Isn't there a difference between being racist and recognizing cultural differences?

To be more specific, I am not racist or at least I don't consider myself to be. I generally do not speak in a hateful way towards anyone simply based on their race.

However, I can and do recognize certain cultural points that tend to follow a persons race. Obviously these are generalities and cannot be used to paint an accurate picture of an entire race.

I have heard some people make an allusion to a race of people using a generality...which I think makes sense...only to have someone else come along and ask what the persons skin color has to do with anything. If culture follows race a majority of the time...then is it wrong to associate culture with race and then comment on it?

Obviously any comment you make has to leave room for error since as I said before you cannot use generalities to make valid, 100% provable points...but aren't generalities sufficient to discuss Cultural and Racial differences so long as those guidelines are met?

If you have ever heard,"That Black guy acts like a White guy." or "That White guy acts like a Black guy." then you have some idea what I am talking about...unless you were totally confused when you heard these statements.

My question do you all feel about it? Aren't there cultural differences that are primarily based on race and location? If there are, shouldn't it be socially acceptable to comment on culture in both a positive and negative light?


EDIT: Chance, I like what you are saying and I agree with you to a point.

But didn't I associate Race with Location in my original question?

I'm talking about localized conversations that common people are likely to have with each other. Not Global conversations that people in an Anthropology class are likely to have with each other.

I'm assuming that when people mention a Race it is in relation to their own experience, their own experience being relative to the location they are in.

Of course the early settlers had positive and negative views of the Indians around them based on their interactions with them. To say that all Indians were peaceful or they were all warmongers would be innaccurate. But to say that the Indians around your area might "generally" be one way or another might be...see the difference?

See how I used the word Indians in a localized conversation with you knowing, hoping, that you wouldn't confuse my meaning with Indians from India?

Update 2:

EDIT2: Nope, I didn't associate the 3 things...Race, Location and Culture. That is an important point and I agree.

I hope I clarified my point in my last edit.

Update 3:



I am white and I do suck at in this case you would be right. I also can't dance to save my life...that is a common white guy stereotype. Am I mad that the common stereotype is accurate...or that you pointed it out? No, absolutely not.

I can understand that people may not like to be stereotyped, but stereotypes exist because to a certain extent they are true when localized to certain regions.

11 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Interesting question! I would like to take a stab at answering it.

    The way I see it, is that there is a lot of overlap between racism and being aware of cultural differences. Everyone is aware of cultural differences. It's a fundamental part of our being; we're always comparing ourselves to others; making note of our similarities and of course our differences.

    Our opinions on any given thing depends on several factors: 1) what we were taught about it from our parents and in school; 2) our previous experiences with that given thing; 3) our reactions to what we were taught and to our experiences. For example: some people's only exposure to certain racial/cultural groups may be quite limited -- e.g. movies, television, one single person, etc. Limited exposure can definitely lead to the development of stereotypes and misconceptions.

    A person who is "racist" will make judgments about people of a certain race based only on those stereotypes and misconceptions. They are very much aware of cultural differences. That is the stopping point for these people. It's like if you see a book with a plain cover and decide you don't like it because you've heard that all books with plain covers are boring, and walk by it without another glance.

    A person who is aware of cultural differences but is NOT a racist will of course notice that a given individual is of a certain race or is from a certain country, etc. But they will be willing to look PAST that fact to get to know the person as an individual. They will be willing to put aside their judgments and stereotypes enough to consider opening up their minds a little...sure, the book has a plain cover, and I usually read books with colorful covers, but I'm willing to give the plain-covered book a chance...not all books are exactly alike, you know, even if they DO have similar covers...

    The point I'm trying to make is that there is a difference between racism and being aware of cultural differences, but this difference is more like an overlap. While everyone may be aware of cultural differences and have preconceptions of people from different cultures, racist people are not willing to put their preconceptions aside and get to know each person as an individual. Racist people are driven by their own preconceptions.

    And there's a fine line dividing what's considered racist and what's not considered racist. Let's say a black person goes to a country where there aren't many black people. The black person will probably be stared at. Some may label that as racist...and others may label it as simple curiosity. The definition of "racist" (aside from blatant displays such as those used by the KKK) varies depending on who you ask.

    I am an African American female, yet my family does not fit many of the common stereotypes people may have about African Americans. Most of my friends were either white or from different countries (I tend to get along better with foreigners in America because I feel like one).

    However people have made assumptions about me just based on their own preconceptions of people with dark skin. In elementary/middle schools, I was told by other African Americans that I am "trying to act white"; that I am "not black enough". I've had numerous white people and black people ask me if I'm SURE I am from North Carolina (even after I told them I was), because I don't have a certain accent. Once, I did quite well on an essay in high school and the teacher took me aside and started asking me questions about my family. She didn't ask any of the white kids who'd done equally well about their families. Are these examples of racism? Of curiosity? You be the judge. It's a fine line.

