What Do Notions of Race or Cultural Superiority Serve?

This blogpost first appeared in the L.A. Public Library website on July 29, 2016: http://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/blogs/lapl/what-do-notions-race-or-cultural-superiority-serve

Ideas of racial/cultural purity or superiority are alive and well in the United States. These are oppressive, non-biological, and unnatural concepts, pushed on us like other lies and illusions in our society. This wouldn’t matter much except people believe them. The Atlantic Review in 2007 published the results of the Pew Global Attitudes Survey that showed more than half of U.S. respondents claimed their culture was superior to others, more than respondents in Canada, Spain, Germany, France, Britain, and Sweden about their own cultures.

Another prejudice is expressed with the misnomer “Western Culture.” While this term may not be solely about race, I’ve heard it used to mean “white” or Caucasian without explicitly using those words. 

For example, Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King remarked during the recent Republican Convention: “Go back through, history… where are these contributions made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes then asked, “Than white people?” King responded, “Western civilization itself, rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the United States, and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world.”

Unfortunately, Hayes didn’t challenge King’s assertions. He called them “self-refuting.” But they need to be challenged. For as wrong as King may be, there are whole infrastructures in our country that keep these ideas palpitating. Even presidential nominees espouse them. 

Let’s be clear: “Western” culture or civilization is a made-up concept. What we consider Western Culture was not born in a vacuum or developed solely by “white” people. For thousands of years, Europeans appropriated other people’s cultures.

From Africa and the Middle East came three of the world’s great religions—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The first “cradles of civilization” (where the conditions converged to establish forms of writing, agriculture, architecture, governance, and more) were the Niger River (Nigeria), the Nile Valley (Egypt), Tigris and Euphrates rivers (Mesopotamia), Indus Valley (India), Yellow River (China), Mexico and Central America (Olmecs/Toltecs/Mayas/Aztecs), and the Andes (Incas/Quechuas). None were in Europe. 

From South and East Asia came Buddhism, paper, fireworks, oranges, porcelain, fishing reels, suspension bridges, tea, medicine, and much more. From Native peoples of the so-called Americas, who lived here for at least 30,000 years before Europeans arrived, the world obtained corn, tomatoes, chocolate, avocados, potatoes, rubber, gum, hummingbirds, forms of democracy, again herbal healing knowledge, and more. From Africa came musical instruments (guitars, drums, harps), mathematics, astronomy, engineering, medicine, and navigation, to name a few.

The “New World” and Africa also provided gold, silver, diamonds (and other minerals—all stolen) that made Europe a world power. To be accurate, European colonial domination in the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia did the same thing. 

And in the United States, don’t forget the “contributions” of African-based slave labor along with stolen land from Native Americans and mineral-and-oil rich territory conquered from Mexico. Free labor, free land, oil and minerals to exploit—enough to make any country “great.”

Our “culture,” therefore, is a product of the whole world. For example, if you’ve ever flown a kite, barbecued, surfed, participated in martial arts, become a cowboy, played rock-and-roll, bounced a rubber ball, chewed gum, eaten a chocolate bar, used a compass, witnessed a fireworks display, visited a library, smoked a cigarette, enjoyed a pepper, or drank coffee, then you’ve done things with origins in Africa, South and East Asia, the Middle East, and Native America. 

When I grew up, schools and other institutions hounded Mexicans and others to “assimilate” into so-called Anglo culture. In fact, the assimilation expected was to submit to world cultures rendered through the prism, often violent, of U.S. history, laws, politics, etc., including a race-and-class based lens.

To be fair, most peoples of the world have adapted to, assimilated into or appropriated from other peoples—however, few to the extent or levels as Europeans or U.S. European-based peoples have done. 

Does this mean that Europeans didn’t contribute anything meaningful? Of course not—Europeans and European-descended peoples in the U.S. and elsewhere have deep formidable imprints in modern technology, industry, science, governance, literature, and art.

