Are there many interracial couples in America?

Looking at the complex racial history of the United States, one might be set to think that the nation’s many “races” and ethnic groups don’t mix well. If you’ve seen shows like 90 Day Fiancé (or Keeping Up With the Kardashians, really) then you have some notion about this. Here, I want to look at how people mix on more than just a superficial level. What’s the chemistry like for different races in America? How much mixing do these different groups actually do? In many countries (definitely not all) interracial couples are pretty common, or at least aren’t seen as particularly strange. In the U.S., well, it’s a funny story.

Some Inter-Racial History

an old color painting of black slaves awaiting sale in a room with white spectators & auctionees
Slaves waiting for sale – By Eyre Crowe

So yes, interracial couples do exist in the U.S.A. A lot, actually. But, racial mixing in relationships is still taboo in many parts. Why is that? I mean, it’s 2021! There are some good reasons behind this. Historically, mixed-race couples have been highly criticized within the U.S., especially between black and white people. In many ways, this combination is still the most controversial in the States, even though for black men the most common interracial combo is he, black and she, white. Still, what’s all that prejudice about?

an old photo of light-skinned slave girls, mulatto children in the American South during slavery
Mixed-race slave girls – By M.H. Kimball

You might know (or be able to guess) that this stems from times of slavery. Many black women were raped by their white master or his family members, forcing them to have mulatto children. Instead of being given more rights like in some other European colonies, the mulattos were still considered slaves. More often than not, they were treated with the same cruelty too. This is part of why mixed people or “light-skinned-ed” black people are often considered black in the first place. But that’s a different post.

Anyway, due to this complicated history of racial division and mistrust, the family of either partner in a couple may feel discomfort with the relationship. It’s not just between blacks and whites, given the historic tensions:

  • Latinos/Hispanics – mostly for immigration and cultural differences
  • Asians (especially Japanese, Koreans, and Vietnamese) – because of several American wars in the region, Japanese attacks during WW2, cultural prejudice
  • Arabs/Muslims – recent wars, 9/11, cultural and religious differences

Native Americans make up a pretty small portion of interracial couples, but they are also one of the smallest ethnic groups overall. I do get the sense that they are more mixed and integrated into American society than in other American countries like Mexico or Brazil.

One contributing factor to so much prejudice around this topic is that interracial marriage used to be illegal in several states back in the day. Since it was decriminalized in the 1960s, interracial marriages have almost tripled. In all states and almost every county, interracial couples have increased and are continually on the rise. There are some differences though.

And now commencing: Montage of beautiful mixed families

Trends & Perceptions about Intermixing

an interracial family smiling and posing for a photo in front of a house
One big mixed family – by Rajiv Perera

Interracial relationships tend to be more common in urban areas than rural areas. They’re also more common in the West or the Mid-Atlantic. That’s because those regions are more diverse anyway, so it’s a lot more likely you’ll meet someone of a different “race” in the first place, let alone marry them. As far as opinion, black people are more likely to accept intermarriage than white people are. Still, it depends on the combo.

For instance, black family’s would probably be more accepting of intermarriage with a white person than an Asian person. Meanwhile with white families, it might be the opposite. Still, intermarriage between groups like whites with Asians or Hispanics is more common than intermarriage with blacks in general. Most commonly with intermarriage, white people are more likely to get with someone who is white Hispanic. At that point, it’s less a matter of “race” and more of cultural identity.

Attitudes about race, regions where more diverse communities are located, quality of education, and employment opportunities are some factors that help determine the prevalence of interracial couples in any given part of America. All these factors considered, general tendencies with black people contribute to fewer marriage rates overall anyway. That’s stuff like higher incarceration and unemployment rates. Been to jail? Don’t have a job? It’s gonna be hard for her to accept that ring, player.

What’s “Interracial,” Anyway?

two mixed-race American kids with curly hair sitting and laughing together
Some of that pretty mixed-people hair – by Eye for Ebony

A couple of notes about race as it relates to this subject:

So, we all know about the strange American system of declaring who’s who and what’s what. Hispanics are considered an “ethnic group” of people from any Spanish-speaking country (from Mexico to Spain). Latinos are from any Latin-American country (from Mexico to Argentina, Brazil included — places like Haiti usually aren’t included). Asians covers anybody from East, South, or Central Asia (from China to India to Kazakhstan). Arabs considers everyone from an Arabic-speaking nation (from Morocco to Iraq).

Otherwise, there’s a separation between African-American and black since black could be from Africa, the Caribbean, or anywhere else, really. Whites are generally considered those with Anglo-Saxon (e.g. British, German), Slavic (e.g. Russian, Polish), or Mediterranean (e.g. Italian, Greek) backgrounds. This often excludes Indo-Aryans (e.g. Iranians, white Afghans) or whites from the Middle East/North Africa (e.g. white Algerians, white Lebanese).

All of this to say that the way interracial couples are recorded in the U.S. can be tricky. Let’s say Joe with British ancestry marries Susan with Syrian ancestry. Both could be white, but Susan would be considered Arab. Or Susan could have white ancestry from Cuba, but she’d be considered Hispanic/Latina.

Now Joe is black with deep African American ancestry, but now Susan has black ancestry from Cuba. Susan is still considered Hispanic/Latina, and their relationship “interracial.” Or let’s say Joe has Japanese ancestry and Susan has south Indian ancestry. Under the eyes of the census, they wouldn’t be considered interracial since both are from the Asian continent, even though they are ethnically and culturally worlds apart.

With that said, there are probably a lot more “intercultural” marriages and relationships in the U.S. than we might think based on the numbers. That’s why I like to use my eyes.

Use Your “Sense-us”

Based on what I can see, most of my family members are in “interracial & intercultural” relationships, and they live all over the country. I’m from a big city, so I have seen lots of interracial couples all over the place. If they’ve led to marriage, I’m sure is a different story altogether.

Because of recent growth in racial awareness, a lot more interracial couples and families are sympathizing more with each other’s identities. When a white person has a mixed black kid, it’s hard not to pay close attention to the police shootings of young black people. That’s just one example. In the end, I think this will be something that saves our nation and creates more sympathy for other cultures. The country is still pretty segregated compared to lots of Western countries. But I encourage interracial couples, we need them! Without them, I wouldn’t even be here.

**What do you think about interracial/intercultural couples? What about international couples? Have you ever been in a relationship like this? Would you want to? Comment and share your thoughts! Read more Doubts About Americans! And check these links below for more info. Stay safe out there! Peace.

Resources & Further Reading:

Perceptions & Trends of Interracial Couples

U.S. Census Results about Interracial Couples

Interracial Couple Experience

Other Facts about Interracial Couples

Gone Girl + society [2014] – What’s it say about us?

A small-town girl from the American Midwest disappears suddenly … and her husband is the prime suspect. Well, actually she’s a grown woman, but you get my point. This is the main plot of this post’s subject, Gone Girl. It was a book by Gillian Flynn that turned into a popular movie. It’s directed by David Fincher (for the movie nerds out there) and was nominated for a lot of awards too. By the way, this is part of a series where we (lightly) analyze English-language movies. If you like that sort of thing, there are more posts like this here.

