BY CAMERYN POLK
“Your total will be $218.06,” the cashier exclaims as you take out your Vera Bradley turn lock wallet. That is culture. Not the expensive wallet with the $20 you auspiciously found on the sidewalk, thinking one used subterfuge to test your virtue, but the varied motifs of eccentric and idiosyncratic patterns that wallet is comprised of. This is how I feel when I ponder my own culture. I feel as if I have not discovered my own culture as an adolescent 15-year-old. I believe you are not born with your culture as a birthmark that never changes until your last breath of life, but you merely have to venture out into the world to find a culture that feels home, even if that is molding two different customs and values from polarizing cultures into one culture.
Furthermore, my true culture has been stripped since my ancestors were stolen in 1619 from their homeland. Indubitably, our culture has been westernized and shaped to fit a certain standard. But that did not stop the revolutionized and revitalized Black culture we know of today. Although I feel closer to Black culture, one experience has influenced me to learn about another culture.
I was introduced to the Chinese language in a Chinese course at my local middle school. Not knowing what the course would exude, it was simply another A to earn. On the contrary, this class has taught me so much more about the Chinese culture and customs I wish to explore. On one occasion, my teacher entered me into a Chinese cultural dance competition in which my team and I came in 2nd place. I knew at this moment that I had a fascination with Chinese culture. This event had profoundly impacted me to the point in which I vehemently want to study abroad in China and would love to take Chinese courses in college to become more involved in this culture. It has also taught me Chinese mannerisms that dictate how I need to behave, socialize, and act in a specific way among certain individuals.
On the other hand, today's culture that will always stick with me is Black culture. From jazz and hip-hop to soul food and kinky afros, that is me. I do not view our oppression and subjugation as a tool that thwarts our success, but as another obstacle to overcome and memory to remember. Even as our culture is demonized and may seem egregious to others, I take great pride in who I am. Now, I do not have one particular experience that my culture has affected me on. This is because my Black culture has impacted me all of my life, and it has molded me into the individual I am now. It has made me the altruistic, respectful, diligent, modest, and versatile girl I am today. My culture affects my perceptions of others and how others perceive me. Christianity is a prominent influence on many beliefs in my culture, such as treating others with love and kindness and believing our deceased peers are dead in flesh, but their souls live on with us. We have cookouts with collard greens, yams, cornbread, and the different meat varieties in my culture. In my culture, we treat authority with reverence and take great pride in living out our family's wishes to the fullest. In my culture, we use music as a guide through our lives and art of expression. My culture has also instilled in me the manners and attitudes that I use to socialize, interact with other people, and present myself overall. As we have been anchored down and held back from success, my culture also enables me to be the best of the best and reach my full potential to thrive in my environment. From John Lewis to Claudette Colvin, Billie Holiday, and Kamala Harris, this is our culture.
Lastly, I know I previously stated I did not have just one event from my culture that impacted me, but this one stands out from the rest. In my 9th grade year of high school, I joined a Black Student Union organization with other high-esteemed black students who have taught me so much about Black culture in America. They were not the only ones who taught me. During our annual Black History Month celebration, we organized a webinar with activists Andrew Young, Leslie Redmond, and other prominent Black figures. These figures have opened my eyes to subjects and principles I turned a blind eye to and have taught me more about myself that I did not know existed. I learned more about Black plights in America and how we can progress more, as we have already taken our failures and have turned them into success. That experience has taught me how to think analytically, behave in different atmospheres, influence what I will do in my adult life to reform society, create change for the better, and more. My culture is Black culture.