Yet, this cannot be an argument for superiority. Only conquests, power dynamics, and wars have sustained such thinking. All of us from whatever culture, ethnicity, or so-called race, have added to the world’s complex development, both good and bad, both wondrous and disastrous. 

Again, you wouldn’t know this if you studied official history books or watched TV and movies. Most of these facts and history is skewed. Misrepresented. Thrown on its head.

Recently, my wife Trini and I decided to explore our ancestral DNA. We are living in pioneering times in this field, which has yielded fascinating discoveries and will become more precise as more data becomes available. Current DNA tests through online sites provide only estimates, but quite amazing results nonetheless. We did this not to find any purity or “favored” cultural relationship, but to understand where we came from (at least from the past 1,000 years). 

To provide a context, Trini and I both recognize our Native roots—Trini with the Huichol/Mexica tribes of Mexico and me with the Tarahumara/Mexica. In the U.S., we’ve worked with Native Americans (Lakota, Navajo, Chumash, and other tribes), including in spiritual and healing practices. Twenty years ago, Dine elders in the Navajo rez spiritually adopted Trini and, as a consequence, the whole family.

We also identify as working class—that class that must sell its physical or mental labor to survive. We were both born in the United States. And still, we culturally identify as Xicanx, drawing from our Mexican migrant parents, the indigenous, and expanding to include all genders and gender non-conforming members of our community. This simply situates us, providing a framework to distinguish us, not to separate or be classified into notions of superiority or inferiority. 

Yet, we know we are culturally and racially mixed—like most Mexicans. A recent genome study in Mexico showed it is one of the most diverse lands on earth. Yet, genetics proved that Mexico has more native roots (at least 60 percent, taking into account all the people) and more African (in one state, Guerrero, the people had 22 percent African descent) than is often recognized. And that Mexico has significant numbers of Europeans (Spanish and otherwise), Middle Easterners, Asians, and more.

Now a summary of our DNA results. 

Interestingly, Trini and I have similar ethnic/cultural breakdowns. The biggest chunk of our DNA is Native American (45 percent each). This is native from the whole Western Hemisphere. The tests didn’t break down Native America as well as I know they could. But for now, suffice it to say we have 45 percent DNA tied to all indigenous people of North, Central, and South America.

We also have African DNA—mine was linked to North Africa, Benin-Togo, and Mali. Trini was with Benin-Togo, North Africa, and Africa Southeastern Bantu. This makes sense due to the African presence in Mexico. We also have traces of the Middle East and Asia. With all this, we are each close to 55 to 60 percent with DNA from people of color. As for European strands, we are as diverse as you can imagine: Trini has traces of Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Western Europe, Great Britain, European Jewish. Not surprisingly, she is about a quarter from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal). But she is also 9 percent from Italy/Greece. I have traces of Western Europe, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, European Jewish, Ireland, and 8 percent from Italy/Greece. 

What threw me off is this—I’m only 13 percent from the Iberian Peninsula. I thought it would be more. But the real kicker—I have 13 percent from Great Britain (England/Scotland/Wales). I have no idea where this came from, but there you are.

Trini and I have the world in our DNA. What a wonderful racial and ethnic mix. With our DNA you can see the ongoing powerful impact of global migrant patterns, trades, wars, conquests, and other interactions humans have had over millennia. 

Trini and I are also borderless, citizens of the planet, unbounded in many ways. We come from many stories, a culture of stories, a rich tapestry of colors, flavors, tongues, skins, and imaginations. And still, our biggest DNA bloc is Native American. As we stay connected to our indigenous roots, we can also honor the rest of humanity that came together at one time or another so both of us could be born, marry, have children, and help shape the world in the most positive, healing, and liberating ways possible.

The point is—wherever anyone is, wherever they came from, they belong. No one should ever feel estranged or less than others. The earth welcomes all, acknowledges every step regardless of skin color, creed, sexual orientation, or beliefs. Only nation-states and cultural xenophobes say otherwise. It’s time our economy, politics, and governance aligned to this important truth. It’s time the world could be seen as everyone’s home and all its inhabitants—people, animals, plants, trees—as part of a greater earth family. It’s time we allowed ourselves the dignity and respect we all deserve as human beings. Anything less dishonors the sacrifice and dreams of all our ancestors. 

