What’s Culture Got To Do With It?


I wanted to share an article with you all that relates back to one that I posted last week, on the depressing statistics about young African American men. In Sunday’s New York Times, Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson argues that socioeconomic factors have only weak explanatory power, and that we have to look at cultural explanations.

The reluctance of academics to do so, he says, is the result of misperceptions about the implications of talking about culture. First, many believe that cultural explanations inherently blame the victim. Second, some feel that zeroing in on culture means we are powerless to make changes. Both of these views are incorrect, Patterson argues.

What’s really fascinating is his summary of some research that has been done about why young black women graduate from high school and attend college at much higher rates than their male peers. (Which ties in to my post from Friday on that subject). According to these young men themselves, the consequences of not obtaining an education pale in comparison to the seductiveness of what sociologists call the “cool-pose culture.” And, importantly, this subculture cannot be disconnected from the broader culture in which it originated. Specifically, the cool-pose culture wouldn’t be so seductive if white kids didn’t think it was all that and accord respect to participants.

Anyway, the article goes into this in greater depth. There is much food for thought here.

3 Responses to “What’s Culture Got To Do With It?”

  1. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Very interesting stuff.

    This highlights the impetus behind programs like professional basketball’s attempt to encourage kids to read, etc. The added difficulty is that the biggest stars now skip college altogether – and I don’t blame them. But it does send a mixed message to their young fans.

  2. Danny Says:

    I like this blog, Al. I am still new to all of this but blogging is cool. Why did I resist so long?

  3. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Cuz your addicted to Mayberry, and Andy/Barney never “blogged.”

    Thanks for checking this one out. I look forward to reading yours as well.

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