I was watching a television show when someone made a comment about the difference between culture and race. It struck a chord with me. Too often, we make it the same thing when in reality they are two different beasts.

Image for post
Image for post

A race is genetic. Those who are of one race will look similar. They will possess similar skin color, hair color, facial features, and body shape and size. People of a particular race tend to come from the same physical location on the planet. Their genetics are similar and diseases are found within specialized groups.

We are all a part of one race — the human race. Aliens would see us as one, but we see each other in multiple race divisions. We further divide ourselves into groups. Those groups were based on unique features that set us apart into little units. Races became more than just human. We developed into groups that developed their own DNA traits.

Culture is something entirely different. Yes, originally one could say they were the same as cultures developed as races did. Yet as the world began to shift, cultures began to have different members. Not all people of one race could be said to be of the same culture. Not all people of one culture could be said to be of the same race. The British culture is composed of people from various races including African, Asian, Indian, and other parts of Europe. These people might have lived there for their entire life which makes everything they do a part of the British culture but their race is still denoted as from some other place.

Culture is what composes your everyday life and traditions. British culture might have everyone enjoying a social moment in the afternoon called tea. You won’t find that in America because it is a feature of the Birtish culture. Those who take tea will come from many races.

Too often, we think culture and race are interchangeable. They are not. Yes, we might see that most African Americans have a unique culture, but just because they are of African descent does not make them all the same. We can see African Americans live in an Arabic culture, an American culture, a Muslim culture, a Christian culture, or a British culture and still live in America. Those of Caucasion and Asian races might easily move within each others cultures but their races are still their own.

https://youtu.be/9mqUKK1sYFw

When we mix the two, we start trouble that shouldn’t be there. We make assumptions. People get mad. I have a friend who is from Iran. When she is called Arabic, she gets very angry. She might be Muslism, but she is Persian — not Arabic. Her race is Persian. Her culture is Persian. Her religious culture is Muslim.

Our world is getting to be more and more like a real melting pot. Races are not in specific geographical locations anymore. They are everywhere and living in a variety of cultures. Cultures themselves are starting to mingle as people move about and take their culture with them. Over time, these cultures begin to merge and form new ones. The races do the same.

When you interact with people, keep in mind that they are complex. Their backgrounds are complex. The world they live in is complex. Don’t mix race and culture.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store