As the Lakota say, O’Mitakuye Oyasin—we are all related.




Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Justin Chavez
    commented 2022-08-10 19:46:36 -0700
    Excellent discussion here. I’m still trying to process all of it.
  • Mark Anthony
    commented 2021-11-19 08:33:51 -0800
    Great blog. Congratulation.
  • John Davidson
    commented 2021-10-06 03:18:04 -0700
    Many people, even some within the church of Jesus Christ, claim that notions of race or cultural superiority are inherently sinful. But I believe this is not true. Yes, racism has been used in the past to justify cruel and evil behavior against others, but this does not mean that all ideas of racial or cultural supremacy are sinful. In fact, I believe that notions of race and/or cultural superiority can serve a very positive role in society when properly understood and applied. Anyway, thank you for sharing this post and please visit http://www.goldcoastcommercialcleaning.com.au/ for the best commercial cleaning services in Gold Coast, QLD.
  • Roman Corina
    commented 2020-09-24 03:47:51 -0700
    Cînd îl apuca durerile, nimeni nu-i putea intra în voie. Cine mai

    îndrăznea să s-apropie de el? Comanda ră- mînea atunci pe seama
    locotenentului. https://vhan.net
  • Roman Corina
    commented 2020-09-24 03:46:59 -0700
    I just want to complete a quick comment as a way to express gratitude to you personally for all those wonderful pointers you’re posting at this site https://bankncard.com
  • Roman Corina
    commented 2020-09-24 03:45:56 -0700
    This is a great inspiring article.
    I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information.
    Keep it up. https://premiereretail.com
  • Brada Mara
    commented 2020-09-24 00:10:11 -0700
    You are an expert at your field!
    I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me..
    Thanks for all https://fixoserror.com/
  • Brada Mara
    commented 2020-09-24 00:07:49 -0700
    Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Very helpful information particularly http://coffeenu.com
  • Alex Pozinsky
    commented 2020-04-29 06:28:17 -0700
    I’m glad that there are people who still care more about cultural development and education.
  • Timothy RJ Eveland
    commented 2020-03-28 12:09:29 -0700
    In my experience they serve to create richer stories. I love medieval historical fiction that shows people from the Muslim world visiting European courts. The cultural divides are very interesting. Another thing they do to serve is in business conduct. I’m very grateful to have our business culture in the towing industry here in Hamilton https://www.hamiltontowtruckservice.com/tow-truck-hamilton/
  • Melanie C
    commented 2020-02-26 14:37:50 -0800
    Love it, thanks for sharing! Looking forward to future posts!


