Why Understanding Culture Matters

Why understanding culture matters?

A couple of days ago, I read a thought-provoking article by Ezinne Ukoha, an eloquent writer on Medium.  It was, Who Can Save White Men From The Danger Of Being Held Accountable?  It was about double standards, racial disparity, and accountability.  A highly critical comment of the article made me ask the commenter the following question: Do you think white men in this country get away with murder? Especially when the victim is Black?

What do you think? Take a moment!

How did you interpret the question?

I bet many responded literally to the question. Much likely many thought my question harsh and borderline violent.  ‘Getting away with murder,’ still is a common expression. Growing up the expression described a person who got away with things others didn’t. The phrase described children and adults alike. In its cultural context, my question implied familiarity and comfort.

Surprisingly, what appeared to be the angry white man understood the question and responded honestly.   Not at all defensive as he initially came across to me.  My question was a test on many levels.  Had he not been familiar with Black culture his response might have been different as the literal meaning would surely rankle him.  He might have become angry as he already appeared or further offended or went on a rant using one of Trump’s favorite dog whistle term ‘law and order’ to describe the needs of this country.  Fortunately, he was multi-cultural and well-traveled so understood differences in language.  He recognized I genuinely wanted to understand his rage.  The question made him pause, and his thoughtful and constructive response demonstrated his cultural awareness.

Culturally evolved people understand culture is a portal into a broader and deeper appreciation of our earthly experiences.

Do White men get away with murder in America?   Before responding to the question one should consider, would there be substantial racial disparities in economics, healthcare, housing, justice, incarceration, law enforcement and on and on if the answer was no?

Are the reasons for the gaping disparity due to the perceived genetic superiority of White people? Why?

Or are the disparities the result of double standards coupled with the deliberate limitation of access that target specific ethnic cultures? Why?

Can you think of other reasons for racial disparities across the board?

Why understanding culture matters

We live in a society where painting ethnic groups with broad strokes seem as reasonable as rain in the Spring. The strokes painted without effort or thought scapegoat and stigmatize entire communities and affect their lives. They have harmful consequences; the problem is most people who paint other groups with broad strokes know that.  The strokes are like branded scarlet letters targeting specific cultures to be objects of hatred, including self-hate, and live in fear. Presenting groups of people, especially Black people,  as monolithic predatory groups, contribute to violence in communities of color.

What percent of professionals and public servants hired to serve impoverished, marginalized communities appreciate cultural differences among Black people?

Cultural awareness and respect are not only pivotal to communication but are also part of the process of building trust in any community. Impoverished or marginalized ethnic populations often cast as predatory groups, or a drain on hard-working white taxpayers need public servants who embrace multiculturism.  Police brutality and its persistence in law enforcement are symptomatic of systemic cultural insensitivity. Disparities in arrests, sentencing, and mass incarceration are neon clues pointing to evidence.  Almost instantly before saying a word, people who look different from White men are categorized and judged based on stereotypes. Communication differences compound the likelihood that preconceived stereotypes will lead to fatal misinterpretations, stolen lives and an ever-larger cycle of worsening distrust.

Are Black people the promiscuous, lazy, welfare-collecting baby mamas with different baby daddies as portrayed by most traditional “#FakeNews” (per #POTUS) media outlets?

Understanding how the system of structural racism enabled a culture of labels, systemic discrimination and white nationalist ideologies to flourish is to see those systems at play in our daily lives.  Racial disparities result from racially biased systems that let white men get away with murder and to a lesser degree white women.

Readers might wonder, so what?  The world was never a fair or a just place.  Further, blogging is not going to change the world. One person with limited reach can’t stir the public pot or affect policy. The thought of failure or wasting my time lack relevance because blogging is a labor of love that gives me purpose. I enjoy and learn much from writing and reading blog posts.   I believe following your passion is the way to accomplish what seems like the impossible dream.

