Many ethnic groups exist, and there is no end to their listing. African-American is one such community that this paper will explore. It will give detailed information about who exactly the African-American are. For clear understanding, it is significant to point out the areas of residence of this culture. For a group of people to be termed as culture, there exist a number of characteristics among them. It is, therefore, important to explain the factors that have caused the African-Americans to be referred to as a community. Everything that exists has its history; therefore, the paper will describe the history of African-Americans.
African-Americans form a larger part of the US population. It is significant to point out that, though this community has an African origin, most of them do not have black ancestors. Their origin is a sad story as they started as slaves. The US required human labor as it began to climb the economic ladder. The state, therefore, saw the potential of Africa to provide them with cheap labor through slaves. It was then that most Africans were forcefully driven out of their African land to go and work in the US. Despite the extensive contribution to the economic growth of the US, their rights were abused. The Americans despised the African-Americans and could not stand them in the social circles. Only the Americans leaped the gains of economic development of the US. The political arena did not have any space for the African-Americans as well. Most of the slaves settled in the US permanently earning themselves the title “African Americans.”
Where they lived. Ten states within the US are reportedly the residences of the African-American community. Out of the ten states, five have a population of more than two million African-Americans. New York and California are some of the states that are home to African-Americans. Texas is another state where the community has settled, not forgetting Florida and Georgia. The remaining five cities of hostage are Illinois, North Carolina, Maryland, Michigan and Louisiana. Geographically, it would be accurate to state that the African Americans are more populated in the South, Northeast, Midwest and West in that descending order (Boyd 204).
What Makes African-American A Culture
Even though the African American culture has heavily borrowed from the larger American culture, there are areas of distinction. These are the areas that justify the African Americans as a culture on its own:
Language .Pidgin English is the most popular language of communication among the African -American culture. The slave owners did not wish the slaves to interact. Therefore, they grouped the slaves from different ethnicities together to promote the use of the English language. Due to lack of education, the slaves mixed the English with their local languages. Pidgin English was thus realized through mixing of local dialects with English.
Dressing. African-Americans mix modern fashion and West African clothing for their dressing. The outcome of the mixture is the design called kente-the African textile. The attire can be worn either as a casual or official wear (Pinn 58). The African-Americans respect the black church through observance of appropriate dressing. They believe in covering their heads during worship. The women, especially, wear dresses that are honorable and put crowns as their head coverings (Boyd 106).
Hairstyle. The African-Americans wear curls that are tightly coiled as the hairstyle. To match the Americans’ hair that is usually very soft, African-American women make use of heat or chemicals on their hair to make it straight. Men mostly do not modify their hair; they leave it natural. However, with age, the hair is cropped tightly, or the head given a complete shave. The development has however taken a new path (Pinn 88). The community has made to afros, braids, and dreadlocks. Since the hairstyles have a close resemblance to political movements, they are yet to gain acceptance socially.
Most African-American men are identifiable by hair growth on their faces. In as much as most men grow hair on their faces as a preference, to some it is for health purposes. Men leave the hair to grow for fear of developing razor bumps.
Religion. The culture largely observe Protestant Christianity with a small percentage of the Muslim faith. Their church services incorporate dancing, shouting, African rhythms, and enthusiastic singing (King 95). The churches teach their members to treat others as equal to them. The church also emphasizes on obedience to one’s master. The Americans, on the other hand, think it is hypocritical of the African-Americans’ churches to hold on to this doctrine of obedience and equality. Church leadership is entrusted to the blacks unlike in the American society (Boyd 92). They also attend the Christmas play in the theaters and churches.
The Life Events. The African American culture observes a rite of passage during growth and development of its children. Both boys and girls in their pre-teen ages are organized to take classes that prepare them for adulthood (King 314). During this period, they are taught spiritual doctrines, how to be responsible and leadership. The practice is common in the African tradition.
Weddings Ceremoniesand Marriages. African-American couples “jump the broom” during the wedding ceremonies. The community values family relations and embrace their extended family. Marriage is an institution that involves the whole family. There is nothing like an arrangement and mutual understanding between a man and a woman (Pinn 187). It has to be a contractual agreement with the entire extended family. Unlike other communities where marriage signifies an extension on the side of the man, African Americans give the honor to the family of a woman. The lady’s family gets the pleasure of being the immediate extended family.
Death. Friends and family come together to give emotional support to the bereaved. They help in planning for the send-off and other tasks. The clergy members provide spiritual comfort. To the community, death is just a transition stage and not final. The attitude explains why the word funeral does not have any use within the culture. Instead, home goings seem more applicable (King 59). There is no mourning, instead, they use music and dance to celebrate the dead.
Food. The culture grows and uses a variety of agricultural products (Pinn 33). These types of food have an African heritage. They include sorghum and grits. Others are peanuts, watermelon, and rice. Cotton and indigo dyes are also popular among the African-Americans.
