The purpose of this blog is to create an outlet for SUU Communication graduate students interested in the critical analysis of popular culture artifacts to post insightful contributions to our understanding of popular culture.
Monday, January 4, 2016
Sample Blog #1
'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.
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?