To many, this may not seem obvious, but America was built on a foundation of racism. The Declaration of Independence stated all men were created equal so Black men were declared 3/5 of a man. The Constitution guaranteed specific freedom, yet its loopholes allowed the kidnapping and purchasing of groups of African people as property of servitude. I knew slavery was horrible but hadn’t imagined the unpredictable cruelty or the sadistic torture inflicted daily by slave owners or random White men. The nuances of subjugation and control by ruthless and hateful white men who then preached Christianity must have created cognitive dissonance among slaves.  The strategies used to overcome cognitive dissonance may explain Black self-hatred and persistent deference to Whites.

Can you change the foundational mix of a building without the structure falling apart? Or will another foundation be necessary?  Race affects my world and almost everything in this world. It will matter until it is no longer profitable! The monetary benefits, a core part of racism, make the 13th Amendment the loophole that gave birth to mass incarceration, aka the New Jim Crow, as well as the amendment that abolished slavery.

The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, says: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Scholars, activists, and prisoners have linked that exception clause to the rise of a prison system that incarcerates black people at more than five times the rate of white people, and profits off of their unpaid or underpaid labor.


Why Understanding Culture Matters? Source of image: Pinterest
Why Understanding Culture Matters?
Source of image: Pinterest

Too many Black people run around confused about their identities and even worse blame themselves for failures or experiences outside their control. It’s hard to reach the finishing line when your starting place is in quicksand, or your ankle chained to a ball, and the track is an obstacle course.  When I listen to the outside world, I see myself as irreparably deficient. My future eternally doomed to obedience and servitude of a system of white supremacy. I write to remind myself of the daily struggles of family, finances, relationships, etc. and the insidious trauma of chronic discrimination that shackle people who look like me.  Our ‘bad luck’ is often a product of chronic discrimination and not a curse for some unknown sin.

The pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness shouldn’t be a race-based façade easily ripped away on a moment’s notice from people of color.   The #MAGA Dream is a  system of ‘law and order’ that rewards the criminality of white men who prey on people of color.  For POC, rejection or failure should be a badge of honor for trying and not seen as a character flaw or a deficiency.  There are forces at play that have nothing to do with merit, skill or knowledge, and everything to do with skin color.  Let that be a challenge to work together and make racism unprofitable.

As multicultural human beings, culture separates and unites us.

What is Culture? [Full HD 1080p]


Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

19 thoughts on “Why Understanding Culture Matters

  1. That was a well-written article. I liked how you brought up all the points while mentioning the realities of being Black and connecting it to the history that doesn’t get talked about that much. That cartoon perfectly describes the situation of so many people in America.

    1. Curtis, thank you. I did put time into this post. The process of writing is fantastic as you can never quite predict how the story will come together. I wanted to talk about culture in the context of history and current events. I wondered if my hard work would pay off with more engagement and more views from search engines. Lately, I started to schedule posts in the late evening or at night instead of immediately on completing a post. Who said an old dog can’t be taught new tricks? 😀

      1. You’re certainly welcome. I totally agree with you when it comes to writing. This feeling becomes even more prevalent whenever I write cell phone novels since I’m forced to write without a clear-cut outline in that literary form. It’s great how you talk about the historical and sociological contexts of culture. You’ve certainly been an inspiration to me since I didn’t talk about those subjects as much on the main page until talking with you on your blog. Sure, I’ve made references to some cultural things when I reviewed movies, docs, and anime on Iridium Eye, but I didn’t go all in-depth most of the time.

        You’re certainly doing well on the blogging front and that’s smart about timing your posts in those hours.

        1. Curtis, Thank you. It looks like we are an inspiration to each other as it should be.

          The timing is important, and so is the need to learn more about SEO to capture views from search engines. I’m beginning to enjoy learning about the process. Many people don’t understand blogging or the work involved in writing to a small audience that may or may not provide feedback.

