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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Why is anyone proud of their race, gender or culture?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (39042points) February 19th, 2012

I find it fascinating that people take pride in matters that have nothing to do with their participation or achievement. Things like race, gender or culture are notions of an ascribed status which is a status given to each individual upon birth (whether they like it or not). At some point, there are two ways people deal with what they’ve been socialized into – either they accept it or rebel against and some develop pride in their racial, gender or cultural characteristics. I get that that’s part of forming one’s identity and that it certainly functions to bond you with others and to reinforce your ‘group,’ so to speak, but I literally cannot relate to anyone making claims to pride based on these things. Sometimes, my students scream that they’re proud to be men and I say ‘why would you be proud of something that you didn’t do anything to get?’ and then there will be someone saying something about how they’re proud to be Black and, while I understand the urge given racism and oppressive experiences, I still don’t see why there is anything to be proud of…

I know people come up with all kinds of explanations and it’s tricky to talk about…how can you tell the daughter of Holocaust survivors not to be proud of something her family survived…same for Blacks who connect to their ancestors’ struggles during slavery…so I get it, I do…but that’s just a coping mechanism and I don’t mean to take away people’s agency because of course I believe people can formulate their own identities (even if sometimes others do tell them what they are in a repressive manner) but they’re basically responding to something horrific that happened or to problematic times in their lives and patterns they feel holding them back…

We hear ‘I’m proud to be a human being’ a lot less…I want you to theorize why.

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43 Answers

AnonymousWoman's avatar

They are likely happy with their identity, but I agree that it’s silly to be proud of something that you could not even help in the first place… like what gender you were born, what race you happen to be, and where you happen to be from.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’m proud when I do something good. The other stuff means squat to me.

sadconfusion's avatar

I think some people are brought up to be proud of their race or culture. Not necessarily a choice or their own opinion. It’s what they were taught.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

I don’t get it either. I guess it’s to compensate the small amount of achievements they have actually done in their lives.

funkdaddy's avatar

People choose to be proud of their race, culture, or gender. Or at least the areas they agree with.

It’s a way of maintaining the portion you find important or valuable and passing it along. It’s also a way to educate folks who don’t know about your particular set of values, customs, history, beliefs, creations, or all the other things that have come before you.

It’s recognizing something bigger than yourself, where you came from, and how you came to be who you are. There’s some understanding in that.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Never being one to defend the inherent goodness of humans, I can’t imagine why one would say they were proud of being a human. Plus, it’s still something you didn’t have any hand in…

But, for the others, perhaps if one feels like their group is devalued, undervalued, or persecuted, it’s a way of asserting the validity and worthwhileness of that group? I get it a bit more when one doesn’t belong to the dominant group, but then again, the dominant group never seem to recognize that they are just that, now do they?

bkcunningham's avatar

May I approach it another way, @Simone_De_Beauvoir, to better help me understand where you are coming from with this and what you mean. It is how my mind works, so bear with me, please. What are you proud of?

john65pennington's avatar

One day, I was having lunch in a nearby park. After finishing, I looked at both of my hands and wondered why I was born a white person. I know, my parents were white and that expains it, but that was not really my question. Suppose I had been born a black person, a chinese or hispanic. Would I still be here eating lunch in the park? Or, would I be facing the extremes faced by the other races?

I will never have the answer, but I do feel we all were born in our cultural race for a reason, not just because of our parents.

It’s not why or how we were born, it’s about what we do with our life, not considering our skin color.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Aethelflaed Oh I agree there’s nothing to be proud of for just being human. It’s just interesting that if we are going to randomly choose pointless things to be proud of, why not making it less exlusionary? why is exlusionary not a word, ps?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bkcunningham I’m proud of my parenting, of my ability to teach, of my character and skills.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Because if we put it all on achievements, we might not get to be proud for a very long time, if ever. Humans seem to need pride on a fairly fundamental level.

Because it has a c in between the x and the l. (Been there, done that).

john65pennington's avatar

2nd Answer…..

I am proud to be a man…...a man that his generations date back to the Cherokee Indians. That makes me one-fourth Cherokee and that makes me proud.