Occupation and Work. It is unfortunate that the African-American males rarely get jobs. Unemployment is a characteristic that has continued to rule in their lives. Those fortunate to find a job can only settle for what is available- very low status jobs. If ranked the same in the employment ladder with the white’s counterparts, they still earn less. What they earn cannot match what their colleagues make – for the same amount of work if not more.
Pinn (258) explains that at workplaces, they face discrimination in terms of harassments, regardless of their value to the company, whether unskilled, semi-skilled, or professional. Rather than face the workplace humiliation, most African-American males prefer to remain unemployed. Those with abilities to develop professionally opt to remain underemployed. White Americans stereotype against the African-Americans and cannot believe they can deliver.
Social. The white Americans have their segregated places for social activities. Such places are usually out of bounds for the African American. To a greater extent, the only presence of them is of the servants either serving meals and drinks or attending to other calls of the Americans King 223).
The Americans love to keep their counterpart for company and business deals and any close association with an African-American is demeaned. Since the white Americans have financial stability that the African Americans cannot match, their low status locks them out of the social gatherings. They are, without doubt, the less fortunate and cannot match the class of the Americans. Further, the white Americans look down on them as primitive beings that are not up-to-date with current activities (Boyd 310). In other words, they cannot fit in the social circles of the Americans. Their children face discrimination from the children of the white Americans.
Economic status. The African-Americans live in extreme poverty and live under unhygienic conditions. The poor sanitation causes them to be vulnerable to diseases. Their children go to schools that have few learning facilities. They lack proper medical services, as they cannot foot the bills for better health care. King (314) agrees that the community cannot afford healthy living either. They mostly survive on poor nutrition that cannot even feed the pets of the white Americans.
Retail and shopping malls alike are of the reality of the Americans. African Americans are so poor and cannot afford even the cheapest priced items on the shelves. They cannot afford decent clothing and rely on what the white Americans could only term as rugs. The African-Americans live in areas of seclusion (King 27). Such areas have inadequate infrastructure, and social amenities have low standards.
The white Americans often refer to their residences as “ghettos” to signify the dilapidated houses and the levels of poverty of the African-American. To the Americans, the term is offensive. However, the African-Americans do not take any defense. They take pride in the struggle they endured among the Whites. Boyd (212) was right to point out that “ghetto” is a symbolism of their blackness in which they take pride. To them, “Ghetto” is home; their passion for the word cannot compare to the loath of the Americans.
The sub-identities of the African-Americans play a vital role in this culture. For example, an African-American would rather remain jobless than face discrimination at workplace. The reaction raises the poverty levels of the people (Boyd 198).
In as much as both communities are rightful citizens of the US, there is no relationship between the two. The gap between the two communities continues to widen. They took advantage of their discrimination by the Americans to strengthen their political, economic and social life.
In response to the intersectionalism, the African-American created soul food (Pinn 112). Since they were not allowed to eat better cuts of meat, and they were too poor to afford, they had to compensate for what they missed.
They become creative through use of the available materials to produce what they lacked. Through boiling pig intestines and adding butter and finally frying, they made chitlins (Pinn 230).
Due to the community’s denial of education to the African-Americans in fear of revolts and escape plans, the community maintained its oral traditions as a means of preserving their history. It was hard for them to communicate through writing. Story telling was a major practice of passing information from one generation to the next (Pinn 183). It was also a way through which they educated each other. For the religious leaders like preachers, use of action carries more weight than the mere speaking. The listeners readily identify with the rising and the receding of the sermon. The culture values drumming as a principal means of communication and the larger American culture has borrowed this concept (Boyd 107).
Use of Digital Media
The community has embraced the use of digital media. There is no digital divide between the Americans and the African-Americans. The community is up to date with technology. It uses devices and techniques to get news. Most of the African-Americans use smartphones and are available online (King 306). They have agreed that, compared to five years back, news following has become much easier. They look at the digital media as a platform through which to learn their racial or ethnic communities.
The larger population of the African-American community believes they see an accurate portrayal of them in the media. They form a more significant part of news consumers in the US. However, others who are too particular about media coverage of their communities and feel the coverage is insufficient pay less attention (Pinn 241). The community makes uses local news stations, either television or web to get information about their communities. They own tablets and use news alerts and find social media reliable for information about their community. All news does not get the attention in this community, for example, news on immigration cannot catch the attention of an African-American (Boyd 256).
The human nature should not at all discriminate against others because of their ethnicity. There is no control over one’s background. Instead, it is the only opportunity to learn and embrace the culture of other communities. With a hint of what goes on within our boundaries, it is possible to survive in any part of the world. It can indeed be fun identifying with the cultural practices of various ethnic groups.
- The word “ghetto” has been used in the past as employed in the nineteenth century. The meaning may have changed with time.
- “Kente” is a word that was used to refer to the African attire but the name has since become outdated.
Boyd, Tony. African Americans and popular culture. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008. Print.
King, Debra. W. African Americans and the culture of pain. USA: The University of Virginia Press, 2008. Print.
Pinn, Anthony. B. African American Religious Cultures. California: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2009. Print.