As I was brainstorming ideas for this issue, the former teacher in me realized that most of the people I know have learned about culture in terms of other people. For many, culture is something exotic and foreign. Over the span of my 18 years teaching, I remembered asking my students during specific holidays to showcase dances, costumes, and foods that represented who we were as a nation.
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After moving to the US, and specifically, after having children, I thought more and more about how I could foster in them a love of Dominican culture, which would shape them as individuals and us as a multicultural family unit.
Conversations about culture happen often in my home. We have the blessing of embracing two completely different ways of life. We have different holidays, celebrate them in different ways, eat different foods, and more. I knew I had to give my children clarity so they could understand that Dominican culture was as much a part of them as it was of me.
The polarizing and painful cultural divisiveness we are experiencing in this country, I believe, is deeply rooted in a lack of understanding of who we are. I am talking about a deeper sense of self.
Our perceptions become a part of who we are regardless of if we are aware of them or not. They affect how we think, how we respond, and how we act. They create our belief systems, our cultural mores, our philosophies, and our habits.
We also carry suggestions over from our genetic heritage, from our parents and other family members, from friends and foes, and from what we have read, seen, and experienced. We carry suggestions from our environment and from all of the various institutions to which we are connected both directly and indirectly. Many of us tend to overlook the importance of tapping into a deeper level of self.
People within one culture are not all the same; they each have a unique sense of cultural identity.
This country and our world are multicultural. Not only do we all come from a range of backgrounds, each of us belongs to a range of cultural contexts, from our neighborhoods and families, schools, churches, and peer groups.
Many of us may just be waking up to or struggling to make sense of the diversity in our world. While we interpret cultural phenomena and meet cultural challenges, the more you avoid facing who we are, the more we avoid reaching our full potential as a whole.
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