CULTURE CLUB …

Does anybody else feel like we’re going backwards?

Just when I think to myself, “Nah. Nobody will ever believe THAT. It’s too ridiculous,” there they are…big as life…believing THAT. 

One of the things I thought we would’ve been done with by now, in 2022, is racism. Race has been something I’ve written about extensively, for my entire career, in both blogs and (years before I was a blogger) songs. 

But instead of race becoming less and less relevant  – which is what it should become – it keeps gaining steam as something we all want to talk about, all the time. And it is this hook on which we all wish to hang our identities. 

So, here’s the thing about race…

It either means everything or it means nothing. 

Let me explain…

If you believe all humans basically descended from ONE human family, probably from somewhere in Africa, then all of our essential differences are based in culture rather than species. In other words, we’re all the same species. We just have different features. 

Kinda like Saint Bernards and Chihuahuas are both the same species, just different breeds. Yes, they look VERY different, have different temperaments and obvious abilities based on their sizes, fluff and shapes. 

But they’re both dogs. And they will both behave as dogs when given dog stimuli. And they can actually breed and make half Saint Bernard/half Chihuahua puppies. 

Humans are kinda like that, if you accept the science. 

That makes race basically mean nothing. It’s merely cosmetic. 

However…

If you believe that there are basic and essential differences that must be preserved or maintained, in certain races; a purity, if you will, then you believe we all actually belong to different species’. 

That makes the race conversation something completely different. And, if true, makes race mean everything. And, believe it or not, some people do believe this. 

Those people are called racists. 

In modern society, we abhor the term racist and see it as maybe the most horrible attribute a person can possess. But all it really means is you believe one race is inherently different from another race. And by that definition, there a lot more racists in the world than people want to believe. And they often look different than we expect. 

I was once told, by an Ivy league biology professor, that there were actual Asian doctors at this Ivy league university, who didn’t believe Asians could get Angelman Syndrome (the genetic disorder that my daughter has – she’s Chinese). 

They believed this based solely on race. Scientists. Believed Asians couldn’t get a genetic disorder. Because of race. 

THAT, my friends, is textbook racism. In fact, that type of racism comes in the racist starter kit. 

This is what white Europeans were all grappling with in the last two centuries. And it was the impetus for things like the American Civil War and WWII. But make no mistake…that type of racism isn’t limited to people with less melanin. 

If you believe some races are inherently better than other races, you are basically a racist. And it can be subtle. 

For instance, you might believe that native American tribes were inherently more peaceful and harmonious than the white settlers who came and terrorized them. And you might attribute these differences to the genetics themselves (kinda like saying Pit Bulls are natural born aggressors). 

Congratulations. You’re a racist. 

One of the biggest expressions of racism surrounds the word “soul.” Saying that someone has “soul” in their music is a euphemism for “black” sounding. And if you believe that black people just have, within their genetic code, some sort of inherent musical skill and function, because of their race, then congratulations…you’re a racist. 

Most thinking people understand that human differences are actually cultural more than anything else. But even that is being politicized from every angle, these days.

“Cultural appropriation” is one of those hipster words that disallows people not deemed worthy, to use things from a certain culture. 

This is characterized in what I like to call “the Elvis argument.” Elvis is seen as this white guy who basically stole black culture in order to make a fortune and become famous. 

Woke wisdom says that he was basically a thief and a pretender. 

But here’s the thing…

Just because you have white skin doesn’t mean you don’t also have a culture. I was raised kinda like Elvis – going to pentecostal church. Sometimes, the church was filled with white people. Sometimes it was filled with black people. Sometimes, it was filled with Hispanic people. 

In almost every case, the church experience was the same. Because the culture was pentecostal…not racial. 

I have 8mm movies of my grandparents having church, dancing around in the spirit, running up and down the aisles, beating tambourines and banging on pianos and guitars. And these are white people.

That is my culture. 

So, when people have mistaken me for a black guy (which has happened my entire life), and they say something ignorant like, “you have soul. You must have some black in you,” I just roll my eyes. 

No…I have a lifetime of holy-ghost-tent-revivals in me. And that is culture. MY culture. And culture is fluid. You’re welcome to my culture.

Go to Cracker Barrel and have some beans and cornbread. Go to church on Sunday, run the aisles and jump some pews. Sing hymns till you’re hoarse and your ears are ringing. 

Clap your hands until they’re red. The pray in the alter till you finally “break through.” Then, head downstairs for some suspect potato salad, cold fried chicken and Diabetes-kickstarting banana pudding. 

That is TOTAL cultural appropriation…and you’re welcome to it as far as I’m concerned. My culture isn’t precocious about itself. We’re happy to have you. 

James Naismith invented the game of basketball. But I sure did love watching Michael Jordan play it.

J.S. Bach invented the well-tempered clavier (piano) and the A-440 scale, which is the basis for ALL western music. And I love how Ray Charles twisted and turned it. 

Ray took Bach’s “culture” and appropriated it in a cool new way…which then became part of my culture. And that’s how culture works.   

Some people are just hell bent on separating humans into small groups. And no matter how close we get to the unity of mankind, they are going to try and keep us apart. Because nothing is more terrifying than giving up your crutch of “group” and standing alone as an individual. 

So, the weak ones keep the groups at each others throats. There’s safety in that, I suppose. 

Also, never underestimate the lengths to which collectivists will go to demonize the making of money. “Cultural appropriation” shaming is just another tool in the socialist tool box of shutting down commerce. 

But maybe one day, we’ll stop all this nonsense and realize that we only get farther along when we learn from each other and share recipes and beats and language and ideas. 

And let the “property” be the individual’s – not the collective’s. 

A culture that understands this…and its own fluidity…is a culture I can get behind.  

R

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