The book cover of Gone Girl, novel by Gillian Flynn

We’ll look at what the movie has to say about American society at large, as well as some general themes of the film. If you haven’t seen it yet, there might be some spoilers, I can’t make any promises. You can find it on platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix, though it depends on your country or region. The trailer is up top in case you want to refresh your memory or check it out for the first time.

Movie Setting

What does the movie, Gone Girl, have to say about American culture or society? For starters, let’s look at where it’s set. The movie takes place mostly in a fictional town in northeast Missouri. It’s not far from the Mississippi River which forms the border with Illinois. Why is that important? Well, Missouri is a state smack in the middle of the USA. Southern Missouri is a lot more like the South in terms of culture and other ways, while the north is a bit more like the Midwest. Even being in the same country (in this case the same state), being in the Midwest shows a greater lean towards mainstream, heartland American values and identity. You can kind of see the difference in accents, where some people have stronger “rural” or Southern accents where others have a more typical American accent. I’ll explain a bit later.

A map showing the course of the Mississippi River in North America, the setting of Gone Girl
course of the Mississippi River – By Mulad at English Wikipedia

The Mississippi River is the longest, most iconic river in the country. We see big homes with green lawns, quiet streets with cul-de-sacs, and small brick-stone towns. This is all typical of an American city suburb. There are also some scenes that describe what the weather is like in much of the Midwest during the summer. You have people searching for Amy (the gone “girl”) in green fields full of bugs and sweating under the sticky, humid air. There are some scenes by the river or poolside that show us how hot it is. I don’t remember if there is a winter scene, but I feel like there was. Either way, the Midwest also gets extremely cold in the winter months.

Gone Girl is set in modern times, which is important for this next section.

The Media

Maybe you haven’t noticed lately, but the media, especially social and mass media, have been impacting lots of people’s behaviors. From liking photos to deciding whether or not to wear a mask, these platforms have a bigger impression on most of us than we might think. The news especially has a way of leading us into believing what the studio thinks. If they don’t think anything, they are good at making the situation a lot more dramatic than it is. Even before Covid (I know, feels like forever), lots of people were suspicious of mass media and the news. They have a habit of accentuating the bad stuff and pushing people to be more scared than they need to. I’m sure this happens almost everywhere, but Americans have a long history of being suspicious of the government and any other entity that has too much power.

A large crowd of protestors walking through the city streets, representing the retaliation against Nick in Gone Girl
the town coming after Nick – by Alex Radelich, Unsplash

Still, this precaution doesn’t keep most of the town along with some of the investigators from believing that Nick (Ben Affleck’s character) really killed his wife. The news repeats this accusation and fires up conflict at a time when Nick’s involvement isn’t really suspected. This plays on our society’s recent growth in protecting women’s rights and protecting women in at-risk situations like domestic violence. Although this is a very real problem across the globe, the story shows how some women take advantage of this movement toward equality. There are those who intentionally try to harm the image of a man. There have been lots of scandals in recent years of women doing exactly this, as a matter of fact.

The fact that the community starts to turn against Nick after seeing the news sheds light on their innocence. There is a general perception that people from the city are sinners and those from the country are saints. That’s meant figuratively, but in Gone Girl, you can see how much of the community was influenced by the news. They were manipulated into the version of the story that would get more views, higher ratings. Another example of this is one of Amy’s (Rosamund Pike’s character) friends who jogs regularly and talks with her. Amy recognizes her innocence and tricks the woman into trusting her, steadily turning the woman against Nick. These people live a more relaxed, quiet, and routine suburban life. They don’t come across many bizarre situations like this very often. In the end, they don’t know what to believe or what to do about it.

Community

A rural town in the country with green hills and forests in the background, a yellow school bus running down the main road, a community like in the movie Gone Girl
small Midwestern community – by Louise Tollisen, Unsplash

Besides them turning against Nick, we also see how tight-knit this community is. This is a common feature in small towns across the country. People really look after each other and talk with one another when passing on the street, which isn’t as common in big cities. Other themes about the characters’ behaviors are the unhappy couple trying to fake a perfect marriage by putting up a false face of unity. Amy is robbed by a traveling couple with guns. This sheds light on the somewhat loose gun laws in certain states and the hardships many people in rural America face. This can go to the point of committing serious crimes on one another. This touches on gun culture being stronger in the American interior too. Missouri actually has a fairly high crime rate and lots of underprivileged areas. This reality is shown in a few scenes too.

Crime & Violence

This is essentially a crime-novel-turned-crime-movie. A cocky big-shot lawyer, constant snooping by the police, and investigators being quick to decide what happened before the case is closed; these are all common tropes in the crime genre. If you watch CSI or Law & Order, you know exactly what I mean. One thing that’s very apparent, especially near the end of the movie, is the high level of violence and bloodshed. Gone Girl isn’t really a violent movie, but it has a big bloody moment towards the end.

This touches on how common violence is in American moviemaking. I don’t want to say that we all love blood and guts (some do), but from our movies, you’d think so! There is also the theme of a couple staying together “for the baby,” which Amy sneakily tricks Nick into having. She uses her pregnancy in the end to trap Nick into their marriage. This is another note on the manipulation some women perform over men in their complicated relationships. To be fair, she manipulates pretty much everybody in this movie.

A small light sky blue woodshed with a small garden and trees in the background, a symbol of the woodshed in Gone Girl
a creepy woodshed – by James Frid, Pexels.com

The “Woodshed”

Besides small-town family values, heartland America identity, and rural/suburban naivety, there’s one last theme that’s really interesting. If you want, you can read more about this here. The woodshed is where Amy leaves her secrets, and it’s where Nick eventually finds out what’s happening. The woodshed represents a common part of many American homes where a family might store things they don’t use often. It can also be an unexpected symbol for how a figurative “mess” builds up during a relationship, then gets pushed deeper into the “shed.” There’s a related phrase in English: “come out of the woodwork.” This means that something comes out of hiding and into the light from an unexpected place. Basically, it becomes clearer. This seems like a funny way to show this idea. The truth comes out of the actual woodwork, or rather, the woodshed.

Last Thoughts

That’s all, everybody. I hope you enjoyed this look at Gone Girl and some of its themes, meanings, and cultural insights. It’s a story about relationship issues, lies, manipulation, and a whole lot of media interference. Even though Nick cheated on his wife, Amy did a lot more than expose him for it. She kind of ruined his life, not to mention forcing him to keep a marriage he was all but done with. This movie is reminiscent of a TV crime series, and it shows us why those programs can be addicting. Some of the most outrageous and deviant crimes happen out in the country where it seems like no one is watching. But boy, did we watch this one!

Please comment if you agree or disagree with parts of this post. What other ways does Gone Girl touch on true or stereotypical parts of American society? What about society in another country? Share your thoughts, my wonderful reader! And take care out there.

society + The Wolf of Wall Street [2013] – What’s it say about us?

Every once in a while there comes a movie that is so big, so outrageous, and so crazy that it truly shocks us, the audience. Today’s movie under the spotlight will be The Wolf of Wall Street. We’ll take a look at some important aspects of the movie and how they shed some light onto this big complex thing called American society. Are you in? Read on, reader.

