High Culture and Low Culture: Inequality and Racism

Culture has been a term relative to each year, constantly changing and with its own distinguishing features. For instance, the 60s were known for its hippie culture, while the 50s are displayed as postwar prosperity. Yet amidst this broad spectrum, culture is further fragmented down to high and low culture, relative to one’s social classes, ethnicity, and race.

High culture is the arts of the socially well-off people who have the money to spend to afford high culture. Like culture itself, high culture has been changing from year to year, yet there are those select few pieces of refined arts that remain the same. For instance, opera and ballet are considered part of this high culture category. Gourmet foods and the fine arts are yet another aspect of high cultural.

Low culture is typically associated with those who are not as well-off socially and economically as well as those of color and of different races. Reality television, kitsch, and camp are all part of category. It’s frowned upon. Yet even the lines between high culture and low culture blur, although often not purposefully.

However, high culture is extremely valued. Those who engage in the “arts” of high culture are more likely to be white and rich. They are typically regarded as more “intelligent” or “smarter” at school, for instance, or more capable of work while in a job. Students who participate in high culture are more likely to have better and higher advantages in school and have higher expectations. Here, I can make an analogy to the lady who sits at a small glass table, sipping tea out of a finely decorated flowered porcelain cup while watching a lovely French opera. Of course, when I think high culture, my mind flashes to the French, but my opinion has no basis and is just how my mind works. Yet, this image is the exact picture of high culture.

Low culture, on the other hand, is delegated to people of color and the economically disadvantaged. Because it takes money to get into high culture, those with poor backgrounds typically are unable to make it into high culture. Furthermore, higher education and certain social networks are key to high culture. Yet, if one is poor or of a different ethnicity background, higher education and these key social networks become unavailable, thus barring their way into high culture.

In addition, minority groups are disproportionately part of low social-economic status and are unable to obtain a large amount of money to buy high culture. Furthermore, discrimination against different races, such as discrimination against blacks, bar them from attending high culture opportunities. For instance, in the 20th century when the KKK was in full play as well as the Jim Crow Laws, blacks were barred from various museums, fine-dining restaurants, theaters, etc. And, if they were to get into high culture, even in this day and age, such slurs and social look-downs are enough to make them uncomfortable to take another step into high culture.

While both low culture and high culture are a significant part of our lives, they are severely unequal. High culture depends on money, color, and power; those who are unable to meet these requirements are relegated to low culture and thus lose many opportunities to advance in the social-economic field and are unable to attend high culture.

That, unfortunately, is the way that the world spins. Even if we are constantly acting to reduce these inequalities between the two cultures, it will always be apparent that the rich and whites belong in the high category, and the poor and colored belong in the low.

But we can do what we can do to lower this inequality, even if it still remains. Because the more we lower the bar for high culture, the closer we come, as a world, to full equality and opportunities.

Click here if you want to explore more into the racial inequalities as well as the socio-economic inequalities of culture.

Lots of love, and stand up for injustice,


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