Depending on who you are or where you're from, culture has an array of meanings.
But between the political climate and polarization in American politics, society tends to vilify any culture that differs from the Western way of life. And if you do choose to embrace your culture, along with having to face the stigma that comes with your identity, you are chastised for speaking about it.
Growing up in a multicultural household can especially impact your worldview and your values. For me, growing up in both New Jersey and the Caribbean allowed me to see the world from multiple angles.
Some of the most important cultural values of Saint Lucia, my home country in the Caribbean, are family and connectivity. The country's lack of infrastructure and technological advancements encourages its citizens to constantly interact with each other face-to-face, fostering a larger sense of community among residents, something that isn't as present in American culture.
Additionally, the country has a large collectivist sentiment — neighborhoods emphasize taking care of and connecting all of the children together, so it's actually completely normal to be able to walk into your neighbor’s house and have them think nothing of it. In the Caribbean, bonds with people outside of your family are given just as much importance as people in your family.
The main languages spoken in Saint Lucia are Patwa and English, so I grew up with my parents speaking both languages around me at home. And although my parents never taught me Patwa, I was able to communicate with most of the locals without an issue. French Creole has many different sections and variations, and growing up around that language helped expand my perspective on language and information.
My multicultural background encouraged extensive travel between Saint Lucia and New Jersey, and on each trip, I found it fascinating to observe the difference in cultures. In Laborie, a village in Saint Lucia, things were relatively informal in nature and I spent most of time on beaches or outside with my family and extended friends, a lifestyle that I miss in New Jersey.
I believe Americans spend too much time indoors, which is a byproduct of technological advancements and a lack of emphasis on community ties. Here, the home is prioritized over spending time outdoors with nature, resulting in a muted worldview and a lack of awareness of one's surroundings.
The main challenge I faced adapting from Caribbean to American culture is the hyperfixation on individualism. Unlike in Saint Lucia, in America, everything is centered around the consumer, and this manifests itself into a constant cycle of spending and never having enough to support yourself.
The lack of a generational support system in American culture means you essentially have to handle most of your hardships alone. From work to family life, everything in American culture is tied to the individual.
My Blackness along with my Caribbean heritage deeply shapes who I am as a person. I have always focused on highlighting Blackness in my community and online presence because it was something that I rarely ever saw represented to me as a child.
My parents and family have told me from a young age how I would be viewed as different from my peers, and I'm always aware of the danger that law enforcement has on my life. These details are not just cultural differences between myself and others, but rather, unique facets of my identity that I would not have without my Blackness.
While I've learned to accept both sides of my culture and how they both shape my identity and personality, if there's anything my multicultural background has taught me, is that there is no one place that is the center of the world.
Leaving room in your heart and mind to empathize with other people’s experiences is crucial because as humans, we are all uniquely shaped by our environment and our family. Understanding our differences can help us learn not only learn about other cultures, but how to become better people.