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The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie from 2013 and based on the true life story of Jordan Belfort. Personally it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. Now that may be because I-heart Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, and crazy movies in general, but there is more to this movie than Matthew McConaughey beating his chest and humming “hm-hm-hm-hmm” in musical fashion. It actually has a lot to say about American society itself, and we’ll be taking note of some of those things here.

If you didn’t see this movie, you might want to watch before reading this. Or who knows? Maybe this post will make you want to watch it. Last I checked it was available on Amazon Prime and Netflix with a subscription and Google Play or YouTube for rent. If you know where to find it for free, more power to you. I certainly feel like watching it again tonight. If you did see this movie, you might recall lots of cursing, sexual content, drugs, and everything else a Rated-R movie is sure to have. While that R-Rating is definitely a “green-light” for the movie-makers to go ahead and put basically anything they want in the movie, there’s a bit of truth to some of these things. As a director, Scorsese kind of loves to put cursing and bad words in his movies anyway, especially the 17-and-up ones. However, most of the movie takes place in and around New York, the biggest city in the nation. In the U.S., you are far more likely to have people who curse a lot and don’t follow the traditional moral values in big cities than you would see in smaller cities and especially the countryside. This is a common trait of most countries where big cities are centers of more liberal culture movements. So in the cities they let their words fly.

Remembering that the movie takes place in the late 1980s-1990s, this was a time that traditional American values were being greatly challenged and all kinds of movements were in the process of changing culture ever since the late ’60s. That means sexual liberation, decreased censorship, and the popularization of recreational drugs like cocaine and pills. The U.S. economy was in a boom during part of the ’80s too which saw lots of people on Wall Street getting very rich and scheming to make ridiculous amounts of money. So the whole premise of The Wolf of Wall Street is showing what the motives, lifestyle, and eventual decline of these Wall Street schemers was like during that point in history.

In the early ’80s, America was suffering a terrible economic recession considered the worst since the Great Depression about 60 years earlier. This is about the point we see at the beginning where Jordan (DiCaprio’s character), his wife and some acquaintances are going through hard financial times. This struggle is a big motive for Jordan and his friends to start their fraudulent company and steal so much money. This isn’t so hard to understand, since most crime is induced by difficult circumstances. That is until the culprits get greedy and make a whole enterprise out of their crimes. We also see some of the effects of the recession where you had some stock brokers enter into depression and even kill themselves due to their sudden loss of wealth and hope.

Now, when the economic boom came and these guys figured out how to make tons of money, we saw how loose their morals got. This is where all kinds of crazy things happen, many of them in the office space. Jordan even trades his wife for the stereotypical thin blonde. You have derogatory language and actions used against little people, people with deficiencies, women in general, animals, and people of diverse races. Women are particularly objectified and humiliated throughout the movie, which I interpret as a genuine representation of how men in power have seen women, especially since the ongoing sexual liberation period. All the derogatory ideas and language used represent how often white people in power have seen other communities in America. Our acceptance or attempts of being more politically correct have really gained ground recently where now it is becoming more and more taboo to make fun of people for deficiencies, their appearance, their gender, or sexual orientation. Essentially the movie shows us a time when all of those concepts were a lot looser, at least away from the cameras.

An interesting point of the movie shows Jordan and his associates going to hide money in a Swiss bank. There are certain countries and territories that have pretty loose banking/tax laws called “Tax havens,” and so rich people, including many wealthy Americans, have tended to “hide” their money abroad where they don’t have to claim it or pay taxes on it. As you might know, this is a continuing phenomenon. This whole concept as well as the money shed light on the greedy and capitalistic nature of the American economy and the nation’s elite. We see how these rich guys run around with naked women on their yachts, tricking each other, even leaving their own families behind, just to make more and more money. This is more so a statement about rich or greedy people in general, especially those that made their fortunes by stepping on others.

These talk louder – Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

In an interesting way, it also shows what is possible and acceptable in the U.S. Of course, the vast majority of Americans don’t live like the characters in the movie and would probably disagree with several of its moral decisions (Lord, I hope). There was actually a lot of criticism on this movie for the excessive cursing, sexual content, and drug use. It actually had set a record for number of curse words in a single movie. Something interesting about that is showing how cursing is becoming more acceptable in American public life. I know there are some countries out there where cursing is totally natural and others where it is extremely discouraged. Even in the U.S., cursing has been looked down upon in the public eye for many years, even if lots of people did it at work or at home, for example. Again, you still have many Americans who discourage cursing, calling it a lack of intelligence, blasphemous or unnecessary. Yet there is a growing acceptance for bad words among Americans, and especially among the younger generations. No matter how religious or ant-cursing many of us may be, cursing is likely to become a non-issue in the next couple decades.

Watch that mouth! – Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Something else I want to touch on in this movie is Jordan’s jailing. There is a general conception (at least by minorities) that white people in America often get an easier time at trial than minorities do. And certainly wealthy or famous people tend to catch a lighter sentence (less jail time) than poor individuals, even if they commit the same crimes. This is apparent when we see Jordan getting on house arrest and then going to a “white collar” prison. White collar criminals are those that commit crimes involving fraud, tax evasion, and other kinds of corrupt activities that don’t directly harm people’s safety but their wallets. Because these criminals tend to garner lots of wealth, they are able to pay and bribe for less prison time. Either that or juries don’t see them as being as dangerous as the common thief or murderer. Their prisons also tend to be in better condition than regular prisons, even having tennis courts as we saw in the movie.

Jordan’s arrogance throughout the movie came back to haunt him in the end when the FBI finally took him down. It’s sort of a lesson that the U.S. government always wins. The FBI is the main domestic investigative agency and answers to a federal department, so they sort of represent Big Brother’s check on the seemingly “endless” opportunities provided by capitalism, at least in this movie. Whenever you get too carried away, they will swoop in and take their part. And if they can’t get a part, they’ll at least make sure you can’t have anymore.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a very long and complex movie with lots of events and themes. There was a lot more I could get into and really explain, but this is a good introduction. I encourage you to watch the movie again (or for the first time!) and pay attention to these themes and tropes, maybe find your own representations of American or capitalist society. Write some ideas down in the comments if you feel like it! And tell me what you think of this movie? How much cursing is too much? Think about it! And take care, everybody.

Aren’t there a lot of black people in America, like on T.V.? – Black identity in the USA

The story of the U.S. is a complicated and controversial one, and few things add to that controversy than the question of race. Topics related to race, slavery, civil rights, citizenship, and even cultural identity can be traced to one of America’s most important groups of people. Speaking of that cultural identity you, as a foreigner, might have noticed that many famous movies (Coming to America, Training Day, Black Panther), T.V. shows (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Everybody Hates Chris, My Wife and Kids), and social figures (Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah Winfrey) are African Americans or star lots of black people. When you talk about singers and musical influence, black Americans almost take home the prize for most impactful internationally. With all this influence, you might expect to go to the U.S. and see tons of black folks walking around everywhere. But are there really that many of us?

Fortnite now has a Black Panther skin and a Wakanda Forever emote - Polygon
Even Fortnite uses black culture, Wakanda Forever! from Polygon.com

I previously wrote about the misconception of America being pretty much all white, but this is an interesting turn of thinking. Maybe after seeing and listening to so many things featuring black people, you might conclude:

Hey, there has to be a lot of black people in the U.S., right? Why else would they be so prevalent on T.V. and music and all that?

