Laws Promoting Cultural Diversity in the US.
The United States of America is perceived to be democratic and loyal to its citizen. In fact, many are the times that it is taunted as “the land of the brave and the free”. There is also the notion of the “American dream” which tends to insinuate that everyone is equal and is offered a fair chance to pursue long life dreams regardless of their race, color, origin, religion, gender or age among many other factors (Feagin, 2013).
The American Constitution provides the basis of ensuring its citizens enjoy all the rights and liberties that protects this country equally and fairly. There are many laws that seek to promote unity of this nation regardless of different diversity factors. This includes cultural diversity for people from all walks of life can get to enjoy the same rights, freedoms and liberties regardless of their culture. Culture can be defined as a way of thinking, working, or behavior that is existent in a given society. Culture continues through generations’ transition through groups, institutions, individual, and interpersonal behavior. In simple terms, culture is the complete range of acquired human behavior patterns.
These laws touch on all sectors in the United States of America. They also apply to all the three aspects of life: economic aspect, political aspect as well as cultural ones. Therefore, if one were to tackle each law by itself, right to life would be the perfect one as it is one of the most basic laws of mankind. In the US, this law can be interpreted as one which seeks to promote diversity since everyone in this country has right to life regardless of their origin, color, race, religion, gender, age, social status and creed (Lambert, 2005). This is also among all other diverse physical, mental and psychological features. Therefore, right to life is a primary law that promotes diversity in this nation regardless of all the different features found among its citizens. The same case applies to all other rights and freedoms in this country for they seek to protect every citizen in this country equally. After all, this notion promotes first hand democracy. The American dream and the slogan of “the home of the free and the brave” also seek to promote the same thing.
Having established that every law in this law, right or freedom that promotes equality in this country promotes cultural diversity, it is essential to discuss an essential culture such as the American culture in a deeper context. White culture is the most predominant one in the United States and sometimes it seems to be more supported by any laws and liberties that seem to promote diversity in this country. While culture is a formidable tool for human survival, it is a very delicate concept. Human beliefs, values, and aesthetics spring from ingrained teachings and cultural assumptions that might be unconscious or conscious. Culture is continuously changing and quickly lost because it exists primarily in the human minds. Governments, written languages, buildings, and other synthetic things do not constitute culture in themselves. They are merely the results or products of culture. Racial representation and racial imagery are crucial to the composition and organization of the modern world (Hitchcock, 2011). However, while there are several studies of mannerisms of Asian and black people, whiteness remain an indiscernible racial position. At the racial representation level, whites cannot be considered to be of a certain race. They constitute a race and a color against which the scrutiny of other ethnicities is possible.
There is no genetic distinction between individuals of different skin colors, whether white, Hispanic, Asian, or black. Studies suggest that all human share 99.99 percent of the genetic code irrespective of an individual’s race. As a result, race appears to be a social concept rather than a scientific one. According to Painter (2010), the concept of whiteness is a social construct that is complex going back to the Romans Dynasties. Painter gives an account of the evolution of the notion of whiteness, from the ancient Roman Empire where she explains that the slaves were mostly white, to the present day. She explains how, in the wake of Obama era, the once narrow notion of whiteness has straight away become broader and less significant than ever before. The christening of some ethnic groups such as the Scandinavians and the Germans as “whiter” is mostly attributable to a small clique of researchers who had a common fascination with both assessing people’s skulls and isolating those that they termed as “most good-looking.”
Demographic and social turmoil over the past two centuries have progressively discredited many of these suppositions. Slave-owning colonialists first employed the term “white” during the seventeenth century in Virginia and Maryland to describe deprived indentured servants from Europe (Lamont, 1999). At first, the colonialists used the terms “Irishmen,” “Christians,” or “Englishmen.” However, the term “whites” was later used to make a distinction between European servants and those of African descent, who were frequently called “Negro,” a Spanish term that means “black.” In 1691, the Virginia legislature came up with the term “white” as a legal distinction following a series of mutiny by both African and European servants, which culminated in the 1676 Bacon’s Rebellion that almost crippled the colonial rule. The slave code of 1705, and more specifically the Act relating to servants and slaves, granted certain legislative rights and privileges to poor ‘whites’ (Lambert, 2005). These included the right to institute legal action against their masters, the immunity from punishment by public whipping, and “freedom dues” (wages) or a little parcel of land upon the completion of their servitude.
The same legislature also enacted laws that provided the solid foundations for chattel servitude for slaves of African descent. From this point forward, and all through the history of the U.S., being “white” has been associated with having access to some forms of privileged treatment and exclusion from racial repression purely based on their European ancestry and supposed “white” skin. Therefore, the concepts of “white privilege” and “white persons” have common institutional and historical roots. Both terms are contrived, historical constructions to meet political ends. They were meant to create a rift between subjugated people based on their ancestral origins and skin color to prevent them from joining hands against common oppressors.
