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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cultural Contracts: "Have You Signed One Lately?"

"As-Salaam-Alaikum," the Arabic greeting meaning "Peace be unto you"

Cultural Contracts: "Have You Signed One Lately?"

Cultural Contracts are contracts that we knowingly sign during our intercultural interactions. Hey Ladies, have you ever been in a meeting and you were the only minority in the room and agreed with the decisions that were being made? You just agreed “to go along, just to get along?”… even though in  your heart  you really disagreed, but wanted to avoid the conflict so you just agreed to whatever… well YOU have signed a cultural contract.

Have you ever had a strong opinion about a situation happening in the world and you vocalized them, than someone you highly respected or wanted to seem intelligent to them, so you began to soften or changed your world viewpoints. You know... align/compromise with the people you are around, so you did not feel left out… yes ma’am… YOU have signed a cultural contract!

Okay... Okay... Last one... you know how you have that one homegirl at work that you can be your real “g-fabulous” self with talking slang and having a g-fabulous good ‘ole’ time…now before you go there, I am ghetto-fabulous too and I love it… and you two are talking about the eventful things that took place over the weekend… right… than all of a sudden while you two are shooting the breeze “the boss” walks by …who is probably White and male… and you two did not... yep I said... did not... hurry up to quiet down and change the way you were speaking to conform to the environment you are in... hecks he gets right in on the conversation… ONCE AGAINYOU have signed a cultural contract!

Here is why…

Cultural Contracts Theory

Dr. Ronald L. Jackson II

In 1999, Communication scholar Dr. Ronald L. Jackson II, developed the cultural contracts theory to examine how People of Color negotiate or adjust our cultural identities to conform to White society. This theory explains how we compromise our worldviews, beliefs, values and cultural traditions to assimilate into the White dominant groups within various environments. Such as work, the university or any given setting within society you find yourself in and you are the minority. 

Jackson stated that the negotiation of cultural identities “refers to a conscious and mindful process of shifting one’s worldview or cultural behaviors or both.” He continued to explain that “during this process, cultural patterns of communicating and ways of seeing the world are at stake. A shift in anyone or any part of one of these aspects of identity constitutes the “signing of a cultural contract.” Jackson specified that there are three types of cultural contracts that he discussed: ready-to-sign, quasi-completed, and co-created cultural contracts.

It must be noted... most of Jackson's scholarly work centered on Black male professors within the realm of academia and them being required to sign a cultural contract in order for them to advance within White dominated universities. However, I am going to apply it to our particular situations Queens... so let's begin our journey!

 “Ready to Sign Cultural Contract”

Jackson explained that the concept of “ready to sign contract” is based on the notion that “cultural contracts are prenegotiated and not further negotiation is allowed.” He suggested that “Whiteness is politically advantageous,” especially for White males, with this ascribed privilege, White men are asking their employees to sign a ready-to-sign cultural contract, affirming the importance of White superiority in our shared environments.

Using our first scenario, you just gave up and gave into the powers that be. Instead of vocalizing your disagreement with the decisions that are being made, you went along to avoid any unpleasant conflicts or conversations. At this point, you let your fear get the better of you and possible feared the outlash that may come your way if you go against the grain. So to avoid all of this, you decided to be quiet and vent your frustrations out later in a safer environment.

He further explained that this particular cultural contract maintains the dominant group’s power over the marginalized group. Basically, the dominant group being White men are not willing to change their worldviews or cultural behaviors so the marginalized group must suppress their worldviews and cultural behaviors and conform to the dominant group’s socio-cultural expectations and behaviors.

“Quasi-completed Cultural Contract”

The “quasi-completed contract” is explained as being “partly prenegotiated and partly open for negotiation” described Jackson.  He explained that the people who participate in this type cultural contract signing are not quite ready to totally assimilate nor are they ready to accept the penalties if they are viewed as nonconforming. This cultural contract suggests that an individual is “’straddling the fence’ in terms of their commitment to reorder privilege” and “…there is recognition that there is something fundamentally wrong with assimilation” and division clarified Jackson.

He explained that the quasi-completed contract suggested that Black people must pattern their ideals, looks and behaviors that are similar to White norms in society in order for them to be successful. However, this type of cultural contract is not long-lasting and is the “least effective because of the strain and tension of monitoring one’s degree of commitment” explained Jackson.

Using our second above mentioned scenario, you straddled the fence with your worldviews. See, you started off strong, but then you ended with you compromising your worldviews to fit in or to be seen as knowledgeable. Instead of sticking to what you believe in, you went with the popular kids in the crowd, instead of being your unique beautiful self. However, this is going to become tiresome for you after a while and you will begin to be more assertive about making your beliefs known without any compromises.

Jackson stated that Black people have a tendency to conform, adapt and/or follow this general pattern to fit in at their respective places or to belong to a particular group which results in them ‘shifting’ their identities depending on the socio-cultural group that they are interacting with.

"Co-created Cultural Contract"

The last cultural contract that he described is called “co-created” cultural contract. He stated that this contract is “fully negotiable, with the only limit being personal preferences or requirements” said Jackson. He further explained that this type of cultural contracts are based off a respect for each other’s diverse cultures and it is a “mutual satisfaction rather than obligation” in terms of their intercultural relationship.

In our last scenario, you and your homegirl/coworker kept right on with your good 'ole' time. You did not stop the way you were talking... remember using slang or what is the politically correct term is Ebonics... and the White male V.P. stepped right on it and kept the party going. Meaning, he respected your culture and he showed that by joining in. Above that, he must have showed that side to you before because the both of you felt comfortable to keep going. 

Usually, we as the marginalized group are required to alter the way we speak ... in this case using Ebonics/slang... to assimilate into the dominant culture... meaning speaking proper English,.. but in this case, you were not. Side Note... Girl, you better keep that job because jobs like that are far and in between. Just Saying!

Jackson concluded that everyone has signed at least one cultural contract within their lifetime and mostly likely will sign another. 

So Ladies, if you find yourself changing your outer appearances, behaviors and maneuvering in and out of multiple cultural identities in order to be accepted and taken seriously… then you have signed a cultural contract and only you can be the one to put the pen down if you are signing a ready to sign” contract or a "quasi-completed" contract. Just Saying!

Stay Blessed Queens!

***Part 2 of this discussion will be coming soon –
 RedefiningHERstory: Black Queens “Shifting” Through Life ***


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Dr. Ronald L. Jackson II [University of Cincinnati, Faculty Image of Dr. Ronald L. Jackson II]. (2015). Retrieved February 25, 2017, from

Jackson II, R. L. (2002). Exploring african american identity negotiation in the academy: Toward a transformative vision of african american communication scholarship. Howard Journal of Communications, 13(1), 43-57. Doi:10.1080/106461702753555030.

1 comment :

  1. Very interesting!! I had never heard of this term prior to reading this blog post. This brought up some very valid points and It has definitely piqued my interest enough to make me want to research this further.


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