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When Culture Holds You Back

(Trigger warning- substance use)

Growing up, I was always astonished at how quickly my peers not only accepted, but embraced all that was handed to them: the music they were supposed to like because of their race, the values and morals that everyone in their neighborhood seemed to share, the clothing that everyone else wore, and general opinions on life situations. I RARELY ran into anyone who ever questioned this, the majority of people viewed anyone who didn’t follow their own lifestyle as a different kind of human being. Unfortunately, the culture I grew up around is detrimental to personal growth, there is not much value placed on education, marijuana is part of the lifestyle, and being unambitious, sometimes even lying to receive and stay on government support is considered the norm.

I can keep going on with how this culture is destructive on an individual level. A huge emphasis is placed on gender roles, men are supposed to be strong and unemotional, woman are supposed to be feminine and want to start a family, and anyone who strays from these ideals is considered a social deviant. It’s perfectly common to start a family at a very young age, jeopardizing the ability to make significant progress in one’s personal life. If a father figure isn’t in the picture, no one blinks an eye, in fact, it’s almost expected.

And there’s plenty of things that I only know vaguely about because I made it a point to stay away from, like the gang activity that would occur not only in my neighborhood but in the very building I lived in. And the drug issue- I’ve had people overdose and die in the hallways where I lived. I’d leave my apartment to find human piss in the stairwell.

Now I’m just ranting, but you get the point. These are not ideal living conditions. So my question is, how do we better a culture that is not self aware? How do we tell the children that there is a different way to do things, that you should and can go to college, that they are capable and they DESERVE opportunities and a chance for a different life?

This is a long post, but the first of many. I plan on writing more about this topic because it is something that I feel very passionate about, and I see all of these issues and I want change. Hood culture is the root to many issues in America at the moment, and not many seem to be aware of this or willing to speak on the subject. Nothing’s going to change if we don’t talk about it.

10 Replies to “When Culture Holds You Back”

  1. RaiC says:

    Really dope post! A lot of people don’t understand this mentality. I think it’s easier for people to fall into the same behaviors that they see or grow up in only bc they know nothing else or haven’t been exposed to something new consistently. The idea of fitting in and being accepted sometimes outweighs that taste for more… if that makes sense. I’m one of those “social deviants” who has .. I guess you can say, “outgrown” my surroundings and the people who are in it. The culture isn’t “hood”… id just call it impoverished. I see what you mean though… but when the system sets people up for failure, people end up stagnant and hopeless. They end up doing the same things for as long as they can smh

    You asked such a great question… one that I have been trying to find an answer to for sometime. There is no chance until people in those situations wake up and get out. They have to be exposed to something that’s different.. something that matters to them and makes sense for them to want to step out and make Change. It’s so sad to think about it… there’s historical trauma behind it and will take a lot of hard work to change. I think more people are “woke” though, & it’s spreading like wild fire.

  2. Amily says:


    Thank you for replying! You’re absolutely right about the lack of exposure to things that are different from what is known, it’s a huge factor contributing to this issue. It takes a strong mind and willing personality to go against what is considered the norm and seek new horizons. I should have put “hood” in quotation marks, it’s the word I’ve been using shorthand for this. And you pointed out the historical trauma factor- so important to take note on.

    My dream is to do extensive research on this subject and eventually publish a book. Do you or anyone else know of any books or websites that cover this topic? Please let me know!

    And I have noticed that more people are “woke”, it makes me happy and gives me hope 🙂

  3. katerina says:

    I am so amped up to hear more about this! You speak truth here, and as much as we work in the recovery ‘realm’ all these people with potential will never look our way because it’s just not ‘cool.’ This itself is sad- we see the sadness, they don’t. Your questions at the end oriented my mind around this more clearly, so I put them into guiding questions to get a start on organizing the myriad of issues and thoughts around this; you know, there’s so much to talk about it’s easy to rant.

    Overall Question:
    How do we better a culture that is not self aware?
    How do we collaborate to reduce the risk of being set up for failure?

