Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry busted into the decade with the most jaw-dropping life example of breaking culture. I do have to say that I predicted it, but hey, I’m not always right on these things. They are leading the way along with African American author, Stacy Patton who is making friends and enemies in her push to get Black Americans to eliminate spanking as a way of culture sanctioned discipline and Dwayne Wade who is taking fatherhood, Black fatherhood in particular, to an entirely new level laden with controversy. His very public support for his son in her use of she, her pronouns and the embracing of an identity different than the one given at birth has caused a storm among the masses, both for and against him.
If this is all too much for you already, don’t stop reading, let me try to ease you in a bit more.
I write regularly about breaking culture and I encourage us to look for opportunities to do it as often as we can. The meaning that I attach to the term “breaking culture” is to question an aspect of culture or a cultural norm in order to break out and do things differently. I am not advocating turning your back on your culture although some folks will accuse you of that. I am challenging us to test the flexibility and fluidity of cultural norms and beliefs because culture affects almost every aspect of our lives and therefore provides unlimited opportunities for conflict. Given how poor we are at engaging in and resolving conflicts, it will require tremendous effort to break culture, but we must in order to continue to move forward as a nation and a world.
When I say that culture affects almost every aspect of our lives, I am understating its influence. “Culture is that which shapes us, it shapes our identity and influences our behavior. It refers to the shared language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviors and material objects passed down from one generation to the next…” is how one article describes it. It essentially shapes the way we look at and interact with the world especially with those who we deem to be different from us. Because of culture, so many of us measure the words and actions of others with our cultural measuring sticks and often see them as wrong when it is not in keeping with our culture. When we are part of the dominant culture, those outside of it are rarely considered and the world is viewed as needing to see things in accordance with the dominant beliefs and values. Both of these ways of wielding culture cause conflicts on a daily basis that often go unacknowledged.
You don’t have to agree with everything that is happening, but in a changing world seeking to understand is going to go a long way. The examples I opened with are hard-hitting in their challenge to norms and beliefs but at the same time, they present us with the opportunity to listen, learn, challenge ourselves and prepare ourselves for a decade that may very well be like no other we have seen when it comes to breaking culture.
Whether bracing yourself or welcoming the change, I want us to be ready for some of the conflicts that will undoubtedly arise.
1. The Concept of Respect Will Be Challenged
Respect seems to be a universal requirement of human beings and rightfully so, but how far does one go in showing respect without losing themselves? That is a question that is going to be questioned continuously if we are intent on examining culture and what it means to break it without discarding it totally. I spent my childhood and teen years doing what I was taught by my parents which was respecting my elders regardless of how they regularly disrespected me. I have to tell you I had a problem with that and I still do. If those breaking culture are asking for your respect and your inclination is not to give it while insisting on it for yourself unconditionally, there are going to be some problems. So, you might want to think long and hard about that one.
2. You’re Breaking “Our Custom” Will Be a Common Battle Cry
It is impossible to live in such an eclectic society without running into conflict over customs that are held dear and impenetrable. Our rituals, languages, religions, and celebrations all give cause for joyous coming together as well as tense conflict. Asking folks to change long-held customs and beliefs is akin to requesting that they detach limbs in many cases and yet, folks are indeed asking. There will be a need to honestly examine some customs, their roots and their necessity. I am intrigued by the thought of what Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan will find out about the culture they are breaking and the long-held beliefs and their applicability to their current life.
3. Everything Is Offensive These Days
Already a popular refrain carrying over from the last decade, I hear from cultural gatekeepers or folks who claim they just don’t want to say the wrong thing. It seems to them that everything one says is offensive to somebody these days. Well, not really. While the waters of culture and context may be challenging to navigate, there’s nothing that thoughtful inquiry, conversation, deep listening and ongoing pulling together and working to understand each other won’t cure. But not enough of that was done last decade because fear, not the cat, has our collective tongues. When one is confronted with the information that you have offended someone else, listening to understand always beats countering with being offended.
We have some hard and necessary conversations coming up in this new decade and most of us are not ready for them so I will do my best in this new year to prepare us. The willingness to see cultural conflicts and to break culture are ways to meet the resistance to the difference that is rising and create opportunities to understand each other and create some new norms together. I want to see us take on this challenge and crush it even when it is hard.
Buckle up folks!!!
If you want to do the work with me, I am starting another session of my group for White people who would like real leadership, guidance, knowledge and calling you in to look at your stuff, but also helping you get out there to have these conversations at home, in the workplace, at school, in your communities, on social media or with those family members who just don’t get it. Here’s the link… https://theconflictcloser.com/matter-of-race2