Well, the answer would be no; black people in America aren’t as prevalent as you might think.

How it can feel to be black in America sometimes… Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

To be fair, even I was surprised by how many African Americans there truly are. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of black Americans. As I said in a previous post, black people are actually a majority or almost half the population in several cities across the country, in places like New Orleans, Atlanta, Detroit, and many others. Despite all that, there are almost 330 million Americans, and people who identify as only black are 13.4% (about 44 million). So yes, that is a lot of black people, but it’s a small number compared to all the other people in the country.

Of course, you have to remember that many African Americans are not fully “black” but may identify as black because of reasons related to cultural identity, family ties, or simply not thinking that much about the question. You might find a light-skinned person with African ancestry more likely to identify as “black” if he or she grew up around mostly black people, lives around mostly black people, and identifies mostly with black American culture. This goes back to the One Drop Rule in the U.S., to which I’ll leave a link for more information down below. That also leaves us with blacks who might consider themselves “mixed-race” even though they are darker-skinned, but that’s a little less common. By the way, colored and mulatto used to be acceptable terms for mixed people, but they are considered offensive by most people nowadays.

Although black people practically make up a small minority in the U.S., there are reasons why they might seem so prevalent on T.V. and other media. One is that the country is huge! 13 percent of 330 million is still a ton of people, so of course, they seem like a lot. Another point is that many of these people went to urban areas like big cities after slavery and especially after suffering discrimination/violence in the South. Cities are where most of the cultural output comes from, so that’s why we seem to have so many black actors, musicians, musical styles, and social figures. Several of these figures exist purely because of the discrimination blacks have suffered. Black people in politics are on the rise recently too, so that could add to this misconception.

One more point I want to make is that black people have been severely and openly discriminated against in the U.S. for centuries, and people who supported slavery had all kinds of misconceptions about race, ethnicity, and what was good for the nation. Of course black people, and almost any minority in fact, have suffered all over the world, but the U.S. handled it a bit differently. After creating some highly significant social leaders and leading its own power movements, a big push has been made by black Americans to support each other, promote each other, and work with each other. There has been such a big momentum with black people trying to “catch up” with white Americans and have equality that this has allowed black people to be present in almost all facets of American life. Think of “#OscarsSoWhite” and the following year when a ton of black movies and filmmakers won awards. Even though black Americans in general are pretty well represented and better off than black people in almost all other American countries (think of Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, and many African nations for that matter), there is always a push for more equality and representation. I suppose all people deserve this and I’m glad to help represent my country and ancestry, even if it’s in a subtle, blog-writing way.

Black-ish guy making a movie, Photo by KASHILEMBO WABU

Even if there aren’t as much of us as you might have thought, I encourage you to keep listening to our music, keep watching our T.V., and keep supporting our social movements. Black people just want respect like anybody else, and I’m sure that they’d be proud to know how truly influential black U.S. culture has been all over the world. Keep up the support!

Speaking of support, I appreciate you for reading this post! Feel free to check the resources below to learn more and keep an open mind. If you liked this post, read some other ones here on the website. Tell me what you think of black American culture or people in the comments, or send me an email at tietewaller@gmail.com. Cool? Peace and take care!

Resources:

U.S. census info 2019: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219

America’s “One Drop Rule” explained: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/jefferson/mixed/onedrop.html

About #OscarsSoWhite: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2016/02/02/oscars-academy-award-nominations-diversity/79645542/

society + Coming to America [1988] – What’s it say about us?

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Popcorn anyone? Candies? We are back at The Movies! This time we are going to look at a classic, “an oldie but a goodie” you might say. Where else can you find African warriors, an obvious McDonald’s ripoff and Arsenio Hall in a wig? That’s right, we’ll look at one of the funniest movies of all time and see what it has to say about our good and friendly Americans. Ready to read?

*There may be spoilers here if you haven’t watched the movie yet, but, I mean, 1988.

Zamunda on the map, from Jungle Maps

Now, I know this movie’s a little old. For those who don’t know, the sequel finally came out this year (2021), cleverly named Coming 2 America, and has many of the same cast members as the original. That title alone tells you how much we love puns and double meanings in the U.S., particularly when it comes to naming stuff. The movie is worth a look on Amazon Prime, but I’ll leave a link to the trailer here in case you don’t pay for that service … yet. The first movie has countless jokes that plenty of people reference to this day. It wasn’t just an American success either since this movie and its crazy scenes have fans from all over the world. Despite the fact that the story follows a young African prince — of Zamunda to be exact, please check your nearest map — and his royal assistant who basically tour New York in order to find a princess, the movie itself has a lot to say about our U.S. of A. And what better way to do this than to start with Africa?

The nation of Zamunda is like one of those ongoing jokes about Americans not knowing geography. Now, it is pretty common for filmmakers to come up with a fake name for countries in their movies, but Zamunda sounds like one of the answers you’d get from a classmate after a teacher asks them, “Name a country in Africa.” I know, Zamunda! It just sounds African, even if it isn’t real, and that’s why it sheds some light on American culture. Many people (around the world, but especially in America) don’t know much about Africa at all. You might be surprised just how little many African Americans know about Africa. Zamunda was meant to be fictitious, but I bet you there were many people that thought it was real, and as a matter of fact, probably still think so.

Stepping off the plane in Zamunda, Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

Not to speak poorly of my fellow citizens, to be fair, there are many who know a lot about geography. But, I’m going to go ahead and say that most of us don’t. Poor geography skills aside, the movie says some other things about our view of Africa. It was admirable that they chose to show African royalty as opposed to poverty, and the royal family is very wealthy in the movie. Coming to America stars pretty much all black people too which is appropriate for a movie about Africans, though this has not always been the case. The movie came out at a time when black people were really growing in their pride and interest in African heritage, and this trend has swept over black American culture ever since. In Zamunda we can still see lots of random animals you might find on a safari just running around the palace. This plays on the idea that many Americans have this view as if Africa is full of lions, elephants, giraffes, and whatnot. Many people think you can step off a plane and see a rhinoceros, for example. It goes the same for other countries, like some people believe Brazil is all Amazon or Australia is all kangaroos. Don’t blame the people, blame our T.V. … and Kangaroo Jack, of course.

Many people’s image of what Africa is like (sorry for the moon), Photo by Faris Munandar on Pexels.com

Americans perceive that it is hard for foreigners to speak and understand English the way it is used naturally. Even for Zamundans, a nation that speaks English, cultural differences create a big gap. We see several scenes where Akeem (that’s Eddie Murphy) has hilarious misunderstandings with people because of the way he talks. Often, foreigners learn English in formal schools and their speech sounds very proper to us here. This explains why they had Akeem embarrassing himself so much. He’s also a skilled warrior and fights with spears, which is a sort of stereotype about Africans being wild and hunting with old weapons. Some rural or hunter-gatherer communities do, but most Africans aren’t quite as skilled as Akeem is with the spear.

