Dear white people: your culture is not an all-powerful god.
Yes, you can go against your own culture if you see outdated stuff in it. You won’t get arrested for it. You won’t get in any real trouble. Sincerely, everyone else in the world.
I’m using “white people” here as a socioeconomic term, because it goes beyond one or two countries, but doesn’t include everything. A lot of people in the so-called poor countries (aka, places that are NOT Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand) have European blood and look white, but DO NOT FOLLOW the same cultural norms of social behaviour of their “rich” counterparts, and therefore they are not “white” for the purposes of this article. So, I hope that’s clear. I’m South American myself and back in my birthplace I get mistaken for a foreigner; same here, but for different reasons. That’s not in question here. We’re not just talking about looks and accents. We’re talking about the cultural biases you grew up with or not, and where they originated.
On the same note, I am predicting that some people from Southern and Eastern Europe won’t relate — and that’s normal. Again, socioeconomic, not just about looks or “where” you’re located. What you learned from your family growing up is what you’ll internalise, I don’t care if you’re now enjoying a better quality of life in a richer country. Same boat, tbh. The opposite is also true, I don’t care if you grew up super white but now you live among the Mongols. You still carry that cultural baggage from childhood. Deep down, we still behave according to what we learned from our ancestors in childhood unless we decide to confront it HEAD-ON. So, admit that. Get out of denial for heaven’s sake.
Also, in order to understand this article, first you have to let go of the idea you’re just “normal”. There is no such thing as THE norm. There are CULTURAL norms. Yours is no superior or inferior to anyone else’s. Yours should NOT BE PREACHED to any outsiders just ’cause you felt entitled. Amazing that this needs saying, but it does.
And for those who are ready to go on a raving keyboard fight with me here because I’m being “rude” and “attacking white people”, here is a reality check: MY OWN FAMILY has white people, in this specific sense. It isn’t everyone, but they are there. I’m half-Swedish. I, myself, Meron, went against some of the stuff I internalised from them, it wasn’t easy, I was on the receiving end of their backlash for that (but not from the wider world. I’m telling you, it’s safe in the grand scheme of things, go for it), and therefore I’m not just attacking anyone. I once was where you are now. I’m not just a judgemental outsider.
Do you need role models a lot more famous than I (and whiter, as it happens)? Sinéad O’Connor. Britney Spears. I don’t care what you think of them or their work, that’s not the point here. The point is they refused to behave within the norm. They refused to turn a blind eye to stuff they grew up internalising, when it stopped making sense to them. They did not give in to the peer pressure to stay “tame” and “maintain a good image”. They were willing to sacrifice PR for the sake of freedom. And these, my friends, were acts of bravery. Yes, EVEN THOUGH they are still flawed and not everyone likes their music or lifestyle choices. Still braver than you and I, if we’re being honest.
Do you think modern culture is stupid and need more old-timey role models? No fucking problem: Catherine of Medici. Joan of Arc. Every peasant who took down the Bastille. Sorry, women come to my mind more easily — I’m a woman, I relate. I’m sure History is full of men defying conventional “politeness” too. But all these examples have next to nothing in common if you look at their background, except for one thing: the dominant (still local, still not “worldwide”, but pressing nonetheless) culture that weighed down on them. I don’t care if you look up to some of them and look down on others because of their feats in life. We’re not talking about accomplishments. We’re talking about the MEANS they used to accomplish what they wanted — rebellion. Rejection of the “civilised” behaviour expected of them.
This word, civilised… It means nothing. I work with Picts. White but uncivilised in the eyes of the wider world. And yet, nobody ever defeated them. Primitive you say? Savage you say? Oh, funny that. How can a people so “primitive”, so undeveloped, remain sovereign for over a thousand years then? Explain that to me.
Hold your horses! I’m not claiming non-white cultures are “better”.
I’m just saying they’re more unlikely to be fragile when addressing their own flaws. These people are more unafraid of conflict with their own kin. They understand that kinship isn’t top priority — first comes dignity.
Trigger warning: mentions of graphic stuff. Jump to the harmless photo below if you don’t want to read that.
Ever heard of female genital mutilation (FGM)? Did you know it’s cultural in a lot of places in Eastern Africa and the Middle East? Did you also know that a lot of the people on the forefront of the movement to ban it entirely are not white saviours, but actual locals instead? Did you know they put their own community relationships at risk in order to go against a long-held tradition which is bad and outdated? Click on the link and you’ll see.
