The race, class, color, regional and culture relations in the US

The race, class, color, regional and culture relations in the US

The United States has a unique social structure and population coalescence, both because of the period it was founded in and because of the immigration it has received since then. A quite interesting social structure and population composition has emerged: pioneering immigrants from Europe, slaves from Africa, workers brought from China for railway construction, Vietnamese who emigrated after the Vietnam War, Koreans who fled their country after the Korean War, Native Americans who already happen to be there, Indians, Mexicans, Cubans and hundreds of other small minorities. Although this variety of people were expected to integrate into the American culture by a mechanism called the “Melting Pot”, but recent events have shown again clearly that this expectation has not been fulfilled. Whenever the economy is in recession or political uncertainties arise, these social relations tend to be disrupted. Actually, the attitude of white people towards the black people and towards the Hispanic community has not been inclusive at all. And we can observe the same attitude among the black people towards Hispanics or the Chinese community. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that every minority group has been boiling side by side in this great “Melting Pot” for two hundred years, without melting or merging at all. Even in a very common and a personal institution such as marriage, interracial couples are very few even in the 21st century. The spouses of the black actors in Hollywood are also usually black. For instance, Denzel Washington or President Obama are married to black women. There are of course exceptions, but walk the streets of the US, and you will immediately notice the general trend. Having spent 30 years in California, a state that is considered to be one of the most culturally and socially developed in the US, it always called my attention that Whites don’t engage not even in a short relationship with Blacks or Asians, let alone enter a long-term relationship as a marriage. It is even possible to see the scars of these racial interactions clearly even in simple friendships.

Racially seperated fishing groups

You can observe this when you go the fishing wharf of Santa Barbara: Here, Asians build fishing groups with Asians, Whites among themselves and blacks stay among themselves too. It is bewildering but true that members different races cannot even go fishing together. These relationships of race and color are so deep embedded in the memories of society, that the occurring discrimination is enough to disband the unity that is required for the class-based consciousness. Consequently the poorer masses of white “rednecks” act within in a “racist” mindset for the sake of whiteness, instead of acting together with the members of the same economic class, such as blacks, Hispanics or Asians. But, as one union leader from West Virginia, one of the states with the most widespread white supremacist ideology, stated: “this racism based on color may be a mile long, but it is only an inch thick.” Therefore, we can say that as the class consciousness prevails and life indicates that way, the social clashes based on race and skin color will be replaced by solidarity and common struggle.

Why is there no Ministry of Culture in the US?

When speaking about the history of social and cultural changes in the United States, immediately the question comes to mind why there is no Department of Culture in the country. Truly, every European country, Turkey and even in the small nations in Asia or Africa almost always have a Ministry of Culture. However, while the United States has established a department on almost everything since its independence, they decided in the very beginning that a department was not required for the cultural affairs. Investigating the reasons we come across factors mentioned above. We encounter the opinion of the “Founding fathers” that, the due to the multicultural mosaic the United States had since its independence, the “free market” will shape cultural development by itself, making state intervention unnecessary. They also have pointed to the problem of determining which culture such a Department of Culture would represent, which culture it would support and which one not. Therefore, it was considered that those cultures that deserve to survive would survive by themselves. For those cultures that wouldn’t survive by their functionality, state intervention and artificial support was considered unnecessary. Thus, the cultural elements of the Native Americans for example, have suffered great erosion over the years, no matter how much their small communities tried to maintain them. Of course, when the federal government felt the need to support these cultures at some point, they had to create some sort of institutions that received governmental funds. The most important one of those is the “National Endowment for the Arts”, which almost functions as a Department of Culture. All the orchestras, operas, ballet companies, concert halls, large and small theatres, all music and dance groups, individual musicians, are all left alone, just like the cowboys in Clint Eastwood movies. If they do not find the necessary funds every year, it is not possible for these branches of art to continue their existence and serve the culture only by the funds earned from the sale of tickets. For this reason, some mechanisms have been established for large companies to support culture by “tax exemption” and Art and Culture Foundations. For example, the Ford Company has such a foundation, and has the right to cut down the funding it gives to art-culture foundations, from the taxes it will pay government.

Is tax exemption actually a state intervention?

With such a mechanism, the state intervention in cultural activities has been comparatively reduced. But to get funding from these kinds of foundations, a tremendous work has to be performed. And this has created a class of authors who professionally write “grant for funding”. Thus, being able to get a financial support from the companies that establish culture-art foundations thanks to the tax exemption from the government, cause a lot of competition among artists, and many art institutions even avoid applying for these grants.

The process of obtaining funds from companies and institutions is similar to the process of receiving funds from the state, and this puts a contradiction on the original motivation of non-intervention in arts, in a way that it would deceive those who stand for the absence of a Department of Culture in the USA, in order to protect the independence of culture and arts. So if the artist, in any respect, is planning to make a project contrary to the general principles of the US government, or if it is perceived as such by the selective jury, it becomes impossible for the artist to get financial support for this project from the companies and institutions.

Therefore, there have been efforts to establish a Department of Culture in the United States for a long time. However, no concrete step was never taken and led to results during any of the past Presidencies. Although some promises were made during Obama’s presidential election campaign, it was not possible to establish a Department of Culture, though his presidency lasted two terms.

This US practice can also be interpreted as an interesting implementation of Social Darwinism. It is of course a reality that is a somewhat difficult to understand looking from European countries or from Turkey, where a strong state intervention was experienced in almost all aspects of life since the Ottoman era. Therefore, in my opinion the US presents a practice that needs a more thoroughly research.

Latif Bolat
He was born in Mersin-Turkey. Studied at the Ankara State Conservatory, Gazi University Music Department and Ankara University-School of Political Sciences. Did his graduate degree at San Francisco State University in International Business and Marketing. Worked as a Theater Music Director and newspaper reporter as well as a computer engineer. Finally, he decided to stay as a music scholar. He traveled for his concert and lectures in 40 countries including USA, India, UK, Italy, Iran, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, Greece, and many other locations. He produced 5 Turkish Mystic Sufi music CDs and a Turkish Mystic Sufi poetry Anthology in English, titled “Quarreling with God”, published in Oregon, USA. www.LatifBolat.com Lbolat@aol.com

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December 2023