Culture Trilogy Part I

Culture in Cinema Center Stage – Netflix hits the top of the list for scores of great black comedies and dramas. My husband, white male baby boomer, and I joke about the number of times we watched Coachella-#Beyonce #HBCU, all the way through.  Together, we enjoyed other movies: The Book of Eli, Denzel Washington, I Called Him Morgan-Lee Morgan, Chasing Trane-John Coltrane, The Black Godfather-Clarence Avant, Soundtrack of our Lives-Clive Davis, Quincy- Quincy Jones, and What Happened, Miss Simone?  Ok, I will confess, I’ve loved Nina Simone’s music since childhood and wore out the threads on her solo, “To Be Young Gifted and Black.” Even through the sadness of many of these documentaries, we both enjoyed listening to the music and learning the history and culture behind the stories.

Culture on the Surface. What prevents my husband from watching the Netflix movie, Becoming?  You know why it seems to be a struggle for him, and perhaps other white Republicans, to watch a documentary about the first African American / negro / beautiful black, Democratic First Lady?  It suggests the same logic that blacks and whites can pack out sports stadiums (pre-Covid19), share pop culture-related venues, worship together in Christian churches and other religious and civic gatherings; talk sports, chit-chat about family matters and exchange colloquialism in black vernacular (like “what she said,” “what up dawg,” “you straight?” and many more “in da hood” terminology. Even some black people believe Ebonics to be shameful, something to laugh at, secretly snicker about, as though the linguistic form is indicative of ignorance, rather than an actual contribution to black language.  It is more comfortable sharing black culture on the surface level.  America has never invested in educating the masses in black culture.  It is the X factor of our history.  Such that, many black people, generally, sense the void in their own lack of knowledge. Even so, there does exist an American zeal for black culture; but it is not grounded in knowledge. Sometimes this zeal produces a kind of “want- to-be-black” adaptation.  In some countries, there is adoration (as seen inb-girl and b-boy), possibly a result of Hip-Hop and Urban Culture.

It’s been years since the enactment of landmark civil rights and labor laws, outlawing discrimination based on race, color, sexual orientation, national origin; and yet, most Americans (black and white) have less than 普通な教育水準a basic education about black culture.  Many whites define black culture through their experience of action movies, sit-coms, comedy, and sports.  For some, music and entertainment prove to be their most educational resource for “relating to black people.”  Thankfully, there are white friends and family members (some bi-racial or married into white families) that know there are layers of complexity in black culture. Watching youth of all cultures, leading and participating in peaceful protests should give us all hope!  There are others who may have less cultural knowledge but respectful and conciliatory toward African American people.

So, I am curious to know how America intends to mend cultural inequities in police and policing policies, without demanding cultural knowledge and understanding about its most policed people? American Society, in general, reflects a repetitive history of efforts to fix broken race relations with little cultural knowledge about  the “race”.  My husband and I  have “race” discussions where we don’t always agree; but we always learn from each other.  It is important that we all learn from each other.  How else can we understand or share the perspectives of others? I suggest, we can understand people through learning about their culture: i.e., history, customs, language, art, poetry, prose, politics and economics, religion, family structure 家族構成 struggles in daily living, gender roles, foods, artifacts, and relics. Understanding that pierces the veil ignorance will affect changes below the cultural surface. Only change will bring shared perspective and create harmonious communication.

The Culture Decree

Amid the historic protests for civil rights, against racial oppression (joined by other countries all over the world), we should individually pray for our nation, praise for leaders who support positive change.  We must think of actions that we can take that lead to solutions. One solution would be to mandate African American history in Secondary and Post-secondary education. Black history is deeply rooted in American history and should be made a mandatory component of compulsory education.  As a reminder, Black history does not begin with “slavery” nor end with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as this is the extent to limitations of many programs and courses.

Corporate Diversity Programs, Police and Firefighter academy training, and above all America’s religious institutions should include annual culture courses for African American, Hispanic & Latino, Native American, Asian, and Arab cultures. Collective efforts for cultural education would prove the importance of diversity and give America a multiethnic, multicultural competitive advantage. #Ican’tbreathe, #blacklivesmatter, #sweden, #Japan, #Zimbabwe, #London

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