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African Americans are rich in cultural diversity with notable variances in forms of art, music, and religion. African Americans encompass a tremendously dynamic population. The diversities are determined by the regional, rural and urban variations, socioeconomic status, education, and age. Depending on their location in the United States, their differences in language, experiences, and culture adds to the diversity of African Americans in the US. Families often incorporate immediate and expanded relatives, with a group-oriented perspective and a solid sense of togetherness.
According to research, African Americans have a unique culture that is hard to shake regardless of the place they live in the United States. For a long time, the African-American culture has developed distinctively from the American culture because of slavery and the constant racial discrimination in the country and also the fact that African-American descendants wished to maintain their culture and traditions. Today, the African American culture has grown to be a part of the American culture but it has a unique distinction from other cultures (MacKay 2018).
Cultural Dimensions of the African-American Culture
The distinctive identity of the African American culture has been deeply rooted in the historical events of the community which includes the Middle Passage. The African American culture is very distinct and tremendously influential in the country. The culture enormously reflects the West and Central African cultures where slaves were brought from. Despite slavery restricting African-Americans from practicing their home cultures, many values, believes and practices were kept over time and they have been blended with the American culture. Nonetheless, their culture still stands out from the Native American cultures and the American culture.
Culture is defined by the entirety of the ways in which people live which includes the common circumstances of life, values behaviors, preferences, styles of life and creative ways that are reflected by work. There is no doubt that the forms of life for the African Americans in the US are remarkably different in main aspects compared to the ways of other ethnic communities in the country. There are similarities; however, significant contrasts do exist. The repository for the way of life of any individuals is family, and family resilience, versatility, and sheer quality are basically in charge of the current African Americans’ survival in a hostile and alien environment. The quality of African-American individuals is found inside the family, the churches and its segregated communities. For a considerable length of time, African-Americans have been masters of inside repelling outside threats. Other verifiable reactions included recommended evasion practices. Later reaction practices have included backing and direct confrontations.
From a wider view, African Americans have often been termed as hard to reach. Are African Americans constrained by their culture to get uninterested with aspects like education offered by the country? Are they simply uninterested with the health and educational programs? The answer to these questions is a resounding no because they are aware that education and health programs have been a prize they sought after the slavery era. African Americans are hard to reach because of the strong cultures they hold and the Extension Systems are still perceived as a thing for other people (MacKay 2018).
According to Kennedy, Mathis, & Woods (2007), there will be approximately 7.3 million African American old people in the country and they continue living with their families. According to the research African Americans cling to the responsibilities and values of a family and they can take care of the old as long as they have to. Consequently, African Americans have minimal to no use of the formal caregiver services offered in the country. Significant variances in access to health care services have led to the unequal access to palliative care and hospice health care.
A report by AARP in 2002 regarding health and insurance, African Americans and Hispanics aged between 50 and 64 are more likely to not receive health care services compared to the whites. Additionally, the report indicated that 1 in 10 whites might not be insured while 1 in 5 African Americans is likely to lack an insurance cover (Kennedy, Mathis, & Woods 2007).
Additionally, African American investment in American culture appears to be endemically full of devastatingly lopsided troubles going from fundamentally high rates of arrests to heartbreaking, frequently fierce, death rates. Additionally, educational systems in the nation over reliably account for glaring and disturbing scholarly accomplishment differences between American children and African-American children. Numerous analysts contend that educating African Americans would improve many crushing social ills.
Cultural dimensions can, therefore, be partly accounted for by racial segregation and the civil rights movements which started taking a course between 1954 and 1968 had a quest to change the racial segregation. Many reforms were made and many African-Americans were given equal rights to the natives. For example, the courts ordered institutions to teach both white and black students in the same class. In many cities and towns, they were not allowed to share the same taxi with the whites, they were not allowed to use the same restrooms, use the same water fountain and many other things.
Cultural Stereotypes of the African American Culture
Cultural stereotypes of the African American community are rooted in the historical attitudes but they are present even today. Stereotypes like Sambo, the Savage, Mammy and Aunt Sapphire have shaped the people’s attitudes towards the community even in the contemporary world.
Sambo is one of the most persistent Stereotypes in America (Boskin, 1986). This is a pervasive image that portrays African Americans as humble and simple-minded. The Stereotype dates back to the periods of slavery when African Americans were molded into obedient, jolly and happy people who were glad to serve their master. The stereotype was them adopted in music, literature, restaurants and many artifacts. In the modern world, African Americans are still viewed as happy underprivileged people who are contented with whatever they receive and this is reflected by the constant racial discrimination against them.
