Like so many Americans, especially Californians, I grew up around many different cultures. Many of my peers had very strong cultural identities, whether they realized it or not. I never had this problem (or strength).
I inherited my culture from my mother. She is half Pennsylvania Dutch, half Chicano. Those cultures have a long history in the United States. The Pennsylvania Dutch community settled in Eastern Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Chicanos are descendants of Spanish, Mestizo, and later, Mexican communities in the American Southwest, annexed by the United States after the Mexican-American War. Both these cultures have their own idiosyncrasies that don’t mesh well.
The Pennsylvania Dutch value hard work, temperance, and self control. They exemplified a lot of what Max Weber called the Protestant Work Ethic. I saw this growing up, because my Grandfather, with whom I was raised, was always working hard. He was a teacher, ran a small coin trading business, ran a small toy-making business, grew a garden, and built furniture. He was always working. He scolded us children for being idle. If we didn’t do our fair share of work, we were shamed for it. That pervasive shame for failure to live to an ideal permeated his personality, and permeated mine as well.
The Chicano culture is a little bit more strange, because it’s even more of a hodge-podge than the Pennsylvania Dutch. Chicanos are Catholic, Latinized, independent, and communal (contradictory traits in a lot of ways). Chicanos often fought internally and externally with both Mexicans and Americans. They don’t belong to either group, and they belong to both groups. See: Mexican Repatriation, Zoot Suit Riots, and the Farm Worker Movement. They were displaced, culturally and physically, from their land, just as they had displaced indigenous Americans in the 16th Century. Chicanos have been dealing with cultural integration since the beginning.
Now, whittle that down, throw in American Black culture from my dad, and you get me: confused and with no easily defined culture in a time of cultural upheaval and information overload. I tried to fit into all of these cultures, and all of them rejected me, either because I looked a certain way, and spoke a certain way. So I turned to books. Books were cheap when I was a kid. The internet was accessible. I took culture from wherever. And I’m still taking that information and reshaping it in my mind. That is my Mixed Mental Art. #Iwasbornthisway