Cultural identity is a rich tapesty of an individual's life experiences, race, nationality, heritage, beliefs, language, customs and worldview. Understanding and celebrating cultural identity can boost pride and self-esteem. In an increasingly diverse society and interconnected global world, awaress of cultural identity is essentional to effective cross-cultural communication. Cultural identity is at the forefront of discussions in education, politics, medicine, social policy, businesses and internationa relations.
Cultural Identity Definition
Culture consists of attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and dress considered normative for a particular group. Within a dominant culture, there are many other cultures with unique characteristics. Race, ethnicity and natiionality are examples of core cultural identities. Cultural identity acts as a lens and a frame of reference for making meaning of the world and current events. Cultural diversity enhances organizations by bringing together multiple talents and perspectives.
Different Types of Cultural Identity
Cultural identity is not just defined by an ethnic group or culture with which you identify. Cultural identity also consists of racial, religious, class, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and familial identities, for instance. Additionally, national, social and personal identity also contribute to one's cultural identity. Each person has multiple identities that intersect and shape their view of the world.
Cultural Identity Clashes
Throughout history, cultural identity differences spark tensions. For example, in early America, Caucasians and Africans co-existed in owner-slave relationships where Africans were viewed as uncivilized. World War II involved the Holocaust where Nazi troops killed over 6 million Jewish people because the Germans felt they were "racially superior." Both instances involved racial identities, an issue that exists in many communities and nations today. Other issues involve religious and cultural identity, for example, the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland and, in France, the fight to prevent females who follow Muslim beliefs from wearing burkas.
Understanding Cultural Identity
By not accepting cultural identities, people create limited worldviews and perceptions of others. According to Denise Tolliver and Elizabeth J. Tisdell, cultural identity development can "help people withstand oppression and be motvated to support social transformation." One way to work toward understanding cultural identity is to ask and answer questions instead of shying away from issues. Tolliver and Tisdell point out that many "are contemplating the need to be involved in social transformational activities in order to ensure the world will survive." Worldwide, diversity education is being offered in schools, workplaces, communities and churches to teach tolerance and acceptance.