I’m not done, so if you opted for reading this example, shut up and listen. Do you really think, with all the audacity needed to think that, the existence of a big flaw like FGM should invalidate entire African and Middle Eastern cultures? I hope not. I hope you’re a decent person. And if you’re a decent person, you’ll agree with this: when our cultural identity has a flaw, we go and address it. And then we MOVE THE FUCK ON. We don’t abandon the entire identity. We don’t go on long self-loathing periods of shame and guilt. We fix what’s broken, and stay proud of the wider culture. It’s not impossible unless you’re unwilling.
I praise the Picts a lot because I relate to them on a soul level, but that doesn’t mean I endorse every cultural habit of theirs. I could go on a long rant here about the erasal of women in their stone monuments; sacrifices performed well into the Christian era (more like a Christian façade, experts will agree); counterproductive tribalistic attitudes and lack of hygiene during their medical procedures. But I don’t need to do that. This mere footnote of a mention will be enough for you to nod along. It’s very easy to see the harm in long-abandoned habits of the past. You don’t need to move a finger for that. You don’t need to put anything at risk for that. Of course you’ll approve of what I said. That doesn’t make you any better than a coward, though. I’m not easily impressed.
So let’s talk about current affairs. Let’s talk about arranged marriage and the caste system in India, the subject of many a Bollywood movie — which, let me remind you, are produced by locals, not white people. In doing so, in DARING to debate the validity of long-held cultural practices, they’re risking conflict with their own kin. And yet, they don’t shy away from doing the scary thing.
Let’s talk about Brazilian producers of movies and telenovelas, who always risk exporting a less-than-flattering image of their OWN culture for the world to see, just so they can debate and address their own social problems in a very public way.
Let’s talk about how this Asian comedian duo, Two Set Violin, have the balls to call their own “tiger moms” out for the bullshit ON MOTHER’S DAY.
Meanwhile, dear white people, you’re scared of confronting your peers for a lot less; save for a rare few exceptions among you, whom… Let me check… Oh yeah, you usually ostracise. Or will you apologise to Sinéad O’Connor for not having supported her when she needed it the most? How ON EARTH would I respect you? I can’t. I won’t.
Until you collectively make a change.
I said “collectively”. Spare me the petty attacks, will ya. The block button is looking very juicy right now. Don’t come with “not all white people”. Don’t you fucking dare. If you’re culturally white and can’t relate to what I said, well, good job. Let’s get more people join in on the rebellion, shall we. There’s no need to seek my validation. I’m putting the message out there. If it serves you, take it.
This all-or-nothing mindset is not even helping yourselves. Stop it. Get some help.
And before you even ask “what cultural problems white people could possibly have”, have fun with the content below. It was posted by a company — yes, you read that right, it wasn’t a random individual. It was A BUSINESS. That’s how normalised it is to hate on your own diaspora (and let’s add blackface to it because apparently the mere phrase wasn’t offensive enough). The only photoshop in it is the obscuring of identities. Ya know, people don’t like me fighting them with facts and logic. They resort to petty retaliation.
“Oh but this is one isolated case from 2020, Meron, don’t generalise”. Oh yeah? And how exactly will you defend the bunch of likes and favourable comments? Still isolated? Still insignificant?
I mean, if you lot are gonna choose to pretend all your problems are “individual” and there’s no collective phenomenon such as peer pressure fuelling them, whatever. I’ve done my fair share of the job here, I’m not doing yours as well.
But let me just emphasise one thing here: this is about cultures of origin hating on THEIR OWN diaspora. White people hating on white people. Just for the sake of hating. This is not even racism (grotesque racist touch in this one individual image aside). This is an example of a cultural bad habit which a lot of white cultures share: an unhealthy, bordering on pathological, obsession with conformity. Unless you 100% belong to [insert here culture or subculture] to the point of absolute purity, you’re not just out but humiliated. It often goes hand in hand with constant intimidation within the culture to protect the status quo at all costs. An inversion of values: kinship before dignity.
Now tell me, my dude: would I, trad harpist Meron, have any reason to hate Irish culture in its entirety? Would I, married-into-a-Gaeltacht-Meron, see any value in the prospect of betraying the country? Would I, spirit worker who talks to the Celts Meron, ever benefit even a tiny bit from destroying everything I’ve worked hard to create… Just because of a mere criticism?
Look into my eyes and tell me whether or not it makes sense to fear that.
Just because I have one criticism, it doesn’t mean I’m ready to pack my stuff and go. Just because I believe in helping people evolve, it doesn’t mean I want to ostracise and humiliate them. Perhaps you’re projecting — that’s your dark stuff. I am but a mirror.