White supremacy refers to a historically based and institutionally perpetrated system of domination and exploitation of nations and persons of other ethnicities by the European continent and by people who perceive themselves as white (Feagin, 2013). This exploitation has been carried out with the aim of creating, sustaining, and preserving a system of power, privilege, and wealth. In the same manner, white culture is a synthetic, historically fabricated culture that expresses, rationalizes, and unites the white supremacy system within the United States. It refers to the cultural template and bond that holds the white-controlled institutions into intricate systems, and these systems into a further global system of white supremacy. Since the Second World War, the white culture in the U.S. has been at the center of focus with respect to the global white culture. Nonetheless, there are many other cultures in the United States aside from the white culture. These include a diversity of Asian cultures, African-Caribbean and African-American, Indigenous Hawaiian, Latino and Chicano, Arabic cultures, and manifestations of several European people. However, white culture remains dominant.
For a culture to qualify as dominant, it must have some inherent characteristics. Power is a key determinant of a dominant culture. In this context, power insinuates the capacity to delineate reality and to persuade other people to accept this delineation. First, a dominant culture defines an individual. For instance, white culture describes “colored people” as “non-white.” Secondly, a dominant culture has a tendency to change one’s behavior, attitudes, values, and ways of thinking. The third aspect of a dominant culture is that it unconsciously or consciously stifles and subjugates other cultures. For instance, slave owners deliberately stifled African spirituality and instructed Africans on the Christian way of life to make them compliant and submissive. In some instances, employers may sack employees for speaking Spanish while promoting those speaking English or French.
White culture produces carefully controlled and racial emotions in both white and black people. For the black people, the internalized racism may occasion feelings of reduced self-esteem and a suspicion of fellow black people. The outcome of persistent, general racism may lead to emotions of subdued and volatile anger. On most occasions, the anger is vented on other people of the same ethnicity. On some occasions, it may come out as a communal outburst, such as was the case during the Los Angeles Uprising. The continued suppression of rage can be detrimental to an individual’s physical and psychological health. For the white people, there is a common feeling of powerlessness and guilt, a feeling that is a mixture of hatred, contempt, apprehension, and enthrallment particularly for the African-American culture (Lambert, 2005). In the United States, whites earn the second highest personal and household incomes by cultural background. They also have the highest average income per household member because white Americans have the smaller households compared to other racial groups.
The average individual income for white Americans aged twenty-five and above in 2006 was $33,000. Those employed full time and aged between twenty-five and sixty-four years earned an average income of $34,432 (Painter, 2010). New racial and statistical identities born out of the new census data indicated that Africa-Americans made up twelve percent of the population and constituted thirty percent of the total prison population. Even though discriminatory punishment, specially designed race-mindful legislation, and new kinds of racial surveillance had been introduced by the 1890s in an attempt to restrain black freedom, most white social scientists introduced the new crime data as irrefutable, objective, and color blind. From this point, pervasive notions about colored people as criminals characterized the national debates regarding the elemental cultural and racial differences between black persons, native whites and the white Americans of European descent. For the white Americans of all ideological backgrounds, from the northern progressives to the radical southern racists, the criminality of the African-American became an accepted reason for rationalizing discriminatory treatment, prejudicial thinking, and the endorsement of racial violence as a means of ensuring public safety.
White culture has been responsible for stereotyping the behavior and figures of whites. A frequent method involves taking some cultural attributes that have resulted from several centuries of institutionalized white privileges and externalizing them as the outcome of the person’s individual, gallant efforts (Feagin, 2013). For instance, a descendant of a European immigrant may be described as having acquired wealth and power exclusively through hard work and moral resilience. However, the truth is that in addition to hard work, European immigrants have historically been accorded certain privileges that colored people (whether indigenous or immigrants) have been historically denied. White culture forms some kind of white bonding. This refers to the cross class loyalty and sense of duty that ruling class whites have with the repressed non-ruling class of whites. This sense of duty has its foundations on European ancestry and the “white skin.” Therefore, in as much as all laws in the United States seem to promote culture diversity, this country is not there yet for some cultures still enjoy some superior liberties.
Feagin, J. R. (2013). The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter- Framing. New York: Routledge. 195
Hartigan, J. (2005). Odd Tribes: Toward a Cultural Analysis of White People. Durham, UK: Duke University Press.
Hitchcock, J. (2011). Lifting the White Veil: A Look at White American Culture. Roselle, NJ: Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books.
Lambert, D. (2005). White Creole Culture, Politics, and Identity During the Age of Abolition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Lamont, M. (1999). The Cultural Territories of Race: Black and White Boundaries. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Painter, N. I. (2010). The history of White people. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.