Culture is a word for the ‘way of life’ of groups of people, meaning the way they do things. … https://simple.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture
There are those that have a need to see everyone doing everything alike. The so called “right way.” History has shown that human characteristic to be a root cause of genocidal behaviors and wars. What if the key to bringing everyone together is understanding that every culture does things the way that is right– for them? If we can use that thought as a bridge to understand one another’s cultures, we will deepen our understanding of one another. Fortunately, cultural lines are becoming more porous. We can blame, or credit, social media, music, film, fashion trends that are transcending cultural barriers. I can’t help but think that as we experience cultural blending, we are moving closer to understanding one another as people and hopefully we can experience more peace.
My skepticism began early. At St. James Methodist Sunday School, my teacher Mr. Dabney, considered me a problem when I innocently questioned how the blonde blue-eyed Jesus in my booklet was the “only” savior. His response was “Susie, there is only one savior and we need to share him with the whole world.”
Fortunately for me, there have always been people of different cultural identities in my life. I grew up in a Chicago community called North Kenwood. In the 1950’s my neighborhood was composed of Blacks moving eastward toward Lake Michigan, Whites fleeing the neighborhood (and Blacks), and Japanese Americans, whose families a scant decade before had been confined in internment camps due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December of 1941. From my childlike perch, we all seemed to get along.
Children are like cookie dough in the hands of their parents. My stepdad exposed my sister and me to experiences that shaped our ideas of what was possible for us. He took us to rodeos, fairs, circuses, zoos, museum exhibits allowing us to absorb the rich educational and cultural experiences he provided. I devoured the set of red and blue World Book encyclopedias we owned and when I got my library card to the Blackstone Public Library, I inhaled 3-5 books weekly until high school. The world of books was my passport to travel everywhere and I did!
Language is a culture bearer. It is amazing that children are born with the capacity to speak every language; that is until we anchor them into our mother tongue and the narrow constructs of the way we think and express ourselves. As the one-time director of a childcare center and kindergarten I have watched in awe at the way young children, irrespective of race or creed, suck one another’s faces, drink from one another’s cups. They are born completely accepting of one another until we infect them with biased thoughts and transform some of our innocents into bullies.
Symbols are powerful. To me, they provide a cultural bridge to the aspirations, intentions and virtues of other cultures. In honoring the meanings of various symbols; I have worn the Christian cross, the Ankh, the Egyptian symbol of Life, the Chai, the Hebrew symbol of Life, I have worn a Claddagh ring, a Celtic symbol of love, loyalty, and friendship. My personal favorite is my much-loved Adinkra symbol Gye Nyame, from the Ghanaian culture, which represents the supremacy of God. Symbols have great power as culture bearers to lift and inspire but also have the potential to represent pain and suffering. Ironically, the Swastika, which the Nazi’s spun into a symbol of hatred has its roots in the spiritual traditions of Africa, Asia, India, among the Native American Navajo, Greek and Roman Antiquity as well as Medieval Europe. The Swastika is essentially a symbol that links most of mankind together and yet it was hatefully rebranded as a symbol of White supremacy. We do have the power to interpret cultural symbols for good or evil.
What if, we hardwire into our thinking that there is more than one right way to do a thing? What if we teach our children from birth to value their own cultural roots and simultaneously teach them to value the cultural constructs of others? What if we began to understand and embrace one another’s languages and cultural symbols? Could a melding and acceptance of our collective cultures put humanity on the bridge to really evolving. Yeah, I know, not overnight, but someday!
– Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her most recent publication is Stolen Rainbow, a short story focused on the post combat recovery of a beautiful marine captain after a devastating combat injury. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.
**Images: The attribution for the ankh came from Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1169815
Chai and gye nyame symbols were gotten from Wiki commons