Films were and still are one of the most powerful mediums of transmitting stereotypes. Early movies like "The Nigger" in 1915 and "The Slave" in 1905 created the existing stereotypes where they portrayed the black as violent and passing a message to the whites to put them into place. The stereotypes were justified by the perception that African Americans are “culturally un-evolved, apelike and mentally inferior” and the perception was supported by prominent figures like Andrew Johnson, Abraham Lincon, and Thomas Jefferson. Additionally, scientific studies were done to determine the similarities between the African-Americans and the apes. The stereotypes of the animal-like people were used to justify their ill-treatment of the people. To date, the American culture has not gotten over the idea that African-Americans are salvages and violent, this is portrayed in their roles in movies and even in music.
The Mammy was stereotypes used to portray the African-American women. She was depicted as an independent, humorous and harmless woman who took care of the “Massa’s” children and loved them more than her own children. The Mammy was perceived to respect the whites but dominated over her husband- the Sambo. The stereotype has been kept alive by the society which believes that black women are inferior to the whites and very dominant in her home, it has been depicted in literature and movies like “Gone with the Wind” by Hattie Mcdaniel (Goings, 1994).
Aunt Jemimah Stereotypes is an evolution of the Mammy, her duties were specifically cooking and through the stereotypes, most of the African-American women are associated with domestic work. The society has been made to believe that they are only good at cooking and performing domestic work because that is what they are designed to do. In many movies and specifically Hollywood, African-Americans are portrayed as the “help” who follows the orders of the master and they are good at what they are doing. If they do not do their job well, then they will be replaced by another African-American woman.
Understanding the African-American culture
African Americans account for 12 percent population in the United States. Understanding their culture refers to exploring their ways of life, believes and values. African-American families are founded by collectivism, there are formations of larger groups that care for each other and consequences of actions are determined by a larger group. As opposed to individualism where people care about themselves, collectivism includes the consideration of a larger group formation (Wallace & Constantine 2005). Some of the aspects that make up the African-American culture include:
Care is often accounted for by the extended family which included other friends who might not be relatives but are considered part of the family. In neighborhoods, African-Americans consider themselves a large family and caring for each other is paramount. The community does not think about care as a burden because they believe it is their responsibility and a task that cannot be avoided. Additionally, elders are given respect and seen as sources of wisdom. Because the African-American culture greatly relies on the traditions from the slave descendants, elders are perceived to know more of the traditions and they are responsible for upholding them and guiding the community.
Generations usually live in the same home unless they move t another neighborhood. Families often take care of the children and the elders in the same homes and this is passed on from generation to another. However, there has been a little change in this because of education. Most African-Americans have moved to different cities after going through school and getting jobs in different parts of the country. Nonetheless, a large percentage of them still hold family values. Families often refuse care services for the elderly because they believe that they do not need it. As mentioned earlier, taking care of the elderly is considered a responsibility and seeking help and services is often the last resort and also rare.
Families as often as possible look for help from their confidence network, including priests and church gatherings. It is trusted that the social setting in which care is given and got is formed by the inheritance of slavery and African customs. The establishment of discrimination and slavery gave a couple of channels to people and families to get support for survival out of slavery. Along these lines, the accessibility of social help was inner to the slave network - survival was a collective endeavor.
Guardians frequently discover comfort in their religion and utilize it as a method for adapting to their emotions about the illnesses or sufferings of their loved ones. Families are regularly extremely private, not imparting worries to outsiders. Additionally, African Americans are less open to physical contact and are intensely mindful of individual space. This has been inherited throughout history and dated back to the slavery era, most of them were assaulted and they became aware of the dangers of physical contact as well as the importance of personal space. 33% of Blacks/African Americans live in poverty, avoiding access to social insurance and administrations to facilitate providing care errands. This is because they hardly trust the caregivers to provide efficient care (MacKay, 2018).
There is human cultural diversity in the African-American culture as compared to the other ethnic communities. The African-American society is rich with cultural believes, values and practices which are rooted in the slavery experiences and they have been kept alive to date. There is the common saying of “one American Culture” but from the analysis, there are specific differences amongst ethnic communities. The African American culture is distinctively different because they have kept traditions that were inherited from Africa. Additionally, there are stereotypes that were formed during the 20th century and they have been used to form attitudes towards the African American culture and the community has in a way worked to portray some of these stereotypes.
Boskin, J. (1986). Sambo: The rise and demise of an American jester. New York: Oxford University Press.
Goings, K. W. (1994). Mammy and uncle Mose: Black collectibles and American stereotyping. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Kennedy, B. R., Mathis, C. C., & Woods, A. K. (2007). African Americans and their distrust of the health care system: healthcare for diverse populations. Journal of cultural diversity, 14(2).
MacKay, O. D. (2018) "African American & African Diversity Cultural Information | BYU McKay School of Education." Home | BYU McKay School of Education, education.byu.edu/diversity/culture/africanamerican.html
Wallace, B. C., & Constantine, M. G. (2005). Africentric cultural values, psychological help-seeking attitudes, and self-concealment in African American college students. Journal of Black Psychology, 31(4), 369-385.
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