Thought Babble

There is no such thing as “White culture”

“White culture is boring.” You hear this a lot in the Anglo-American sphere of the world. But this viewpoint is entirely reserved for the Anglo-American sphere. The rest of us – in continental Europe, for example – feel quite alienated by it. Because we don’t think of ourselves as “White people”.

It may make sense in the U.S., as “White people” there may have European heritage, but don’t have much left in terms of their ancestral cultural heritage and have thus far failed to build up any distinctly white American culture. That’s not a bad thing. The U.S. is supposed to be inclusive, that’s why it is great that American customs are practised by all Americans, not just “White people.” At the same time, people who were marginalised by society (especially Black people) have created their own communities, which add additional layers of culture and flavour on top of what is considered American culture.

The fact that White Americans have not done that is evidence of white supremacy in American society – and their colonial guilt.

At the same time, the Anglo-American struggle with racism ignores just how deep racism really goes worldwide. Because racism is not just about skin colour. It often manifests that way and is easiest spotted that way, but there are different forms of racism all around the globe.

There is no such thing as human races

Racism is discrimination based on the notion that there are different human races. Factually there used to be different human races, but everyone alive today belongs to the same race of homo sapiens. Our race has survived, because we were the most flexible and adaptable out of all. There is as much genetic difference between a black man and a white man, as there is between two white men. Studies have proven this definitively.

That is why in Germany and Austria, in the process of de-nazifying the countries, the word “race” has been corrected in its usage to only be used where scientifically correct, e.g. different races of dogs. The English usage of the word “race” to differentiate between human skin colours boggles the mind of any German-speaker. To us, that is already racist. We understand now that there are different ethnicities (i.e. semantic differences that have emerged as evolutionary adaptations to our particular living environments), but no races. A race would constitute a significantly different genetic structure, which none of us have, not even those, who still have some 2% Neanderthal genetic material within them.

Ethnicities, however, vary quite a bit and they are not solely based on people’s skin colours, but also on many other semantic features, such as ear sizes, eye colours, jaw structures etc. and we have been constructing notions of different races around them everywhere.

In the Congo, Bantu people are stigmatising Pygmy people. In Somalia, the Bantu are stigmatised in return. In many African countries Black people are discriminating against and killing other “Black” ethnic groups, because of long-standing religious and racial discrimination. The same happens in the Middle-East and Asia.

Often, racial constructs are also heavily intertwined with religious discrimination. For example, the notion (shared by the Nazis) that Jews are a race is wide-spread. Christians and Muslims are also often considered their own races. As soon as a cultural division has gone on long enough, the notion that the other side, isolated for a long enough period of time, is another race, incompatible with one’s own arises. It is ludicrous and yet it is pervasive in virtually every culture.

And it is understandable too. Humans are by default wary of new and unfamiliar things. Xenophobia, in part, stems from the survival instinct that tells us not to trust someone we don’t know. And it is much easier to explain that someone is different because they look or act differently, than it is to explain the complexities of the human genome. That is why racial slurs will be most often heard by less-educated people in Europe (though we are also aware that particularly wealthy people often exhibit just as much racial discrimination).

Europeans discriminating against Europeans

In Europe, we now are more focused on hating Arabs and Muslims, but we used to be racist towards each other for the majority of our shared history. I grew up in Austria in the 90s and early 2000s. During that time, former Yugoslavians and Slavs in general were treated like lower-class citizens. Being half Polish, half Austrian I would have to deal with a lot of racially motivated bullying. There were relatively harmless stereotypes, like “every Pole is a car thief”, but it went further to insults like “Half-blood” and “Subhuman”. In many cases, verbal assaults like this were followed by physical abuse. I have been in more fights than I can count and many of them were started by a racial slur against me.

That is why I always identified strongly with other minorities, like Black people. I never saw myself as “white” or “privileged”. Today I have achieved high enough standing in society that I am seen by most as just another white heterosexual man. How privileged, how boring… And I get confronted on panels by statements and questions about colonial guilt and how I can use my white privilege to help those that are less fortunate. And I don’t know how to answer these questions. Because I can’t identify with Western Europe’s guilt. My family was tortured and in some cases murdered by Nazis and Soviets. I have experienced my own share of racism in my youth. But somehow now I am one of the perpetrators, because Western Europeans just see me as another white man?

White people are not merely “White people.” We have different ethnicities, cultures, and histories. Throwing us all into one pot is not only shallow, but also racist in itself. And it only serves to perpetuate the notion long-held in Central and Eastern Europe that Western Europe is different and doesn’t understand us.

Slavs are still fighting for equity

When Central and Eastern Europeans think of racism, they think about the last few centuries, during which different European empires destroyed and oppressed their respective populations. We haven’t properly dealt with that yet and we are not ready to join the Western club of “white people”, as if nothing happened, because we are all white Europeans and the non-whites are now the outsiders, so everything is fine. Nonsense.

How often is the construction worker, the moving company, the cleaning lady or your secretary from a Slavic country? How about the sex workers you meet in Western Europe? It is not a coincidence, but a historical fact that Slavs in Europe are only beginning to recover from the oppression they faced over centuries. Our economies are nowhere near their Western counterparts, though growing fast, thanks to European integration. And as a result, Slavs continue to face stigmas, as they tend to occupy the lowest level positions in Western Europe.

