Monday, January 4, 2016

Sample Blog #1

American Culture

'Merica - Disclaimer: I will not be writing about any of these items. 

I do not believe America has a distinct culture. I will go into detail about why I have come to this conclusion, but to do so, I will provide some insight into my background, particularly my childhood and family life. There are other ideas that I do not address in this post that shape (or fail to shape) American culture, but my ideas come from family and ethnicity so I will be addressing those here.

I don’t know the exact year my father came to the United States from the Philippines, but I do know he became a citizen in 1993. My mother was born in California and she would be considered “white.”
Shortly after my brother was born, my grandmother (father’s mother) came to live with us. It is traditional in most Asian countries for parents to live with their children and their spouses. So naturally, she came to live with us. Well, my mom didn’t quite understand this concept having never been exposed to it herself because America is an individualistic country. My grandmother and my uncle lived with us for most of my childhood. It was a very different upbringing than a typical American family, but that leads me to think, “what is normal?”

What is a normal American Family? Is it a mom, dad, and two kids? Does the mom make breakfast every morning and take the kids to school? Does the dad come home from work at night to dinner already on the table? Do they all sit around and talk about their day while they eat? This is the image portrayed in most television shows about American families, but this was never reflective of my family. Naturally, I started to believe that my family was weird and when I grew up and had my own family, we would be “normal” family. As we have evolved as a society, this image has changed and the idea of normal has been challenged. Look at the show Modern Family and you can see how complicated family roles truly are. By no means is this show perfect, but it is a step closer to showing the public that a family does not fit into one specific mold.

So if families don’t have to all look the same, how does that affect American culture? My idea is that American culture is not set in stone by any means. It differs vastly from city to city, state to state, and region to region. The culture in Utah is certainly not reflective of America as a whole but it does play its own piece. Living in Los Angeles is different from New York City and each of those are different from what Cedar City culture is.

Part of the problem of America not having a distinct culture comes from our desire to cling to our ethnic backgrounds. If you ask someone where they are from they are likely to answer in two fashions: 1) I am from (hometown) 2) I am part (ethnicity). Why do we feel the need to distinguish we are 50% Italian, 25% German, 15% Dutch, and 10% English? This question always raised issues for me. I was clearly 50% Filipino but when I asked my mom’s side of the family where we were from, I always got the same answer: Heinz 57 (not a ketchup brand, my grandma was implying I was a mix of things). I was not curious for personal reasons, but because it was expected in school. In elementary school there was an assignment where we had to research our ethnic background and present on it. What was I going to do with Heinz 57? The problem is, I know I am half Filipino and half “white” but what does that actually mean in terms of my culture?

I know a little bit about Filipino culture, particularly the food and some other little customs. I know a little bit of Tagalog, but not enough to keep up in a conversation. I’ve visited the Philippines, but it has been almost 13 years since the last time I was there. I don’t feel as if I know enough about Filipino culture to consider myself Pinoy.

On the other hand, I do feel comfortable with considering myself as “white” because I was mainly raised by my mother. Part of that comes from that I remember more about my home life from after the time my father passed away. Once he was gone, it felt like I would never have that chance to really understand Filipino culture. It never made an impact in my daily life and to be honest, it is easier to be a white person in America. The only problem with identifying as “white” is my skin tone. People see me and assume I’m Mexican or some other form of Hispanic. I once had a friend tell me that I was the poster child of white appropriation. I thought to myself, how could that be if I am white? (I have more ideas about the “white girl” culture that I will address another time.)

Eventually, I started telling people I was American. That is the beauty of America. It was meant to be a “melting pot” - a blend of many different cultures. I’m not advocating that everyone should forget their ancestry. Instead, think about what it means to be an American.

Discussion Questions:
1) What do you think American culture is? Where did you get these ideas?
2) Did your childhood or family life shape your views on American culture? How? 
3) When people ask, “What are you?” do you think we should continue providing each percentage of our heritage or answer “American?” Is it important to keep distinguishing our ties to these other ethnicities, even if we don’t practice their same customs? 