    More Specific Questions:
    How do we tell the children that there is a different way to do things?
    How do we empower them to believe they deserve this opportunity of a different life?
    How do we empower them to believe in their abilities and potential?
    How do we empower children to ambitiously commit to education?

    I put them in this order as it would be a process; it will be hard to commit to education before believing you can even do it.

    Also, RAI, I love how you included the word consistently- ‘haven’t been exposed to something new consistently’- this factor is essential because so many do in fact get exposed but it’s like nothing but a fleeting moment.

  4. RaiC says:

    Thanks Evan and Katerina… this just keeps getting better.

    Evan, there is some research on it.. they call it urban psychotherapy, the “hood mentality” and urban deindividuation. That’s really exciting to hear that you’re interested in writing a book about it… I am so impressed. the issue is so much bigger than what people can even imagine.. unless you’ve been living it and had the opportunity to step out and look back with a new set of eyes.

    Whenever I’m with my friends or family, this topic always comes up in one way or another. It just shows me that people are starting to get it.. they’re starting to open their eyes.

    Katerina! Those are great questions and some that I have been asking for quite sometime now! Great minds think alike lol

    I always look to music and get inspired by some of it… check out Ice Cube’s Hood Mentality… He covers this so well! He was at the forefront of making change and stood up against so much.

    Check it out Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohqnQ1YzohU

  5. Amily says:

    This thread just keeps getting better!

    Kat, I know we’ve spoken about how to appeal better to a variety of people, I would love to see you do a post on this subject!
    As for the questions that you organized, I really really really really really wish there was a clear method as to how to solve these issues. Where would we even begin? It would have to start on an individual level, of course, but where do we go from there? There’s so many factors involved…the education system, the music, the lack of consistent exposure…and it’s more complex than even I can get into. Although not necessarily true for all situations, there’s the race factor- I speak from personal experience when I say that there are people for who being “hood” and their race go hand in hand. When a matter of personal identity is intertwined in such matter, an entirely new framework for viewing themselves would have to be constructed. There’s just so much to say on this subject, I’m glad I’m finally getting a chance to speak on it.


    Thank you so much for providing me with those terms, I’m going to very much enjoy looking up more information on them. Thanks for showing me the song as well, it’s so real- and very catchy too. You’re absolutely right about the issue being larger than people can imagine. What this needs is for more people to start openly speaking about it until it eventually begins spreading- I know many people are “woke”, but how can we keep expanding? Again, I’m so happy I finally get to talk about this with people 🙂

  6. Luz.Feliz says:

    I am absolutely in love with this topic post. It is such a big issue going on nowadays that it has to be addressed, nevertheless there is so much that goes into addressing it that many do not even know where to begin. In addition to Evan’s initial post, I can also say that I am also partially a witness to the culture that tries to hold one back, for my own family will at times try to get me to stay at home sitting on my butt collecting money when things seem to get too hard rather than fighting through the emotions and getting back on my feet. I think that it will become easier with time for more and more children to want to commit to education, want to dedicate themselves to bettering their future, etc., when they see that their parents aren’t limiting them. I think getting the caregivers hooked is the key. For a long time this is what limited me from wanting to take the next steps in my life. So when we address the questions directed towards the children, perhaps looking at the entire family dynamics may assist. If a parent or guardian at home is not supportive of a child’s successes, a child will feel as if there’s no reason for having to do it. I feel as though we have to work to shift the nation’s view on being culturally stagnant as a whole. After all, the real change must begin within the home.

  7. Amily says:

    Luz, I completely agree that many of the issues addressed in this thread involve family dynamics. This goes back to the problem of children not receiving enough consistent exposure, they can have new experiences yet returning to a family that is unwilling or unable to change their views and their ways prevents personal growth. A general observation I’ve picked up on is that many black and Latino families place a huge emphasis on remaining close to their family members both geographically and emotionally, and a desire to expand your life is not necessarily appreciated, putting a limit on reaching goals and chasing desires.