  • videoconverterr videoconverterr
    commented 2020-02-12 22:22:17 -0800
    Before you utilize a free YouTube downloader, remember that utilizing outsider applications to download recordings is against YouTube’s terms of administration, which state you can just stream recordings straightforwardly from its servers. Downloading recordings is additionally a potential copyright encroachment except if you claim the video yourself, have authorization from the copyright holder, or it’s in the open domain.4K Video Downloader is the best free apparatus around for speedy, complain free YouTube downloads. It’s easy to utilize, profoundly adaptable, promotion free, and does exclude any packaged additional product.
  • bestglutenbread bestglutenbread
    commented 2020-02-03 03:18:41 -0800
    Moreover, the generation of sans gluten portion bread got exclusively from cassava flour, without mixing it with wheat flour, has been the object of different explores. Every one of them showed the need of utilizing different added substances, because of the all out absence of gluten. Some studies21–23 called attention to the constructive outcome of emulsifiers, for example, glyceryl monostearate, to improve air joining during blending and gas maintenance during maturation, and prehydrated expelled starch to build player thickness.
  • John Ferda
    commented 2019-12-05 12:26:04 -0800
    This was really an interesting topic and I kinda agree with what you have mentioned here! http://www.crelectrician.com
  • John Ferda
    commented 2019-12-05 12:25:34 -0800
    This was really an interesting topic and I kinda agree with what you have mentioned here! http://www.crelectriciain.com
  • John Ferda
    commented 2019-12-05 12:25:10 -0800
    This was really an interesting topic and I kinda agree with what you have mentioned here! http://www.chandlerfencecompany.com
  • John Ferda
    commented 2019-12-05 12:24:20 -0800
    This was really an interesting topic and I kinda agree with what you have mentioned here! http://www.normantreecare.com
  • John Ferda
    commented 2019-12-05 12:23:48 -0800
    This was really an interesting topic and I kinda agree with what you have mentioned here! http://www.sanbernardinolandscape.com
  • John Ferda
    commented 2019-12-05 12:23:13 -0800
    This was really an interesting topic and I kinda agree with what you have mentioned here! http://www.handymangreensboro.com
  • John Ferda
    commented 2019-12-05 12:22:38 -0800
    This was really an interesting topic and I kinda agree with what you have mentioned here!
  • John Ferda
    commented 2019-12-05 12:21:07 -0800
    Great story
    the Ferd- http://www.desmoinesiafence.com
  • John Ferda
    commented 2019-12-05 12:16:28 -0800
  • trues mm1
    commented 2019-11-05 21:52:21 -0800
    It supports your social believability immediately. You show up progressively prominent, and in this manner individuals pay attention to you more. They’ll need to get on board with the temporary fad, as well.
  • daily buz
    commented 2019-10-22 01:00:20 -0700
    Worked With 100 implicit fastens, the join quality is astounding. The join are of 3 kinds essential, stretch and brightening. https://the-daily.buzz/brother-sewing-machine/ The foot pedal is responsive, however it could have been progressively responsive. Including is one-advance Buttonhole with six style choices. It likewise has needle threader, snap-on presser, six-portion sustaining framework, and numerous other intriguing highlights.
  • Teenpati Teenpati
    commented 2019-10-19 06:07:07 -0700
    A genuine individual will have the game with whom you can interface through talk, see him/her live and hear to his/her critique on the game. https://teenpattihack.info Players will encounter extraordinary fun while playing this game through persistent cooperation with the host. They can send endowments and tips to the host while playing the game.
  • windstream windstream
    commented 2019-10-15 00:31:50 -0700
    The atmosphere conditions impacts the web in a http://windstreamspeedtest.info way that if your web affiliation is remote, it will be influenced by preposterous atmosphere in light of the fact that the sign gets flimsier as a result of whirlwinds and storms or an absurd warmth.
  • Charlotte Bh
    commented 2019-08-19 14:39:32 -0700
    Ooh, love the article! So nicely written and informative! Thank you :) Keep it coming!

  • twitchfollowers twitchfollowers
    commented 2019-08-09 05:45:00 -0700
    Fail miserably am vergangenen Dienstag in https://twitchfollowers.com/pl/how-to-get-twitch-viewers/ begrenztem Umfang dazu, sich zu sehr anstrengen zu müssen, ein anderes Aktivitätsprogramm zu beginnen.Erwerben Sie einen wöchentlichen Watcher-Bot-Plan vom Twitch-Watcher-Bot Nr. 1! Diese Woche für Woche sind die letzten 7 Tage geplant und werden von Natur aus nicht wiederhergestellt.
  • Ahsan Shaikh
    commented 2019-07-25 08:31:23 -0700
    Hi, I find reading this article a joy. It is extremely helpful and interesting and very much looking forward to reading more of your work..
    Blog Profit Firme Romania https://profitfirmeromania.ro/
  • Bella Too
    commented 2019-07-23 13:43:11 -0700
    Amazing post! So clearly written, interesting and informative. Very beautifully written, also. Thank you for sharing! https://www.hereandvowstudio.com/photography