Soul Glo & the Jheri curl

Going back to ’80s trends, that Soul Glo hairspray stuff has some major moments in the movie. The Jheri curl is the hairstyle that this spray makes, and it was fairly popular, especially among black people in the late ’80s to early ’90s. You had some ladies in tight bikinis, which relates to a sort of sexual revolution that was going on at the time, starting in the ’60s and getting more and more, um, liberated, up until modern times. And talk about that crazy pastor and the “Sexual Chocolate” guy! Most pastors and reverends are decent people, but you do get some bad eggs every once in a while. That creepy one in the movie references these “bad” pastors who care too much about money, yelling loudly, and watching half-naked women. Despite that stuff, you do still see many pastors who speak in the same style that he does. “Yess-uh, I wanna thank yah Lawd, uh-yas Lawd!” I don’t know where this style came from, but it’s very common for pastors to talk like this, especially in black churches in the South or smaller cities.

You know it’s a barbershop when you see this, Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

Another part of the movie I want to talk about is New York. They spend most of the movie in Queens, a borough of New York City. Queens during the ’80s and before was known for having lots of black people and being sort of a poor neighborhood. Queens still has some rough parts, I hear (I mean I am from Los Angeles…), but it also has lots of nice neighborhoods nowadays. In the movie you see people throwing trash out their windows, cursing at each other, and people robbing each other. New York is fairly safe now, but before the 9/11 attacks some parts of the city were a lot more dangerous. The barbershop scenes are very important since they are seen as key parts of black communities. All communities have barbershops, but in black communities they are places of communion where people go to hear local news, talk with friends, and tease each other. So it’s really a family atmosphere. Hair has always been really important for black people, and hair care is a big deal for us. Remember that when you visit, and please don’t touch anybody’s weave, wig, afro, braids, or Jheri curl. Well, you can cut off their Jheri curl, I approve.

In the last post on Doctor Sleep, we saw lots of big houses and how they represent the modern American home. However, in big cities and especially in lower-class areas, there are lots of apartments like the ones in the movie; small, dirty, ugly, with neighbors who are noisy or kind of grouchy. In big cities you can see more angry people who are in a rush too. I’ve heard from several foreign people who visited New York and thought Americans weren’t nice people. Remember that New York is just one place and it’s the biggest city, so you get lots of stressed people all having to live on a couple of congested islands. Still, mean and nice people can be found anywhere you go.

The most-played sport in America, Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Akeem watches basketball and tries to talk about American football, which are the two main sports in the U.S. He gets a little confused by the rules which is a normal thing. We also see Akeem and his friend, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), interact with several promiscuous women, including his future wife Lisa’s sister. This might relate to how American or Western women in general are seen as more sexually open than Eastern and African women. That’s why this was sort of a culture shock to the African prince, and it is actually a good point made by the movie. I can’t say too much else. McDowell’s is an obvious ripoff of McDonald’s, but many successful companies and products have come as a ripoff of another product. McDonald’s itself used the idea of two brothers in California to create a worldwide enterprise, and didn’t even change the name. Ah, the things you learn from Netflix.

That’s it people! Thanks for reading. If you want to practice your writing skills, you can answer these questions in the comments:

  1. Do you like the movie Coming to America? What about the sequel?
  2. Have you ever felt like Akeem when traveling to another country? Did you travel for love too?
  3. What is your favorite part of this movie?
  4. Would you rather live in Queens or Zamunda?

“Rumour Has It” [Adele] – lyrics for English students

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A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue
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New post with new lyrics! This time we’ll look at the song “Rumour Has It” by Adele from her album 21. Check these lyrics for your English understanding and learn a bit more about informal terms or cultural points. I’ve taken notes on significantly incorrect grammar or words, and explained more about informal or culture-specific terms. As always I put a short explanation of what I think the song is about, if you’re interested. I’ll also leave the video here on top if you want to listen at the same time. Happy reading!

She, she ain’t real

  • *she isn’t real…

She ain’t gon’ be able to love you like I will

  • “she won’t be able…” also, “she isn’t going to be able…”

She is a stranger

You and I have history, or don’t you remember?

  • To “have history” with someone means to have some past experience with them, usually a long and complicated one. It’s often used to talk about people who were in a relationship together.

Sure, she’s got it all

But baby, is that really what you want?

Bless your soul, you’ve got your head in the clouds

  • “Bless your soul” is an interesting phrase. Even though it sounds kind of religious, it’s used a lot to refer to someone who is clueless or making some kind of mistake. It can be for innocent mistakes, like when you’re talking to a child, or for bigger mistakes like an adult would make. A similar phrase is “bless your heart” which is more common in the South of the U.S. “I’d like to order a file mignon.” “Oh, bless his heart. He doesn’t know we don’t serve that here.” Also, having your “head in the clouds” means to be daydreaming, thinking of impossible or useless ideas, or thinking about faraway places. It can be either a negative or positive thing.

She made a fool out of you and, boy, she’s bringin’ you down

  • She’s “bringing him down,” meaning she is making him feel worse or making his life worse. “Make a fool out of someone” is a good phrase too, meaning to make someone else look foolish or silly.

She made your heart melt, but you’re cold to the core

  • If your “heart melts” this means that you fall in love, basically. I think this is the same in many languages, but being “cold” is being heartless, without emotion, and without care for others. So cold to the core (to the center, deep down) is super cold, as emotionally cold as possible.

Now rumour has it, she ain’t got your love anymore

  • *“she doesn’t have your love…” Saying “rumour has it” is a popular way to start talking about a rumor or gossip. It let’s the other person know that what you’ll say is some kind of gossip. The spelling here is standard British, “rumour,” while in the U.S. (or North America?) it’s spelled “rumor.”

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

She is half your age

Poor guy, this is how rumors spread, Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels.com

But I’m guessin’ that’s the reason that you strayed

  • To “stray” means to go off or run away without warning, usually in secret. We use this word to talk about pets a lot, like a stray cat or dog.

I heard you’ve been missin’ me

You’ve been tellin’ people things you shouldn’t be

Like when we creep out when she ain’t around

  • *“when she is not around…” To “creep out” or “creep” as a verb means to go places, usually secretively under cover of the dark. It has the idea of a snake, cat, or other creature crawling around at night. To be “around” just means to be present somewhere. So he creeps out when his girlfriend isn’t around.

Haven’t you heard the rumours? (Bless your soul)

Bless your soul, you’ve got your head in the clouds

You made a fool out of me and, boy, you’re bringin’ me down

You made my heart melt, yet I’m cold to the core

But rumour has it, I’m the one you’re leaving her for

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

Rumour has it (Rumour)

All of these words whispered in my ear

Tell a story that I cannot bear to hear

  • This isn’t really a slang term, but learners might not be familiar with it. If you “cannot bear” something, it means you can’t stand it, you can’t handle it, you can’t take it, it’s too much, etc. Yes, it is spelled the same as “bear,” the animal.

Just ’cause I said it, it don’t mean that I meant it

  • *“Just because I said, it doesn’t mean that I meant it…” To “mean” something means to be sincere about it. For example, “I said I’m sorry. I mean it.” This is different from using “mean” to talk about a meaning or definition. “Hola means Hello in Spanish.”

People say crazy things

Just ’cause I said it, don’t mean that I meant it

Just ’cause you heard it

Rumour has it (Rumour)

And the lyrics repeat.