I believe one of the most fundamental aspects of being a human is ones geneology.

Does this make sense?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Aethelflaed lol, exclusionary….oh, better
Why do we need pride on a fundamental level? By fundamental level, do you mean at the level necessary for survival?
@john65pennington What does your gender have to do with race and or ethnicity? (Cherokees have been labelled as a race ‘N.Americans’ or as an ethnicity)

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Well, maybe, but I meant more that humans need to feel valid to develop in a psychologically healthy manner; when they don’t get it, they’ll do whatever they have to to meet that psychological need. Pride is closely related to feeling valid, though I tend to think of it (on a more semantic level) as a sort of malignant mutation of feeling valid.

john65pennington's avatar

Okay, lets forget I am a man or woman. I am a blank doughnut standing on the corner of 4th and Elm St. in San Francisco. I have no gender, I have no ethnic background, I don’t even know how I got here and parents are out of the question.

I am only sure of one thing…...everybody wants to eat me, so I run.

Figure this out.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Aethelflaed A malignant mutation of feeling valid – that’s interesting…something malignant is inherently unhealthy, though.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@john65pennington I don’t want to figure it out. I get why people distinguished themselves from others, historically and evolutionarily speaking. Distinguishing, however, doesn’t imply pride, for me.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Yeah, it’s… honestly, we’re heading into a real semantic area, and while I’m all for paying attention to language, I’m also all hopped up on cold medicine. So, lemme mull it over, see if I have something for you when I’m not so fuzzy.

KoleraHeliko's avatar

It’s a bit silly. However, I’ve once experienced a feeling of pride such as this, that I felt was warranted.

Esperanto has a lot of culture around it, but very very few are born into it. So essentially it’s like voluntarily joining a language and culture. Not only that, it takes a bit of effort to get into it all (learning a language, after all).

So I think in this circumstance, that after people have made a conscious decision, and have worked hard to be part of a group, pride is all good.

bkcunningham's avatar

You are proud of your parenting because of the things you are teaching your children and the kind of people they are becoming. You are proud of being able to share your knowledge/kindness/generosity/love/mind et al, with your children and others.

When your children are grown adults, you can look back and be proud of having been a part of the people they become. You had a hand in that. In turn, they can be proud to have a mother who helped them become who they are, even though they didn’t really have much of a hand in the way they were shaped by you when they were young. I think it may be the same thinking when people say they are proud of their race, gender or whatever.

Perhaps it is the unspoken part of the statement. For example, if someone says, I’m proud to be a man. There may be more to it like, I’m proud to be a man. My mother and father raised me to be, generous, a hard worker, a lover, an artist, a humanitarian.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@KoleraHeliko I understand the distinction there…and I think I get that learning something, like a language, or a group’s values can be a source of pride…which is accomplishment, for me and might warrant pride…

@bkcunningham I see where you’re coming from. I would rather people didn’t use heuristics and say exactly what they’re proud of – not doing so contributes to conflation of characteristics with gender, which is unnecessary.

filmfann's avatar

I have worked on my family genealogy for 40 years, and while I find it interesting, I find no special pride in knowing such information. I have relatives on 3 lines who were in the Revolutionary War. BFD.
I understand the need for racial pride (happy Black History Month!) when said people have been devalued for generations. Same for women’s pride. We need to get to a place where everyone is secure and happy, and we can move away from this kind of devisive celebration.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

I think the people who utter these things may lack the vocabulary to articulate their feelings with anything other than the word “pride”. I would imagine it is often a perfectly healthy and positive statement. I admire my ancestors, they came out of famine and traveled across the ocean and endured hardship in order to build a better life for their children. I share many genetic traits with them. I am pleasantly surprised I have a wealth of potential, based on their track record. I might say that I am proud to be of the same kind of person as them, but it is not the same concept as the pride that comes from performing hard work.

I would not know how to describe it other than: “confidence based on close association”, and it does not seem to cause a negative feeling towards other groups in my mind.