          Last night, I saw bits of a movie about influencers. I didn’t know it was a lucrative and glamorous occupation albeit a step down from Hollywood celebrities.

          1. Sure thing, Angela.

            That’s certainly true. While it’s fun seeing people from all over the world checking out my blogs, I feel that it is important with SEO aspects. That’s something I want to be focused on when I get more traffic on my pages.

            Interesting. I’ve definitely heard things about those industries and how profitable they can be.

  2. Angela I’m happy to see you decided to keep blogging, your thoughts need to be shared!
    I see you believe culture has a lot to do with the way Black people are treated in this country. I tend to disagree but still loved reading a well written article!

    1. Hi Rudy, Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I believe culture is at the heart of how Black people see themselves and how others see us. It affects and is not limited to our interactions and connections to each other. You can say this of all cultures. Don’t forget on a personal level Black culture is affected by different cultures such as education, gender, job, language, parenting, religion, social class, sex and many groups and organizations that we support.

      Do you want to share why you disagree?

  3. Too many ethnic groups such as the Caucasians, the Chinese, the so-called Jews have profited of Black people pain. That has stopped!!! Black people have no choice but to know who we are.

    1. There is profit in racism, how do we remove the profit? Sure there is hatred that I believe is fear of losing the economic as well as the social capital of racism.

      1. You made a valid point. When we take back our own as producing and manufacturing and no longer patronize their establishments, then we would have also built our own economic base

          1. For one stay away from the devils, which is hard for Black people to do. Also, get back into our African spirituality which is our power source of getting everything that was stolen from us back.

            1. I agree we need to embrace and honor our culture and African heritage. We won’t get back all that was stolen but we can work on preventing future misappropriation.

  4. Angela it doesn’t take knowing a particular ethnic groups culture to treat them like human beings! I’m going to quote you “Are the reasons for the gaping disparity due to the genetic superiority of White people? Why?

    Or are the disparities the result of double standards coupled with the deliberate limitation of access that target specific ethnic cultures? Why?”
    The short answer to the first question is yes incerting the word perceived before genetic and yes to second question changing cultures to people.
    We should all have basic rights and Black people in this country have been denied those rights since slavery ended! Even when we were building our own “culture” they destroyed that and our country/Government turn a blind eye. Culture no, hatred yes.

    1. Hi Rudy,
      “it doesn’t take knowing a particular ethnic groups culture to treat them like human beings!” You are correct!

      Even as I wrote the question, I knew something was missing so thank you, perceived was the missing word.

      What I am learning is that the subjugation of Black people during and since slavery is systemic– sinister and evil– but milder less systemic variations were always a part of Anglo or white culture. Aristocracy used to kill parents or siblings to gain power. Rudy, that kind of hatred is part of white culture. It gives them the social capital needed to claim white supremacy. I’m not implying hatred is not there but racism is more than hatred. The cultural aspects give it roots. Isn’t there always a reason for hatred?

  5. Understanding how the system of structural racism enabled a culture of labels, systemic discrimination and white nationalist ideologies to flourish is to see those systems at play in our daily lives.  Racial disparities result from racially biased systems that let white men get away with murder and to a lesser degree white women.
    👆🏼👆🏼👆🏼👆🏼 ThIS THIS THIS!!

    Great post!! I hope people who are not familiar with the topic use this article as an opportunity to educate themselves and then others xxxx bhw

  6. Well Angela hatred in the past could come from Black dominance for 700 years in Europe if history is correct. I just think man has a sinful nature and love power, wealth and domination if he can get away with it! They were deceitful had better weapons and with Germ warfare thrown in, results total domination.

    1. We have a glorious past, much of which is lost forever or destroyed. What have we done today to control our destiny or communities? How have we changed our approach to fight back or help each other? How have we distinguished our culture from theirs? Rn, our culture is to leave the heavy work to God and complain about cultural appropriation. But doesn’t God help those who help themselves? What are we actually doing?

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