Alrighty. This is not the typical romantic song. The story that the lyrics tell is a juicy one, like a soap opera. We have Adele secretly running around with a guy, seemingly her ex. He seems to have moved on, or they sound like they broke up. Still, he is going out with her at night, probably cheating on his current girlfriend, but won’t accept Adele during the day. It sounds like the guy left Adele for a younger woman, maybe someone shallow and outwardly pretty (she’s got it all, she ain’t real), but he secretly still likes the singer of this song. They seem to have a long history and some kind of real connection. The lyrics put us in this weird space where we don’t know if she’s upset and wants to forget this guy or if she is proud that he still wants to be with her deep down. She’s obviously been affected by him, since he did make her heart melt and no one can love him like she can. It’s a different take on romantic relationships, betrayal, and secret desires. Good stuff.

Tell me, y’all, what songs do you want me to explain? I’m waiting on my first comments here and I would love to do a song that you guys are interested in. What do you say? Comment what you thought of this song. Do you love Adele? Does this sound like a relationship you’ve been in? Tell me your thoughts, or email me directly at tietewaller@gmail.com

Aren’t all the U.S. states and cities basically the same? – Regional diversity in the USA

Anyone who’s traveled inside the U.S.A. knows the answer to this already. For now though, I want to tackle this from a cultural perspective. I’m thinking of opening a new category later on that focuses on geographical differences. This here is about the American people. I’ll break this post up quickly into the following categories:

  • religion
  • gun control
  • ethnic background
  • political stance
  • language & immigration
  • the weather factor
  • identity

I also won’t talk about every state and city, but I’ll try to break it down enough to give you a good idea. Starting off!

Religion

I want to begin with one of the most easily distinguishable differences between different states in general. As you might remember from my post about religion (if not, please check it here), the U.S. is mostly a Protestant nation. However, you’ll remember that some places are less Protestant than others. While about 70% of Americans are Christians, there is a higher concentration of them in this general region called the South. That’s why this region is generally known as the “Bible Belt,” and it’s where you normally find the most religious and traditional communities. Otherwise, the Mormon communities are identified as the “most religious” group in America, which I guess means they’re super devout. Other hardline religious and cultural groups are the Amish and Mennonites around Pennsylvania and Ohio mostly.

Peek at map showing the dominant religion in each U.S. county
Credit Robby Berman from here

This map explains pretty much all I want to say about religion. Among Christians, the Evangelists and Black Protestants are super prevalent in the Bible Belt. Mainline Protestants are more common in the North, while Hispanic Catholics are really prevalent close to the Mexican border and around Miami. Otherwise, Catholics fill up the Northeast, and there are even a few enclaves in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas around where the Spanish and French used to have more influence. Mormons are really popular in the West, especially around Utah, and Native American Catholics have little enclaves throughout the West. Cool.

On the other hand, New England (Northeast) altogether tends to be the least-religious part of the country. But you can see, even within most of the states, religious affiliations change based on the region. Southern Florida, Texas and Louisiana are mostly Catholic while the northern parts are Protestant. The opposite is true in Illinois. And that should be a good enough intro for you.

Gun Control

Credit Kathy Morris from here

That’s right! American states differ greatly on whether they support gun control or not. Unlike religion, this concept has less of a pattern. There really doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to which states support more gun control over others when we talk about permits. States that require permits vs those that don’t are pretty scattered all over the place. However, when we look at states that are gun-friendly, or are more accepting of having guns in general, the trends become more clear. These places usually coincide with states that are more rural or where people most like to go hunting.

The South and some parts of the West are pretty evenly supportive of guns. There are some lone anomalies, like Nevada in the West, Iowa in the Midwest, or New Hampshire in New England. Overall, it’s easy to see the trend. Southern states support guns. A couple of random states in the Midwest support guns. Some random western states and most of the Northeast don’t support guns. Apparently, Delaware, New Jersey, and Hawaii really hate guns. I feel like the big game hunting isn’t so good in those states, though.

Ethnic Background

The U.S. is definitely a diverse nation where nearly all ethnicities and nationalities (not to mention cuisines) can be found. What is Laotian food, anyway?

However, this too depends on the state or city in question. For example, most big cities have more diverse populations than the rural areas. There are several cities with more “minorities” than there are white people (check my other article here for more on this). Looking across the board, cities are usually where you’ll find a large chunk of diversity at.

Read it on Reddit

Still, there are some other factors to look at. As you can see, people of English ancestry are found especially in the South and the West. German ancestry is all over that central-north area of the country, while Scandinavian ancestry sits way in the North. The Irish filled up around New England, while Italians were mostly around the Tri-State area (Metro New York). Native Americans are dotted about the West, while you even see many Inuit at the top of Alaska. French ancestry is strong in the Northeast and around southern Louisiana. Something to remember about the German area is that, even though it takes up the most space, most of that region has a small and scattered population.

Political Stance

Now, I don’t like to get political, trust me. I will say that every state pretty much has either strong support for Democrats or Republicans. Some things to look for are that the West Coast, some western states, and the Northeast tend to swing more left, while most the other states swing right. Still, you’ll find that across the country, most large urban areas will be more liberal-minded than not, and most rural or small urban areas will lean conservative. There are a few small exceptions to this, but it is almost the rule when looking at political stance.

Something else that’s interesting is the so-called “Swing States.” These are states that are caught in the middle and may stand on one side or the other depending on who’s running for office. Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are classic examples of Swing States. In the most recent election (2020) some states like Georgia or Arizona proved to be new examples of Swing States. Even Texas showed to be a little more liberal than usual, despite its long history of being overwhelmingly conservative. No matter what you thought of the election, there’s no denying that some places in America feel a little more blue than red. All we need is a white party to complete the American flag. Maybe it could balance the other two?

Language & Immigration

We already looked at ancestral ties between Americans in different states, but what about the newcomers? You might know that Spanish is the second-most spoken language in the U.S., but who speaks it depends on where you are. The Southwest has the most Spanish speakers, but most of them are from Mexico, with a big group of Central Americans and small groups of others. Meanwhile, Florida and the East Coast have tons more Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans and South Americans. Oh, and a lot of Mexicans too. Geography plays a role in this, since the East is closer to the Caribbean, while the West literally touches on Mexico.

You also get lots of Asians with their respective languages in major cities, but especially on the West Coast and New York. Some of the biggest and most authentic Asian communities are in places like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and so on. Of course, the West and East coasts are closest to Asia, so that’s where a bunch of the Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Indian, and even Middle Eastern immigrants have gone along with their various languages. For more on languages, check this post.

Something else to look at is historic minorities in the U.S. African Americans are especially prevalent in both the South, since that’s where most the African slaves were taken, and big cities since that’s where they moved to find work and security after being freed. Native Americans are most prevalent in parts of the West because that’s where the most open and inhospitable parts of the country are. Many nations and tribes were driven from their homelands further east and forced to relocate out West, trading lush forests and rivers for, you know, deserts, tornadoes, and rattlesnakes. They were also forced to live with the people that already occupied these regions which was a problem because they spoke completely different languages, had different cultures, and were already there. Well, that’s another post.