I think “Human Being”, at least to me, is too vague and distant to get that same “confidence based on association”.

wundayatta's avatar

I have no pride in being white, or male, or from the United States. But then, I’m from Massachusetts and I was raised to think that pride is a bad thing. It makes you think you are better than someone else, and you aren’t. You are nothing. You are no better than a cockroach and don’t let me catch you thinking otherwise. So I was raised.

And i believed it. I still do. I’ve got nothing on a cockroach. All I have is what I did for you yesterday and what I’m about to do for you. Otherwise, you might as well take home the cockroach, for all I’m worth.

It’s a great way to be in the world, in some ways. It keeps you humble. It keeps you from taking your position in the world for granted. It keeps you from assuming anyone will like you or that you are likeable or even valuable in any way at all.

On the other hand, it’s hell on self-esteem Raised to believe you are worthless—kind of helps destroy you the first time you get seriously depressed. There’s really nothing there to tell you there’s any reason not to commit suicide. Except you made promises, implied or spoken, to a few people. Still, with no pride, you’re worthless whether or not you keep your promises.

At the heart of it, I’m worthless. There’s no reason why I should be around. I offer nothing to nobody. I do seem to find ways to be something worthy for a moment or two here and there, but it’s hard to feel any pride in that, knowing it will go away in a flash, and I’ll be left indistinguishable from a splash of mud, again.

It seems like pride is useful for self-esteem, but since I grew up without any, I kind of had to find something else. At this point I think there’s really no excuse for anything I do. I do it because I can.. I hope to please people because then they won’t kill me or kick me away, but really, I’d never blame anyone who thought I should be dead and proceeded to execute me. How could I? I’d be dead. But no one has killed me yet, and for no particular reason or justification that I can think of, I try to stay alive. I think if I had some pride in something about myself, this would not be an existential issue. But I’m grateful to be alive, so I’m not going to complain about not having anything to be proud of.

ragingloli's avatar

They do not have anything of their own to be proud of.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ragingloli How can one’s race, gender and culture not be what makes them ‘their own’ self? That’s pretty much a whole lot of what makes you who you are, so they say.

ragingloli's avatar

By “of their own” I mean things they have achieved or accomplished themselves. When someone prides themselves with their race, gender, culture or country, they pride themselves with the achievements that others of these groups have accomplished. That is what it means to be proud of one’s race, gender, etc. They try to elevate themselves and their own worth with the achievements of others without having to do anything themselves.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ragingloli Okay, so how can one’s gender and culture or country be ‘achievements of other people’ if those other people also didn’t do anything to achieve them?

ragingloli's avatar

Really? Do I seriously have to explain this to you?
Well, for example, someone saying he is proud to be white, he is pointing, among other countless things, to the automobile, which was invented by a white person. Or the aeroplane, which was invented by a white person. Pretty much all technological, scientific or artistic achievements that were invented by white people.
The person’s self deception is thus: All these people achieved something great, they were awesome. They were white. I am white. Therefore I am awesome, too.

JLeslie's avatar

Ah pride, one of the seven deadly sins. So interesting that now we seek to have pride for ourselves and to give it to the people we love.

I think we all have groups we identify with, and want to associate those identifiers with positive feelings. I am female, American, Jewish, those are probably my top three. The positives I relate to those groups display themselves as pride I think. I would not choose my race when asked about what identifies me, but I understand why black people might, especially in America. It is because of how society groups us.

It is not uncommon for Jewish people I know to send around an email or mention accomplishments done by Jews. We see this month, black history month, many black celebrities who are promoting the accomplishments of blacks in history. I think we do it to feel inspired and to inspire others and to feel good about ourselves.

Interestingly, or oddly, I have more pride about the groups I identify with, then pride in myself. I also am extremely proud of my husband, but again, don’t feel it much for myself.

ucme's avatar

I’ve thought about this & the only rational thought I can come up with is that I don’t know.

partyrock's avatar

I think it’s just feeling comfortable with yourself and accepting who you are. I’m proud to be a girl, Russian, short, smart, etc.. I don’t know. I know nobody “chooses” of their ethnicity, but I think it’s still important to have a healthy self respect for yourself and grow into your own skin and your own identity. I used to be called frog eyes cause my eyes are really big, but the older I get the more I love them. I also used to be called a “communist” and people would make funny stereotypes, like I was a Spy, but I really love my culture….. I love the food, the language, and it’s where my family is from… So.. you grow into it.

