just like in a toolbox, if a particular tool is not available, we just use another. To try to preserve a language at all cost is nothing less than foolhardy. Preserving a language in its so-called purest form is a guarantee of the destruction of that language in the same way you explain the preservation of a culture. It is its death knell. A language must be constantly adapting and evolving in order to stay alive and useful.

    As one who at one time spoke reasonably fluently, five languages, I got to know and develop a greater understanding for the languages and the cultures from which they sprang than I had when I only spoke two. Quebec’s insistence on the preservation and protection of the French language and culture by decree is not only foolhardy but stupid. It is also false inasmuch as the French language and the French culture, as it exists today, are in France, not in Quebec. Quebec’s culture is not French culture, and their language is but a semblance of the French language. The fanatic insistence by the separatists that their language is under threat by the English speakers of North America is slowly eroding and mutating the Quebec culture and its language into something that the people of Quebec will eventually find unacceptable. It will have been destroyed by the very people who claim to be the protectors of the Quebec culture and language.

  2. Canada has taken on a role of appeasement with regards to religion, language and culture. I most recently read that Alberta Justice is now allowing Sikhs to possess their Kirpans/daggers while at the court house. This of course comes with restrictions regarding the length of the dagger. B.C. and Manitoba have helmet exceptions for Sikhs who wish to wear their turbans while riding motorcycles. Sikhs in Toronto can now wear their Kiprans while at a public school which are suppose to be weapon free. The R.C.M.P. and the armed forces have also made many exceptions for the Sikh people to accommodate their culture. Many private industries have also made accommodations for the Sikh peoples so that they may be except from wearing certain mandatory safety protective equipment such as hard hats on construction sites.

    Not to take a dump on the Sikh people here I’m just using them as a point because they are a highly visible group of people. There are lots of wonderful Sikh people in Canada and even in Calgary where they have their own social enclave in the far north east end of the city. On any given day you can see the Sikh people, especially the seniors, walking about their community sporting their traditional orthodox clothing. They are happy to be free, happy to be equal and happy to be Sikh-Canadians. Since 1971, Canada has open her caring arms to become officially the only multi-cultural nation in the world. In Canada, you can be Canadian without ever being Canadian or adopting any Canadian values or Canadian cultures.

  3. I’ve had this argument with my bleeding heart sister for years.
    She equates my opposition to cultural equivalency to racism.
    And I insist that it is no such thing.
    I can never change her mind but I can shut her down.
    She can’t defend cannibalism or female genital mutilation.
    When I confront her with this, she has no defense and would rather shut up than change her mind.

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