Weather Factor

Speaking of tornadoes, a big part of the identity of someone from any given state or city is their weather. It might sound trivial at first, but I’ll show you. Think of Southern California and what comes to mind? Sunshine, beaches, and palm trees — I hope. Please, try not to think of anything bad! But this is the association someone from SoCal has, and so it goes for any other state or region. Seattle is famous for being rainy and cloudy, Arizona is known for extreme desert climates, Colorado is known for its mountains and skiing, and Florida is known for being sunny and tropical, with the occasional tropical storm. Chicago is famous for being windy and cold in the winter, while Hawaii is a paradise where it’s always a nice beach day. The weather ends up determining a lot of how we perceive each state and city.

Identity

So, you put all these factors together and you get a good idea of what the identity of someone from a certain state or region might be like. There are many other factors, by the way, and no two people are the same, but this can give you an idea. For example, someone from New York City is more likely to be a Catholic with Italian ancestry who doesn’t really approve of guns, probably a Democrat who speaks English but if they speak Spanish they’re family is likely from the Caribbean or maybe they immigrated from China, they definitely like Chinese and Caribbean food but they’re used to hot summers and freezing cold winters. Anyway, they might be none of those things, but you get the point. Every state and major city is a little (or a lot) different.

Alright! Tell me what you think of this post. Does your country have lots of diversity like the U.S.? Can you name some other differences between the states? Do you want to guess my profile based on this list? (hint, hint) I’m from Los Angeles.

Also, contact me or send me a question if you want to know more, talk, or give some suggestions for future posts. Right here: tietewaller@gmail.com

Thanks and be safe!

Here are some more resources:

Religion in the U.S.: https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

Map of religions by county: https://bigthink.com/robby-berman/dominant-religions-in-the-us-county-by-county

Least religious places in U.S.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_religiosity#:~:text=According to a 2011 Gallup,%)%20were%20near%20the%20median.

Gun-friendly states: https://www.zippia.com/advice/least-gun-friendly-states/

Ethnic Ancestry in the U.S.: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/bfpbzu/largest_ancestry_groups_in_the_united_states_by/

Shooting the buzz bang – “hit” “rock” “hit me up” “bang” and more, meanings & uses

Today’s terms: hit / slam / bang / rock / hit me up / give a ring, buzz / shoot a message

No, I’m trying to get you to meet my buddy. He’s a producer.

Jonah was trying enthusiastically to calm Charles down on their way to the music studio.

—Come on, man. You know I don’t like to be around these kinds of people. I get nervous.

Jonah reassured him; —Yeah, Mike is a real scary kind of guy. A real gangster off the streets! Come on, bro. There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll hold your hand.

Charles tapped Jonah’s hand away as he reached for it.

—Nobody likes sarcasm, bro, Charles protested.

—Everybody does!

Eventually, they drove up to the studio parking lot. There were a group of teenagers smoking in the front, maybe add the smell of spilled liquor on the floor. Everyone looked calm but suspicious. Although, when they saw it is Jonah, they all smiled and signaled “hello” to him.

—What’s up everybody! Are y’all rocking today?

Everyone nodded, made mumble sounds, and they turned back to their joints. Charles gave them a shy nod. Then the two friends strolled inside.

Once inside the studio, there were strong musical beats coming from all over the place. Smooth instrumentals blended with fast rhythms. The noise was chaotic but artful, all the same. Jonah saw one of his colleagues coming towards them.

Yo, my brotha! What’s happening with ya? Y’all just got all the beats banging today.

—Well, you know how I rock, Jonah. Who’s your friend?

Charles felt a quick pain in his belly.

—Oh, my name’s Charles. What’s up?

The man reached out his hand and gave Charles a mixed handshake and hug in a friendly manner.

—Classic Mike. Gotta show them love. This is my buddy, Charles. He comes from another country, but he knows a lot of English.

—He seems like he can handle his business, isn’t that right, Charles!

They all laughed for a few seconds. Charles then spoke up.

—Yeah, I get by pretty well out here. I just didn’t understand when you said “banging” and “rock.” I didn’t really get it.

—No prob, man. Banging is what I say when something is really good, especially when it comes to music. I can say, “This song bangs.” It’s the same with Hit or Slam for something that’s really good, like a piece of music, some good food, or even a cute girl, for example. All my music slams and hits.

Charles was reminded.

—Oh, right. You are the producer!

Correct-o! But that’s different from banging, like to be a part of a gang. I don’t bang. But, those kids outside, I don’t know. All of them look like they bang. Now, Rock is basically the same thing. If something rocks, that means it’s really good, amazing. And what’s cool is you can rock something, like a song, a test, or a sport. It all means that you do really good in it.

—Yeah, my buddy Mike here rocks as a producer, by the way, Jonah added in.

As they talked, a young lady appeared from one of the recording booths and made her way towards the exit.

—Sheila?

She turned around. Yep, it was the same Sheila that Charles had been out with.

—Charles! Woah, I didn’t know you were into music.

Charles puffed up his chest.

—Oh, yeah. I’m really into music. Recording, he coughs, Really into recording. What do you do here?

—I’m a singer, remember? I thought I told you when we were texting a few days back.

Charles scratched his head.

—Anyway, I gotta go. Nice seeing you here! Exciting, am I right? Hit me up tonight, okay?

In a hurry, Sheila left from the studio and into her busy life. Charles looked confused.

—Why did she want me to hit her up? Is that, like, sexual?

Jonah and Mike stormed with laughter.

—You wish!

Jonah then explained.

Hit me up, man! It means the same as “send me a message,” or “give me a call.” It’s not sexual at all. Well, I guess not.

Mike added, —Yeah, it’s the same as saying give me a ring, shoot me a message, or give me a buzz. It all means “call me” or “message me.”

—Oh, I guess that makes sense.

—Charlie’s got a girlfriend!

All three of them laughed and pushed each other around playfully. Oh, guys.

—So, are you gonna hit her up tonight? Jonah asked Charles.

—You know I will!

Despite his outward confidence, Charles still felt pretty nervous. Not to mention guilty, having forgotten so quickly that Sheila was a singer. He dug for a little more information.

—So, Mike. Sheila records her songs here?

—Yeah. Just a few samples for SoundCloud. Why?

—Is she any good?

—For sure, bro! Sheila slams in the recording booth!

Saying that something slams, hits, or bangs is saying it’s really good to the senses (That food looks slamming! That rhythm hits hard! This song is banging!) These are more colloquial slang, so not all communities across the country use them. Otherwise, “hit me up,” “give me a buzz/ring,” and “shoot me a message” are all pretty common nationwide to tell someone to send you a message or to call, though these terms are very informal. Using “bang” to talk about being in a gang can be a problematic word, so I underlined it. It’s best not to use it unless you really know what you’re saying, and most people don’t even have to use it. Do you know why the other terms are underlined? Can you use today’s terms in your own sentences? Share with me down below!

*The language used in this dialogue is meant to reflect how different Americans might express themselves. Significant incorrect grammar or sensitive words will be underlined for reference. Did you recognize the mistakes in this story?

Aren’t Americans socially cold and emotionally guarded? – Personality and socializing in the USA

So, this one is going to be more about my own opinions and experiences, though I did do a little bit of research just in case.

