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Culture and Identity
- Weed out those not willing to conform to the group’s behaviors, attitudes, and values,
- Create a sense of self-doubt, discord, or disconnectedness that results in a willingness to learn from and accept the group,
- Create a sense of obligation and thankfulness that ties the individual to the group,
- Create a sense of accomplishment and inclusion when a person successfully completes the initiation rites, and
- Create bonds between the initiates who went through the experience together.
Ethnicity & Race
In the United States both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences. With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups. Evidence from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups. Conventional geographic "racial" groupings differ from one another only in about 6% of their genes. This means that there is greater variation within "racial" groups than between them. In neighboring populations there is much overlapping of genes and their phenotypic (physical) expressions. Throughout history whenever different groups have come into contact, they have interbred. The continued sharing of genetic materials has maintained all of humankind as a single species (American Anthropological Association 1998).
We tend to separate people into ethnic categories, but we often use racial terms to identify these categories. Thus, one talks about “black” culture or “white” culture as if the color of one’s skin is somehow connected to one’s behavior. While the connection is clearly not genetic, it is real nonetheless. An example can be found in the 2008 presidential election when then-candidate Obama was criticized by some leaders in the African American community for not being “black enough.” Clearly, they were not talking about his skin color, but rather his lived experiences as a person of color. Obama didn’t go through the “typical” black experience of discrimination and the social injustice that goes along with it, because he was raised by a white family in biologically and ethnically diverse Hawaii... Using racial labels like “black” or “white” as shorthand for ethnic experiences may be useful and even necessary for Americans when talking about race. However, it also keeps alive the centuries-old essentialist notions about race and behavior (Brown 2010: 74).