Defining “Dominant Culture” to Redefine the 21st Century

Ray Nuñez

Co-Founder, CEO, Nuñez

The population of the United States is arguably one of the most diverse on the planet; in fact, “the melting pot of diversity” has long been the nation’s go-to marketing tagline. Yet, for a place that claims pride over the expanse of its rich diversity, this diversity is not represented to the extent that it exists. We can blame dominant culture for that.

What is Dominant Culture?

The concept of “dominant culture” has existed for centuries,  but now in the context of America’s perpetual social reckonings, the concept is making a resurgence in the conversations and discourse surrounding pretty much every modern-day issue under the sun, from racism and sexism to ableism, classism and much more.

When we use the phrase “dominant culture,” we are referring to the group most powerful and prominent in whatever area of life they dominate: work, school, politics, communities, and more. Although other cultures do exist within these realms, it is the dominant culture that sets the bar, sets the standard, and sets the limits for everyone else.

If we want to better understand the perils of dominant culture, we need to know what culture even means. The classic textbook definition of “culture” is a sum of our learned customs, beliefs, and values that affect our behavior in society. In our own cultures, we use these values, beliefs, and customs to navigate our daily lives, to communicate with each other, and to establish our own identities.

The issue with a culture that dominates all of the rest, is that it does so at their expense. A dominant culture dominates by making their own values, beliefs, and customs the only password to log into the career kingdom, the only keys to the gates of success or social acceptance. The problem is that not everyone knows the password, and not everyone gets a copy of the keys.

Dominant cultures dominate because, whether or not they intend to, they inhibit the progression and even existence of lesser prominent, lesser powerful cultures.  For vulnerable, marginalized, and minority groups, dominant culture is everything they are not. And unless they play the dominant game and follow the dominant rules, there’s not a lot of other ways to win.

It may be 2021, but you can find dominant culture wherever you go. It’s the still entirely male and/or dominated C-suites at a Fortune 500. It’s in the job ads falsely requiring you to be able to “lift 20 pounds” so they can reject disabled applicants. It’s in the gentrification of Los Angeles’ historically black and brown neighborhood, infiltrated by white businesses, who think their culture will make it “better.” It’s in the male and white representatives who destroyed abortion rights in Texas.

The continued domination of dominant culture is a loss for everyone else. We lose the core of our humanity, of what makes us individual humans, and what makes us a diverse and fascinating population. We lose experiences, opportunities, and perspectives and because of this, our supposedly modern world becomes less inclusive, less accessible, and more oppressive. Even if it’s 2021. Years may continue to go one but with dominant cultures staying in place, we will stay stagnant in time without the innovation and creation minority and marginalized cultures bring to the table.  

At Nunez, we hope to offer one of many critical solutions to dismantling dominant culture. We start by offering a representative approach to marketing and branding. This means truly honoring those we engage with by authentically telling their stories and representing their cultures.

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