    I would love to hear more about working to shift the nation’s view as a whole on being culturally stagnant.

    Thanks for contributing to this thread!

  8. katerina says:

    Perhaps, we ought to look at why these ‘black and Latino families place a huge emphasis on remaining close to their family members both geographically and emotionally.

    In terms of human behavior, we are seeing a cluster of our population- bound by socioeconomic and racial similarities- appearing to accept a life of limited desires and dreams, some of which whom do not realize is even limited.  I’m restating what’s been discussed amongst ourselves, not any formal research findings.

    In a country founded on ‘the American dream.’ it seems surprising that any american group would think this way; so, it is something to wonder about…how was their perspective different?/
    What was the perspective of this population back when America was founded?
    How does this perspective compare to other [European] perspectives not of the black or Hispanic race?

    Macro Level Questions

    What happened throughout History to make them feel and think this way?
         What happened to make this populace desire close geographical connections to family?
         What happened to make this populace desire close emotional connections to family?

  9. Amily says:

    Kat, I’m soooo happy you responded! These are the kinds of questions to be thinking about! Again, I’ve done no formal research nor do I have any statistical or factual evidence, so I’m attempting to respond purely on observation and make suggestions based on critical thinking.

    As everyone knows the Black and Latino population has always been subject to racial discrimination, and although much progress has been made in America, these prejudices have not yet been abolished. Living in a country that is run by a race that sees you as less than, less capable, even less intelligent, will significantly impact one’s self worth and will lead to formulating ideas about one’s place/position in this country. (Of course this is a generalization, this thought does not apply to individuals but we’ll use these ideas for the sake of describing a greater picture). Historically, these ideas have been passed down throughout generations, forming the culture and mentality that is found today.

    As for the socioeconomic factor, the majority of Black and Latino families are found in working class neighborhoods living in poverty, or else not making enough to move up the socioeconomic ladder. I wonder how much this factor has to do with the closeness to family: if there is not enough money to move farther, to travel, to establish one’s life independently from family members who may be possibly dependent on each other for financial reasons, why would anyone even bother thinking about anything else when comfort and security are already in place?

    I wanted to mention the cases where Latino families move from their island or country to America and this closeness, almost dependency with each other lingers and is passed down to generations that are more “Americanized”. The connection to family has obviously existed prior to moving to this country. As there is more of a gap between people who have immigrated to this country and their children, grandchildren, and so on, I wonder if the mentality of being close to family will ever diminish. As more and more opportunities are provided for Latino (and Black, respectively) youth, perhaps there will be an increase motivation to do more with one’s life and pursue a higher education. Again, these are just ideas I’m throwing out there.

    Let me know what you think! I hope this thread keeps going, I’m really enjoying this discussion and even the tangents we’re going on are all relevant to the greater topic at hand.

  10. RaiC says:

    Love where this is headed! Even for those who are not necessarily aware of what’s going on (have to have been so consumed in your own life or living under a rock to have missed this) this thread is LIFE!

    History has a way of holding onto us, no matter how hard we try to shake it. It’s in who we are,, a part of our DNA.. It’s ingrained in the make of America.. in every system. It’s hard to make changes for that very reason! However, as all of us continue to push forward and to think critically about these issues, we will make a way. We will make change, even if unfortunately, we do not see it in our lifetime.

    The discussion of race is so exhausting but is so necessary! For those who claim to not acknowledge it, are the ones that I have found myself fighting to make them see things differently. People who do not “see” race are those who have not been effected… However, to say you have not been effected, is ridiculous. Whether it be good or bad, all of us in this world have experienced some sort of effect of this idea of race… however you want to put it.

    I agree so much with you Evan! As more opportunities open up for Blacks & Latinos, I think the motivation will grow! More and more people continue to wake up, especially with all thats going on in this world. It seems as if everyone is against one another sadly and that the government is against the “people”. The thirst for something better, for equality is what will motivate us all. I just hope that we do not wait until the doors open for us to make moves.. It’s time to build our own path, kick down those doors or knock real hard until someone hears us.

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