Is Culture Blood?

Hannah Watson, IUP

Do you ever get the feeling that your body and spirit are not involved with the race and ethnicity ascribed to you? By blood I am Jamaican and Panamanian, these are the cultures in which I was raised.  But in the past five years of my friendship with my roommate and other close friends, I was introduced to and fell in love with the world of African culture, specifically the country of Ghana.  Ever since I was introduced to Ghanaian culture, I felt like a part of my life became Ghanaian. The quote “fake it ‘til you make it,” came apart of my life.  I started learning the language and how to cook the food, even planning a trip to visit the country. 

Not only am I learning the culture, but also I am changing the people around me.  If you know me, you will notice that 97% of my friends are African, specifically Ghanaian. But I did not come to the realization that there was a shift in my cultural identity until people on my social media accounts began to direct message me, asking me if I was Ghanaian or would say, “Oh my god, I didn’t know you were Ghanaian!”  The sad part is when I have to tell them that I am not, even though I really wish I were.

But I realized that the majority of young African adults were born in the U.S. and learned their ascribed cultures through their families. So what is the difference between them and myself? What makes them more Ghanaian than me, besides blood?  We are both born in America and we both learned the culture by Ghanaians?  Is it possible for me to be considered Ghanaian?  If that was to be true, I doubt the African community would accept me due to the fact that I am not connected to their “people” by blood; but is blood really the only factor?

I put myself in their shoes, and I figure that if I had a friend calling themselves Jamaican and they were not so by blood I would be quite upset myself. But if I saw them learning the culture and being invested in it, would I still feel the same way?  Honestly, I would not feel any animosity towards them and their efforts because they are learning the ways of my culture. Some might just know more about the Jamaican culture than those born into it. But even as I put myself in their shoes and try to understand if Africans will consider me a part of their blood, the final question remains: is it only the blood?