European integration may have helped to decrease racism towards Slavic people in Europe. But unfortunately, it has done nothing to change the mindsets of Western Europeans, who still see themselves as the centre of Europe and cling to power in Brussels. Why else is there not a single Slav in a leadership position since the 2019 European elections? The fact that far-right parties are rising in Central and Eastern Europe is just an excuse. It is an excuse to not take us seriously and keep us out of power, which is exactly why these parties have risen to such prominence in the first place.

Racism perpetuates racism. The more you marginalise us, the more we will feel the need to lash out. The more we lash out, the more justification you feel you have to discriminate against us. This endless cycle needs to stop before it gets out of control. But the first step lies with Western Europeans. It is up to them to reach out and bury the hatchet and preferably not by inviting us to jointly discriminate against another group of “outsiders”, because unfortunately, it seems too many of us would be willing to participate in it, in exchange for no longer being labelled as the wretches of Europe.

Dominik Kirchdorfer
Dominik is a European writer and entrepreneur of Austrian and Polish descent. His passion is storytelling and he wants to do everything in his power to give the story of Europe a happy ending. He is currently the President of the EFF - European Future Forum, Editor In-Chief of Euro Babble and EU Adviser to the Austrian Savings Banks Association. Dominik recently published his first SciFi novel, The Intrepid Explorer: First Flight under the nome de plume Nik Kirkham. Twitter: @NikKirkham

16 Replies to “There is no such thing as “White culture”

  1. You’re right, there is no such thing as “white culture” just like there is no “black culture” either. It’s called Western Culture and everyone is a part of it. Including the white people that so many minorities use as a scape goat and to blame for their personal choices. It’s ridiculous, racist and uneducated.

    1. you sound white… black culture is a thing. black culture was created by Black people in America where they were forced to go american because of slavery and not connected to their african roots. hence making their own culture. read a book or something instead of commenting ignorant shit since you’re uneducated

      1. Not like many Ukrainians and other eastern Europeans were slaves in the past of history. I for one is a Slav and moved to the UK but I don’t associate with “POC’s” in that aspect but I do relate to a lot of Eastern Europeans since we came to one country to live a better life therefore if there is “white” culture it is the understanding that only white people who have felt the pain, exclusively and have the habits of what a white person would have then that is the white culture in my understanding but just saying that black culture is all about being a slave is what it takes to be a race culture then that is a joke.

    2. Sorry to inform you but black cuture is a thing. Black culture was created for the black people in America who are descendants of the africans who were enslaved. Black culture only exist because of slavery btw. Although I don’t think we should call it black cutlre because people tend to think everyone who is black is apart of black culture and that’s not true. And white culture isnt a thing because white people can find out where they come from historically. How about we stop being ignorant and actually educate ourselves so we don’t say outrageous things like this.

      1. Incorrect, me people do have a culture and it’s tied to our History and our tradition of writing. Look at Vatican city or Westminster and tell me that you don’t see a vibrant culture.

  2. There is such a thing as white culture. This article is just shitty. BIG SHITTY TAKE ILL ADD. White Culture is the multiple Eurpean cultures brought over by our ancesters from Europe (firstly from England, Irland, Scotland, and at times Germany and Danish settlers) to America whether it be around the early 1700 or 1890’s and so on. Europe back in the day and still is a continent where white is a majority of the population. White people share these White European cultures passed down by generations. When our ancestors came to America they also invented new cultures based on where they lived too.

    1. Hi Brittany, did you read past the provocative headline? The article does not claim white people don’t have culture, or that white Americans don’t have culture. I discussed, among other things, the fact that not all white people have the same culture, especially in Europe. Americans and the English like to pretend as if we were all the same. But we are not. Europeans have very different cultures and they do not hinge on whether or not we are white.

    2. Hi Brit. You should probably educate yourself more if you’re going to be talking about this. European culutre is not white culture lol. It’s simply European culture because any race can be apart of that culture. Just because ehite people are the majority doesn’t make it their culture love because, again any race can be apart of that social group. Education is key.

      1. alissa holy shit you are ignorant and stupid its not even funny. And you are telling others to educate themselves ….

      2. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. “The Mayans can’t take credit for those pyramids- they just happened to be the majority when they were made!” “Pacific Islanders weren’t really the ones we should think of when we think of human settlement in the Pacific, they were just one of many peoples!” “White people can’t take credit for the glory of the Roman Empire, there were some brown people living in certain parts of the nation, too!”
        You sound like an idiot and you should stay away from the Humanities and definitely STOP telling people to educate themselves because it’s condescending and passively you’re just being an asshole. If you really think someone’s a retard, call them a retard, ya frickin retard

  3. Great Article Sir!
    I have been wondering this question since I was confronted by a black woman 2 years ago who claimed there was no white culture. As a white American, I tilted my head bethinking disbelief, but I couldn’t come up with anything substantive. While I think she was sorely wrong, it was not obvious to me that the core American culture is all that white Americans cling to, whilst other subcultures add their own layers. Granted, there are mannerisms, activities, and vernacular more embedded in white culture. Tanning on the beach? That’s what pale people do. Camping, skiing, skateboarding? More of a white thing. Rockstars? Metalheads? More of a white thing. Just walk into your local Starbucks and tell me what you see. Your basic White girl is nothing like your basic black chick.

  4. Excellent article. Many people in North America and some Europeans ignore the fact that Europe does not have the same issues as the US. Every country (and region) has it’s unique culture and history and focusing on certain issues specific to a country as if they were the same everywhere is wrong. This is a weakness in the modern, cosmopolitan, left-liberal worldview. It’s surprising that people that think of themselves as open-minded do so much generalizing.

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