What is the culture?

You often hear the phrase “do it for the culture” or “for the culture” used in rotation throughout our day to day conversations, most predominantly used by us young millennials I would think. We’ve got so used to saying the phrase that when someone actually asked me what exactly I meant by the culture, I froze. I’d never actually put any thought into what the culture was or what it consisted of. What did I mean by ‘The Culture’? Whose Culture? What culture was I referring to? If you look in the dictionary, it gives the unhelpful academic definition: “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time”. This standard definition was of no help to me whatsoever, it tells me what culture is but it doesn’t tell me what the culture is. I found myself asking all these questions and generally just found the topic extremely interesting, so naturally, I brought up the question in my friendship circles. I opened up my iMessage and sent one question to the group and waited for responses:


“What is the culture?”


The most common response I got back from my friends, who are all young black Britons, is that the culture is simply “black culture”. Interesting.

Yes, it does seem like black culture, but the term black culture is a bit too vague in my opinion. In black culture, people often forget there are different subcultures that are inside it. Black culture is more of an umbrella term. In black culture, you have black British culture, black African culture, and black American culture. Black American music is arguably the most popular genre in the world right now and is always in the spotlight, listened to by everyone no matter the race, so I feel we often recognise black American culture as the representative of black culture and forget the rest.

What it also made me think about is what is it that we class as black culture? Is it something that can only be done by ‘black’ people? Hip Hop is an offspring of black American culture and is arguably at the heart of it, so do we class everyone within the hip hop community part of the culture? The Hip Hop community doesn’t just consist of black individuals. There are many white artists like John B, Eminem and Post Malone whom are deeply rooted in the community and have been accepted by prominent figures within both the hip hop community and the culture? if all it takes is a cosign, does that then mean individuals like Miley Cyrus who used the hip hop community for personal gain would be considered part of the culture too?

One could argue that ‘the culture’ is simply what’s currently popular, what’s on trend and with the immense popularity of hip-hop, ‘black’ culture is just what we recognise it as. Since the question ‘what is the culture?’ is so vague I think the answer is individual to each person, I think we all have a general understanding of what it is because everything is connected through social media and the internet now but it’s probably still different for each and every person.