What is white culture?
As an American, there’s been a lot of discussion about racial identity in many different groups. As various underrepresented and underserved groups begin to step forward and get more of the social spotlight, we are beginning to have some long-needed discussions about what role race plays (and doesn’t play) in our collective world.
One gripe that comes from racists is the lack of representation of white people or white culture. ‘If there’s a black history month, how come there isn’t a white history month’, they will ask. Turns out there is…sort of. March is Irish history month. April is Scottish history. July is French, September is German, the list goes on. But these are specific ethnic groups; what about white culture as a whole?
What IS white culture?
If we take the ethnocentric stance that white culture is somehow the ‘default’, that it is the presiding pop culture of America, then…that may not work out well for white people (whom, just for full disclosure, I am a part of). See, American culture has a long history of appropriation. Now, appropriation is a loaded term these days that can get misused and overused, but it basically boils down to cultural plagiarism. A community says ‘hey, we do this thing’, and then somebody else (usually a white person), says ‘hey, I’m doing to start doing this thing’ without any kind of credit to those who did it first. Now, cultural appropriation versus cultural diffusion is a discussion for another, so let’s just focus on that appropriation part.
Going back to what many may argue is the seed of ‘modern times’, we go back to the 1950s with rock ‘n roll. Rock ‘n roll is black culture. It started with jazz and gospel, mixing in a bit of blue grass. It was largely epitomized by the likes of Rosetta Tharpe, but was distilled by Chuck Berry…until Elvis Presley came along. Sun Records manager Sam Phillips was famous for saying “If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars”. And he did. He leveraged Elvis’ whiteness into history.
We’ll see it again in the 1970s. Disco didn’t really exist as a major cultural force until the 1977 film, Saturday Night Fever. Popularizing the New York dance club scene, much of the film actually shows style and fashion that was inspired by and based off the New York homosexual community. Thus disco etiquette that absolutely dominated America at the start of the 1980s was as much an emulation of the homosexual fashion and style as rock ‘n roll was of the black music four score earlier. Almost the exact same thing would happen in the 1990s, when techno, trance, and all forms of electronic dance music would come to the forefront. Once again, white American cultural at large was discovering, the underground gay community had been doing for years before.
These incidents are just a handful in white culture’s long history of appropriating minority communities’ existing styles and even substances, all in an effort to create something ‘new’. As such, looking at this, one has to wonder just what is white culture? Because this evidence seems to suggest we, white people, have none. And the closest thing we have is that of a parasite, constantly feeding off of whatever thing we can find and then claiming it as our own until we burn out on it entirely.