A Broken Culture

By Melissa Lake

I think one of the saddest travesties of our generation is the push for the decimation of individual culture. We are the generation that saw bhindis and belly skirts as fashion forward- as long as they adorned the bodies of skinny white women. We consider ourselves so receptive and accepting- as we assimilate all of these beautiful aspects of foreign culture into our own without any personal regard or sense of respect toward the people we steal it from. And it’s sadly not a one-sided affair.

Women and men of color- or of any foreign ethnicity- are too quick to abandon aspects of their culture that have permeated through generations. We are so quick to “white-wash” ourselves, to fit into a culture where when a white girl wears a sari it’s seen as “boho-chic” and when a brown girl wears one it’s “you’re in America now, it’s time to act like it”. We pick and choose what to like about a culture to fulfill our own selfish desires. We are selectively racist and electively ignorant. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard boys tell me how much they “love Armenian girls” and subsequently not even be able to so much as point out the general area Armenia is on a map or tell me a single fact about my culture. These boys praise themselves for being culturally liberal and morally righteous for being generous enough to be interested in a not-so-standard ideal of beauty (a foreign culture in this instance) when in reality they’re just trying to sleep with an exotic-looking girl. And I wish I could say Armenians are innocent to this tragedy, the forced “white-washing”, but we are just as guilty as anyone else.

I grew up around Armenian boys who proudly swore that they would “never date an Armenian girl”. Boys who fought so hard to lose their culture, to entirely disregard their ethnic identity, rather than realize they lived in a society that encouraged them to forget their heritage. I am so sick and tired of hearing my ethnicity being used as a sexual trademark. I am so sick of people telling me that they are or are not attracted to an entire race of people because it is or is not socially lauded to desire girls from that race. My ethnicity doesn’t make me special or more or less desirable. My ethnicity doesn’t make me “sexy” or “beautiful” or “slutty” or “trashy” or “shallow”. My ethnicity makes me Armenian and it’s me and my choices that make me everything else.

One thought on “A Broken Culture

  1. I agree. But I also want to make the observation that every time a guy said I look exotic it made me feel like it was the polite way of saying I’m different in my looks. This only pushed me to try to white wash myself more until one day I picked up and moved to the homeland where my looks simply fit in. But then my accent and mentality did not. Even amongst my own kind I have been made to feel that I am other. Eventually age, wisdom and life experience taught me to accept my individuality in all its odd shapes and forms. It is no longer a problem not to belong. It is a problem for those who don’t know how to assess me. But I have found myself. I belong in the community that raises my curiosity and interest, not the one I physically look similar to or speak the same way.

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