  1. When I think of American culture my mind goes directly to those that immigrated here in the 1800’s 1900’s. I think of Europeans looking for a fresh start living in cramped conditions in the New York area yet somehow feeling grateful to be alive. I think of men setting out to make their situations better for them their families. I think of Edison and JP Morgan. We learned in school about these men and the American dream to own a house and twp cars and lots of stuff. Life was meant to be worked for and the more you worked the more you could have. I learned from my parents about having honor and to do what is deemed best. I heard stories of my grandfather migrating from Kansas to California during the dust bowl working as a dock worker then eventually starting his own plumbing business. My dad is also a plumber and an entrepreneur. My parents coming from an uneducated back ground pushed us as kids to become educated in hopes of getting a good paying job. I guess I have a bit of an entrepreneur spirit in me because currently I’m a hair stylist myself, I have never been to keen on working traditional jobs.

    In the last five years I have read a lot of books on opinions about the economy. My biggest influence comes from the writings of Buckminster Fuller and Seth Godin. Some people see these men as fanatics while I see them as ones who color outside the lines. Even though I learned about men who strove to find a better life the common theme I seemed to get was that those men had laid the foundation for us now and the best way to live life is through a good steady job. It bothered me that I did not enjoy conformity. Has anyone else struggled with aligning themselves with the contemporary ideas of the American dream such as buying a house and having a salaried job? I sure have, I am satisfied with my path now, maybe because I feel more aligned with those who immigrated and were doing the best they could not just trying to compete with others.

    My family is also a bit of a mixture but we do have a large piece of Scottish blood running through our veins. There was a point when people asked what are you? I use to say I was over 50 percent Scottish now I don’t put as much emphasis on it. I think I’m currently more concerned with the ancestry of my grandparents and what they did in their lives. I feel like I can trace some of my quirks and attributes to them and I am interested much more in how they conducted their lives, how they were parents, what they did for a living, etc.

  2. Evan,
    Great response to the posed question.
    I used to say the same thing when people asked me years ago where my ancestors came from,...50% this and so on. I don't do it anymore. Like you say why emphasize that now in our day and age? Do people really care?
    I am also interested in searching out my families ancestry, and I find lots of interesting facts; that for the most part our younger generation can't even relate to.

  3. American culture is as dynamic as our country and communities itself. However, to me at least, the makeup of families is only facet of an area's culture. Therefore, it makes sense that since our culture is so ever changing, that there would be no societal "norm" for the family make up.

    When the shows "Leave it to Beaver" and "The Brady Bunch" aired on television there was most certainly a firmer sense of normality in the family unit. Within pop culture today there is rarely even a sense of family norms, or the traditional family unit now though. This can be seen in movies like "Step Brothers" or "Dan in Real Life," or “The Family Stone”.

    In chapter one of Brummet the author clearly explains the point that is being emphasized. That cultures are, "highly complex and overlapping." The text goes on to say that cultures can be very broad, they give the example of being American, or very small, such as the culture of SUU.

    The text also goes on to explain that there are two ways to thing of cultures in their complexity. The first is to recognize that there exist a, “great many things that go into making up the system of artifacts that is a culture.” The second way to consider the overlapping tendencies of culture is to acknowledge that, “there are simply not any ‘whole ways of life’ in which we immerse ourselves exclusively. We stand within a complex structure of ways of life, identifying with many different groups that may have very little in common with each other.”

    Now that is has been established that families exist only as a part or aspect of a culture. The opening statement that America does not have a distinct culture really cannot be considered accurate. Not to argue that America does or does not have a distinct culture, but since families are the only aspect of culture discussed in this post, a more accurate statement would be, “the culture of families in America is not consistent.”

    (Disclaimer: I didn’t answer a specific discussion question, but wanted to address a larger aspect of the post- hope that’s okay)

  4. Anddddd I just watched the video and realized we're not supposed to respond to the samples :(