As far as the above question goes, the doubt about whether Americans are emotionally cold with others and guarded with their feelings usually comes from countries that have really (really!) open and social societies — places like South America or the Caribbean — or places that are super family oriented — the same places including most of Asia and Africa — at least to generalize. In my experience, I’ve found that many Europeans and Asians tend to see Americans as emotional, expressive of their feelings, and sometimes — in the best of cases — very giving and sweet. This doubt then, I would assume, comes from people in these very “open” societies that see the U.S. on the same pedestal as Europe or East Asia. I’m flattered, really! But yes, there is a difference.

America, much like Canada and other parts of the American continent in general, was constructed by very different types of people from diverse countries and even continents, that had to find ways to trust each other and work together. Given this culture of mixing and melding, many areas of America had to learn to be open and trusting of one another.

But, there’s always a contradiction;

Now, there are lots of Americans that are emotionally guarded, even seem kind of mean, but that’s also a cultural thing. Like I said, we’re mixed, and so we have a heritage of people that are very suspicious of strangers or that don’t share emotions as much. For men in general, it has been traditionally looked down upon to share your feelings, express emotions, and so on. This norm has been steadily changing though, and many of the younger people, especially, are becoming more comfortable with self-expression (just listen to Emo music or Emo rap). You all know who colonized us, and the English are famous for being sort of evasive emotionally. Again, to generalize.

Some factors that historically contributed to this were:

  • wars against foreign powers
  • wars within our borders
  • racial discrimination
  • racial violence
  • riots
  • creepy child abductors
  • mass shootings
  • sometimes our media/government/next-door neighbor has intentionally scared us more than need be

But we get by like any other people.

Another factor in this difference in emotional expression is a matter of East vs West. Eastern cultures tend to connect emotion more to family and community, while Western cultures link emotion to the inner state, meaning it’s more of an individual thing. Even though Americans in general value independence, individualism, and self responsibility, we humans are made to live in communities. We rely on each other for emotional well-being, and a society that’s famous for individualism is vulnerable to certain emotional setbacks. There are scarily high rates of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, as well as hospitalized, suicidal, or self-harming individuals, not to mention the high amount of suicides. I’ll leave the stats out this time since this post isn’t about mental illness, but you can bet there’s a lot of it to go around.

Not to fear! In the end, Americans come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments.

You could easily visit the U.S. and meet the rudest, most guarded person ever on the same day that you meet the most expressive and kind person ever. I’ve met people who wouldn’t let their own momma stay a night in their home, and people that would shelter a whole block-full of strangers if they could.

We’ve got it all. Some might say it’s regional, since the South and Midwest are known for being more open, relaxed, laid-back; after all, they call it “Southern hospitality” for a reason. In my experience, kind and expressive people can be found all over the country, though whether you’re in a big, stressful city or a calm, small town also makes a difference in the quantity.

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What were your experiences with Americans like? Were they nice and expressive? Were they really guarded and mean? Let me know what you think! And don’t forget to check out some other articles to learn more!

Here are some resources for further reading!

Emotional Tendencies in America: https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/01/08/an-emotional-america/

Emotional Complexity in Different Countries: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/01/emotional-complexity-study/426672/

Weren’t the British the colonizers of the U.S.A.? – Colonization of the USA

This is a great question! After all, Americans mostly speak English. We’ve all heard about the original 13 colonies and how the British came to set up shop in the new continent. But the story goes a little deeper than that. Let’s look at some of the powers that had their hands in the American pie.

To start, there were a bunch of failed colonies along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts by the English, Spanish, and French early on (include Scandinavian Vikings if we really want to go back). The Portuguese and the Basques were also frequent visitors along the Atlantic in the 1500s and before, though they didn’t stop to settle.

The English/British

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
Flag of England.svg
  • the first to establish permanent colonies in the U.S. (not the continent, though)
  • had two main original settlements that grew and expanded out of New England and Chesapeake Bay
  • at first, were mostly groups like the Puritans seeking more religious freedom, or poor servants and farmers mostly from England
  • some colonies got lots of Irish-Scots settlers and expanded west into Native American territory, others got many more diverse settlers
  • we all know about the Atlantic slave trade

The main thing to think about with the British is that their culture, language, and society were the most influential early on in American history which is why the states maintained the English language and other cultural influences from the British after so long.

The Spanish

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Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg
  • established some of the first settlements still inhabited in the U.S., including the oldest at St. Augustine, FL
  • owned huge expanses of land in North America, including a portion of the Deep South and the whole western half of the current United States (mostly Luisiana or Alta California), even some areas of Canada, not to mention some territories like Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands
  • they either lost or gave up a lot of this land to England or the U.S. over the centuries
  • states Oregon, Montana, Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, and Florida names all come from Spanish words, literature, or colonies

Spain had a pretty big cultural impact on the Gulf Coast and the American Southwest. Many place names (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Antonio, Santa Fe, etc.), lots of architecture, and cultural events come from Spanish and Mexican traditions.

The French

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Pavillon royal de la France.svg
  • had lots of colonies spread out through the central U.S. and east Canada
  • had lots of fights against England and confusing conflicts and alliances with Native Americans, they later gave up most their land to the English or Americans

France also had a big impact on place names (New Orleans, Des Moines, St. Louis, Eau Claire, Vermont) and cultural events, such as Mardi Gras and Cajun culture in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

The Dutch

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Flag of Netherlands
  • set up colonies mostly in present-day New York and New Jersey
  • the British took over their main city, New Amsterdam, and changed it to New York, but Dutch culture stuck around in those rural areas for centuries after

The Dutch paved the initial way for America’s biggest and most iconic city. Some of its boroughs and surrounding towns are even named in honor of the Dutch (Brooklyn or Breuckelen, Staten Island or Staaten Eylandt, Harlem or Haarlem).

The Swedes

Flag of Sweden
  • made a small colony that only lasted 17 years before being sucked into New Netherland
  • the Bronx (after Bronck’s River) is named after a Swedish captain

Sweden’s colony was short-lived, but they introduced the first log cabins and some of the oldest churches to the future nation.

Also, let’s not forget Russia who colonized Alaska. The U.S. later purchased it, though, and most of the Russians left.

As you can see, there were a lot more European powers that settled the U.S. other than the English. Despite the obvious impact of the British here in the States, we also had a few other countries reaching in for a chance to colonize the future U.S.A.

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P.S. I know that the Native Americans were already on the continent, and the colonial powers took these lands away from them. This includes First Nations in Alaska and Polynesians in Hawaii, among others. This answer is just to focus on the aspect of European colonial and cultural influence in the U.S., not to focus on the destructive aspect of their settlement in the region.

Kenai Peninsula's Historic Russian Churches - Northwest Travel Magazine
Russian Church in Alaska: from here
Old Swedes Church - First State National Historical Park (U.S. National  Park Service)
Old Swedes Church, Delaware: from here
A Stroll Along State Street in Albany, New York —
Dutch architecture, New York: from here
Home Architecture 101: French Colonial
French colonial architecture, Louisiana: from here
Historic Architecture in California
Spanish architecture in California: from here
New England Architecture | Guide to House Styles in New England
English colonial architecture, New England: from here

Check out these resources and other articles here on CultSurf!

Colonial History of the United States: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonial_history_of_the_United_States#Russian_colonies

First Arrivals of Europeans to Settle the U.S.: http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/amerbegin/settlement/text1/text1read.htm

Origins of New York City Borough Names: https://www.amny.com/news/nyc-boroughs-names-1-32096222/