The cult of culture

CULTURE!  Mmmph!  What is it good for?  Absolutely nothing!

Subtitle:  A very long meandering rant.  Get out now while you still can.

What is culture?

Culture of a way of life. Culture is about connection. Culture is “living, breathing human beings” (more on that later).  Culture is the air we breathe. It surrounds us; it is everywhere.  Culture binds us to others.

First and foremost, culture is a lived experience.

This is what culture means to me.

Often I find that my thoughts solidify when they clash with other viewpoints. Recently I have been thinking about culture a great deal because of my exposure (heh) to white adoptive parents. As a result, I’ve been thinking about how I define culture by what it is as well as what it is not.

I often find other people’s conceptions of culture lacking.  Culture is not merely owned by brown people.  We are not the only ethnic people.  Our ethnicity, our heritage and our culture are not add-ons.

Culture is not a knickknack you pick up on vacation. Culture is not the display of an object or a people. Culture is not inherently contained in things. Culture is not a toe-dip and a quick retreat.  Culture is not looking at people. Culture is not an optional yearly visit or an afterthought.

The proper descriptive term for these would be cultural tourism.   Not culture.

It appears that many adoptive parents now endorse the idea that an adopted child should be exposed to his or her culture. But what does this mean in practice?

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The privilege of words

So a law professor with a household income above $250,000 blogged about how his family is  “just getting by despite seeming to be rich.”

Among other things, he writes that after taxes, private school fees, school loans, investments, lawn care services, house cleaners, child care and other expenses, they have “less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income.” Also he bemoans the fact they aren’t able to “evade” their taxes.

Google cache has the full post. You can comment on this bit of privilege here.

Other than the obvious privilege, he demonstrates a lack of understanding about the tax proposal.  But hey, why let facts get in the way?

Anyway, he gets roundly excoriated by the blogosphere and deletes the post.  And announces he is no longer blogging.

The electronic lynch mob that has attacked and harassed me — you should see the emails sent to me personally! — has made my family feel threatened and insecure  …  To those with pitchforks trying to attack me instead of my message, I feel sorry for you. You have caused untold damage to me personally. I may be wrong, even stupid, but I don’t think I deserved that.

Got that? The lynch mob with their pitchforks. Continue reading

Intercountry adoption

Article about British politician David Miliband adopting two children from the U.S.  His wife is an American citizen.  Various news reports suggest Miliband adopted from the U.S.  because the process is easier than in the UK and newborns are available.

The State Department reports that for 2009, 12,753 children immigrated to the U.S. with adoptions finalized overseas or to be adopted.  I suspect this does not include children who immigrated under humanitarian parole.  A majority of the kids from Ethiopia, India, the Philippines and South Korea immigrated without finalized adoptions.  Ethiopia had 2,105 kids with unfinalized adoptions and 164 with finalized adoptions.  India’s numbers were 276 and 21.  Philippines-227 and 53.  South Korea had 1,077 unfinalized adoptions and two finalized.

Overall, children with unfinalized adoptions represented 37.3 percent of all adoptions.  When I ran the 2007 numbers, it was 29.7 percent.  I’d guess the increase is due to the change in popularity of a specific country, most likely Ethiopia.

This suggests that citizenship may be a significant issue for children from these countries, since children who immigrate without finalized adoptions do not receive automatic citizenship.  Additionally, the large number of children who immigrated from Haiti with humanitarian parole are also at risk.

I’ve seen estimates that suggest around 500 U.S. children are adopted every year by citizens of another country.  This is a very difficult number to track and the 2009 report is the first time I recall seeing figures.  The report states, “From October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009 26 children emigrated from the United States for the purposes of adoption.”  (See the Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Report at adoption dot state dot gov.)

“‘DADT’ affects women, minorities more”

Not that it’s a surprise.  Story here.

The ban has disproportionately affected minorities and women. The latest data, compiled by the gay rights group Servicemembers United from Defense Department numbers, shows that in 2008, 45% of troops discharged under ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ were minorities, while minorities were 30% of the service. Women accounted for 34% of the discharges but were 14% of the military.

There’s more:

Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith says the military does not know why there is a disproportionate number of discharges for minorities and women and, under the ban, can’t look into it.

Note: The press release from Servicemembers United is dated 9/10/2009.  So news travels slowly, apparently.

See? Told ya!

Subtitled: In which resistance boasts shamelessly

So two social neuroscientists at University of Toronto-Scarborough conducted a study which they concluded demonstrates that people’s brains react differently to people of other races. There are implications for empathy.  From Science Daily:

“Previous research shows people are less likely to feel connected to people outside their own ethnic groups, and we wanted to know why,” says Gutsell. “What we found is that there is a basic difference in the way peoples’ brains react to those from other ethnic backgrounds. Observing someone of a different race produced significantly less motor-cortex activity than observing a person of one’s own race. In other words, people were less likely to mentally simulate the actions of other-race than same-race people”

The trend was even more pronounced for participants who scored high on a test measuring subtle racism, says Gutsell.

“The so-called mirror-neuron-system is thought to be an important building block for empathy by allowing people to ‘mirror’ other people’s actions and emotions; our research indicates that this basic building block is less reactive to people who belong to a different race than you,” says Inzlicht.

One small problem: Continue reading