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Response to Racism #2: Americulture
 

Background

A broad initiative against racism requires actions on both micro and macro levels. Whereas Family Cultural Exchange Clubs (FCECs), could be expected to make headway toward reversing racism on the micro level through one-by-one, case-by-case, family-by-family success, it should be complemented by a broader societal approach. A macro level program should initiate a broader assault on racism, and become evident through virtually all aspects of popular culture.

American society currently suffers from a fragmented culture that is increasingly divided on racial, cultural, and ethnic lines. It has created a de facto segregation of cultural preferences and tastes. On the one hand, this diversity is one of our greatest strengths. It would truly be a tragedy if the “melting pot” concept had prevailed to the extent that the distinguishing elements of its component parts became invisible, or were abandoned.

Yet, cultural segregation is one of the conditions that exacerbates our current racial and ethnic tensions. All too frequently, groups simply do not understand each other and cannot relate to each other’s cultures. Observing the demographic composition of audiences and crowds at various performances, celebrations, and events, the evidence of this is readily apparent. If one were to attend performances of the opera, a leading rap artist, a major salsa band, and an alternative rock club, very different audiences would be found. Comparing the racial and ethic viewership statistics of cable channels such as BET, Univision, and the ABC Family Channel could lead to similar conclusions.

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Ideas / Solutions

There is a distinct opportunity to create an alternative that brings people together. The aromatic accents of our many subcultures could easily coexist alongside a “unification culture”, which fuses diverse characteristics into one culture that is shared by, and appealing to, all groups. In contrast with the natural evolution of culture, which usually develops incrementally and randomly due to the influences of individual contributors, a united culture could be consciously manufactured. The creation of an “Americulture” could bridge the gap between groups, bringing many people together who would normally drift in differing directions. The proprietary kinship of Americulture by various racial and ethnic groups could be shared equally.

An Americulture could be developed by a large team of cultural leaders who are selected for their accomplishments within their own artistic or sociological arenas. Dominant forces in filmmaking, music, cooking, fashion, design, the Internet, linguistics / slang, animation, television, sports, business development, sociology, advertising, urban planning, the fine arts, and education could be assembled into a government-sponsored braintrust, perhaps with panels that would focus on sub-categories of interest. They could jointly construct a list of cross-cultural features and protocols that would be incorporated into the works of people who wish to be recognized as Americulture artists, creators, or participants.

A certification could be made available to any such participants, so that consumers would know that the film, restaurant, festival, website, or other production is an Americulture product. Parents, for example, may then choose shows, clothes, parks, books, street fairs, photo exhibits, music, or other events and items for their children that reflect this approach. It could encourage and help market the efforts of culturally sensitive creators.

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Certainly there are some artists that have already practiced this principle. In the music world, for example, groups such as Santana, 50 Cent, Ozomatli, and Prince have had great cross-over appeal. Even going back to the 1970s, the song "Play That Funky Music, White Boy", and the group Average White Band overtly made such an effort. And Michael Jackson was the vanguard of bridging the gap before he went too far by trying to actually become a member of all races.

But Americulture must transcend any one artistic form. A broad-based multi-disciplinary culture would appeal to a wider range of Americans and have a much more meaningful impact. Simply put, culture is more than music.

The net result would be to advance multi-cultural understanding, and introduce people to influences that they might otherwise shun. Over time, an appreciation of other cultures would emerge. This familiarity would breed a greater appreciation for not just the creations, but for the creators, and the creators’ heritage, as well.

If apprehension, alienation, and unfamiliarity are, in fact, major contributors to racial and ethnic division, then the Americulture will generate a coalescence that will help dissolve such barriers.

 
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