    I'm studying abroad currently in Denmark. One of my fellow classmates is from Ghana. He is quite different from any black person I've met. He and I have a similar skin color, but it would be wrong to assume that we have the same culture and that we are exactly alike just because we have the same skin color. Yet if he were to go to the U.S., he would be considered "African American" and treated as such.

    After saying all of that, I personally believe we need to recognize our differences, celebrate them, learn from them --- and emphasize our similarities at the same time.

    Source(s): Personal experience & reflections
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  • 1 decade ago

    In answer to your question, no. Culture and race are completely different. You seem to use "black" as a cultural definition. You are aware, I presume, that there are many different, distinct cultures arising in Africa and in the New World among people of a dark skin color? West Africans have very little in common with, say, Ethiopians, in terms of culture, and Sudanese have very little in common, culturally, with Dominicans or Haitians. In short, this is where your argument falls apart. Race and culture are not interchangeable terms.

    American Indians? What are the cultural similarities between say the Navajo and the Iroquois?

    Hispanic or Spanish speakers? What are the cultural similarities between Puerto Ricans, Argentinians and Sonoran Mexicans?

    Asians? Similarities between Manchu Chinese, Japanese and Indians?

    Do you see the problem? If you were actually talking about a cultural group, then it would not be the least racist to make some generalizations, admitting that generalizations are, of course, not always accurate when applied to an individual. But if you make generalizations across cultural lines based solely upon the color of one's skin or the shape of their eyelid, then you're being foolish and insensitive, and at least arguably racist.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Of course there is a difference. To not realize there is a difference means that one does not understand what difference means. If you compare the differences between a woman and a man would you be considered sexist? Of course not. If you compared a collie to a german shepherd, would that mean you preferred one or the other animal or did not like one or the other animal? What about comparing the parrot to the cockatoo or minnows and sardines?

    There are cultural differences based on race, species and environment, yet that does not make the differences good or bad. It makes for a diversity that brings interest and excitement into our world. If we all looked, talked, walked and acted the same way I believe the world would truly be a boring place. I prefer to embrace our differences and believe that it is perfectly acceptable to comment on those differences in whatever way one chooses, because there are always both positive and negative ways that people, places and things are perceived. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

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  • Donna
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Racism deals with race and any race can be racist. You can be racist against a Jew,if it is based on their race and not their religion,Jewish is not a race. Anti-semitism has been accepted as being against Jews,but that is actually wrongly applied. Not all Jews are Semites and not all Semites are Jewish. Semites are simply descendants of Shem(son of Noah). My thoughts are words should be applied correctly. I'll give you another example since you bring up blacks. The "N" word has come to be associated only to apply to a black person,but the term does not apply specifically to any one race/ethnicity. Words get misused and overused. Added. An odd fact to add for no particular reason. Thomas Jefferson is descended from the Canaanites. Hate is really unneeded here and in the world.

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  • 1 decade ago

    There are a lot of cultural differences. Some good and some bad. It's a fact, not an opinion. We are all different. I'm right there with you. I see bad things about my OWN culture. Does that mean I hate my culture? Of course not. There is a big difference.

    KUDOS for not being racist!

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  • 1 decade ago

    You are correct. There are measurable differences in all varieties of people. Men and women, for example. Uneducated and educated. Young and old. I'm sorry if it is a recognizable fact that a significant portion of young black men hold life less valuable than young white men in this country. It's no picnic that our young white girls are superficial and have low self esteem.

    So, yes, there are differences. Whites in France are different than whites in South Africa. It's a correct generalization to assume these differences. Again, generalization - nothing fits perfectly.

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  • Jay
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    Yes there is a difference.


    Everyone is not the same and does not like to be labeled with the ignorant ones.

    Do you understand?

    If I walked around saying "White guys suck at sports and music"

    Wouldn't you be MAD?

    I would be mad because the statement does not apply to all White people.

    Do you understand?

    Generalizing is a bad thing to do.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I can agree.

    We can only generalize to give us a sense of overstanding a group of people. You mentioned that they are never %100.

    Of corse my real stance would be that "race" is a new phenomanon in human culture, and what once was used to describe traveling experience by our ancestors, has turned into "legal and political" constructs.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I agree with you 100 % you can be labeled racist for a simple comment not meant to be so. but some blacks are more racist yet they are not brought to book and they have a name for those who have black skin but act white it is coconut ( black on the out side white within) and that is an insult

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  • 1 decade ago

    The fine line you walk here is that if somebody of a particular race finds something that you say offensive, then you will be branded a racist. The comment's factual basis is not the issue, it is how the comment is received.

    Some people will find a comment innocent, others will find it offensive.

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