I love all cultures, but there is something special that ties you back to your roots… and for other people who don’t care much, that’s your opinion too and nothing wrong with that.

The special thing is even if someone didn’t like who they were, their race, or didn’t care, they could always change their address, move, and live somewhere else…

It shouldn’t define us, but I think it’s good to have a healthy respect for our race, whatever it is… everyone is beautiful whoever they are.

partyrock's avatar

There is nothing sexier to me than a guy who is proud of who he is and is world cultured.

I’m Russian, but I’ve never dated a Russian guy. They’re not my type. I’m not into Blonde guys either. I really like Italian, Arabic, and guys who have mixed cultures (half white, half latino for example)....

There’s nothing hotter to me than a man who is proud of his race, speaks the language, introduces me to the music, and is well read on his Country. It’s just sexy to me.

Not proud to the point of ARROGANCE, but I love learning about different cultures anyway.

A guy who is proud of who they are, PLUS loves learning about other cultures is a plus to me.

partyrock's avatar

I wasn’t always happy being a girl, Russian, petite, having big eyes, or other traits that I couldn’t really help.. but the older I get I become comfortable in my skin. It’s who I am, but I’m not ignorant nor arrogant.

I think it would be a VERY sad world if people didn’t have pride in their race, country, sex, or who they were.

It’s broad, but there is a HEALTHY AMOUNT to anything….

So one can be proud of their culture, BUT still love other cultures too of course, and open minded :)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@partyrock “Frog eyes?” They’re beautiful. Another jelly mentioned them to me so I went to your avatar and looked. Amazing.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I don’t know if this is the same thing as what you are talking about but I live in a part of England that has quite a strong regional accent. When I was younger I would try really hard not to speak with that accent even though it was what came naturally because I felt it made me sound “common”. Instead I would try to speak with a more stereotypical “BBC British” accent. However, that act became harder and harder to keep up. One day I realised that most of my friends and my boyfriend all have the same regional accent so who was I kidding? Now I don’t try and cover it up and have even said on a number of occassions that I am “proud” to have the accent I do. It’s not an achievement at all but it is a part of myself that I quite like.

I think, when people say they are “proud” to belong to a certain ethnicity or culture, they are really just expressing their enjoyment of that part of their lives.

HungryGuy's avatar

I’m of Irish descent. I don’t know if “pride” is the right word, but I’m grateful that’s what I was born as. This may be a stereotype, but I’ve heard that Irish people tend to have good health throughout their lives. If so, I’m fortunate for that.

Of course, minority people (at one time, the Irish were an oppressed minority) go out of their way to show pride in their heritage (black pride, gay pride, etc., etc.), and I see nothing wrong with that. It’s healthy actually, as long as it doesn’t turn into hatred for everyone not of your heritage.

Paradox25's avatar

This is a very good question and I’ve gotten into several arguments with others, in person, about this. I don’t accept the fact that I’m a guy who happens to be paradox25, but rather I accept that I’m paradox25 whom just happens to be a guy. Even as a kid growing up I could never fanthom why so many of my male peers held to the mindset of ‘being masculine’ or ‘it’s a guy thing you girly a-hole’ to my face when I would question certain behaviors that seemed stupid and pointless to me.

I have the same philosophy when it comes to my eastern European descent and heritage. I only bring these up when others specifically ask but outside of that these culture oriented things just do not cross my mind very often. However I’m not going to demonize myself or be made to feel guilty about my heritage or race due to political correctness either.

I’m pretty much hard wired to be happy with myself by my own acheivements, and then again only by those specific ones that I was truly motivated to really accomplish by my own freewill and individual interests. I also take even more pride in how I try to help and treat others respectfully. Race, gender and culture were pretty much always nonexistent concepts for me personally, especially as I’ve gotten older. I can’t answer why others would hold those three things in such high regards either. Conformist mindsets I suppose.

mattbrowne's avatar

It only makes sense for culture. For example a positive culture of learning and equal opportunities.

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