Why Individuals Should be Free to Choose their Culture

Why Individuals Should be Free to Choose their Culture

By Sherifat

It is no secret that people are shaped by their beliefs, values, experiences, and culture. But what is culture? Who gets to define what culture is?  Are cultures ancient rites that are to be inherited and passed on to every generation? Or do individuals get to define what culture means to them?

I have always believed that as humans, we have to an extent, a choice to decide our identity. A choice to decide who we want to be labeled, tagged, or associated with. A choice to decide which culture we’d like belong to. I am of the belief that cultures are not ancient rites that are simply passed on from generation to generation…..that cultures change and are influenced by societies. Culture to me doesn’t just mean rites. It is the way of life- the way a person speaks, acts, and lives. It is something that people choose to be associated with. Hence, I believe that simply coming from a certain ethnic group doesn’t necessarily mean that a person MUST be identified with the culture and that individuals have a right to decide which culture he/she belongs to and the extent to which he/she belongs to that culture. This is especially true for individuals who grow up in environments where their ethnic culture isn’t popularly practiced. However, this is not to say that individuals who grow up where their ethnic culture is practiced must fully identify with the culture; people who grow up in environments where their ethnic culture is prevalent still have an autonomous right to decide how much of their ethnic culture they choose to adopt.

Culture to be me is not absolute.  Culture to me is a choice. Therefore, I hold the belief that people shouldn’t be discriminated against for refusing or choosing to practice culture.  The reason being that before given any tags or label, before being identified as a Nigerian or Yoruba, I identify myself as a human. A human with unique characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, and personality.  A human with likes, dislikes, and preferences. I would love to be identified as that first before being given a label.

It is sad to see that even today’s world, people are being subjected to discrimination, and are made objects of ridicule, and victimized simply because they identify themselves with cultures other than that their ethnic groups. People are looked down upon, labelled as bastards or outcasts for refusing to partake in cultural rites. When we talk about racism and tribalism, we often forget to include prejudice against people within our own ethnic groups. Feeling that you are better than someone simply because you speak the language better, or practice the culture is not only silly but is unjustified. There needs to be an understanding that not everyone holds the same cultural values and that is completely OKAY. What is wrong is discriminating against someone for viewing life through a different lens. I may be an Africa who has adopted the Western culture or the Arab culture or the Asian culture and that doesn’t make me any less of a human.


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