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.