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Week 3: What’s it to you?

2013 January 27
by Kira Banks

This week, we will focus our lens on culture and our own personal stories. We will reflect on the various cultural groups we belong to and how we have been socialized into our group memberships.

Our group memberships are key ways in which we “get” culture. Culture is defined as the traditions, values and norms we hold and transmit to other members of our group, which influence how we dress, what music we listen to, foods we eat, etc. Those examples are surface dimensions of culture. They are often easy to list and easy to spot. However, the deep aspects of culture (e.g., think iceberg) take more time to identify and are not as readily visible to us.

Culture is not synonymous with race, but culture and race definitely intersect. As our world is becoming more flat, you see many examples of people sharing culture and appropriating the culture of others. Most often this happens on the surface. You visit an ethnic restaurant, listen to the music of another culture, adopt a way of dress etc. Yet, those deeper, more meaningful aspects of culture often go undiscussed. For example, how often do we know the worldview, gender role norms, beliefs about healing and ideas of cleanliness of those same groups. Oftentimes those concepts remain unexamined in ourselves. The reflection exercises this week will continue the personal work of raising awareness to more effectively understand ourselves and to connect with individuals across racial lines.


Goal: To reflect on how you have been shaped and socialized through the transmission of culture.


Challenge: Complete the reflective exercises on culture and socialization. Bonus, write the poem described at the end and post your poem on Both And or in the comments section.


1. Complete the exercise.

2. Write poem about your cultural background. Start with this template, which can be expanded.

3. If time, read this short article about the perils of only staying on the surface of culture.


2 Responses leave one →
  1. Leon Sharpe permalink
    March 1, 2013

    Excellent article and activities. In promoting greater understanding across racial boundaries, I think it’s essential for us to understand how race and culture intersect. It’s also important for all of us to understand the difference between deep culture and surface culture. The story about “Taco Night,” makes a great point. Working together as a region to lose our racial baggage, has the potential to be a powerful process.

    • Kira Banks permalink*
      March 18, 2013

      Thanks, Leon. Surface culture is so much more present now, I think we often fail to acknowledge the power of deep culture and how it impacts our thinking and behavior.

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