Brief History of African Americans
- African Americans arrived in America in the colonial era to work in cane plantations as a result of slavery.
- They formed part of the lucrative trade in slave labor fuelled by slave raiding parties (Niles, 2010 ).
- Slave trade was rampant across the world, with Africa serving as one of the main catchment areas.
- After the abolishment of slave trade, and the subsequent abolishment of segregations laws, African Americans attained full citizenship in America.
- Their unique history since the era of slave trade continues to play a significant role in their lives today.
- The value system of African Americans does not vary a lot from the general values espoused by other Americans.
- Most of their values emanate from their historical and cultural experience. African Americans are strong supporters of democratic ideals, personal freedoms, and the freedom of religion.
- Values emphasized by African Americans include:
- Strong communal ties derived from their African roots and their collective experience during slavery and during the years of segregation (Scott, 2005);
- Strong commitment to religion;
- Strong sense of personal and family pride that at times hinder them from seeking help (Jones, 2008).
Language and Communication Patterns
- African Americans no longer speak the native languages from their African heritage.
- Depending on specific social circumstances, some use a distinct form of slang (Laster, 2001).
- The more affluent African Americans tend to use the standard form of American English.
- Communication Patterns:
- The communication patterns of affluent African Americans does not vary in a notable way from the standard communication patterns.
- The less affluent African Americans tend to use street language most of the time.
- African Americans have a higher distrust for the government than most Americans (Jones, 2008).
- They also do not trust the criminal justice system and the mainstream media(Jones, 2008). This may be attributed to the high crime rate among African Americans.
- African Americans mainly view life as a struggle. This is a legacy of slave trade and segregation.
- African Americans believe that solidarity is necessary for their survival.
Arts and Expressive Forms
- Arts and expressive forms developed by African Americans have a strong correlation with the historical experiences of the community.
- The most recognizable form of African American art is hip hop music (Niles, 2010) This genre emanated from the need to have a means of expressing the frustrations of daily life that African Americans were experiencing.
- Other art forms developed by African Americans also carry the message of emancipation.
- Music and visual art (such as graffiti) continue to play a key role in the expression of African American views in the American society (Scott, 2005).
Norms and Rules
- The norms in African American lifestyle are similar to the norms of the American society in many ways. Societal phenomenon such as materialism affect them in similar ways.
- They also suffer from the same problems affecting Americans in general. For instance African Americans have high instances of obesity, which is comparable to other Americans.
- Specific norms that are pronounced among the African Americans include:
- A Strong sense of community;
- Organization of groups and families around clear power structures (Jones, 2008);
- Ability to integrate with other communities.
- The African American lifestyle revolves around the extended family unit.
- African Americans have managed to maintain the extended family structure partly as a means of survival.
- Since African American families tend to be less affluent in their communities, the sharing and competition for resources is normal.
- African Americans also have worse socio-economic indicators compared to most Americans. This includes:
- low unemployment rates;
- high crime rates;
- higher infant mortality;
- lower wellness levels;
- lower academic achievements (Ulmer, 2010).
- African Americans grow up in communal settings.
- Usually, African American families have members of the extended family living with them at any one time.
- Grandparents (especially grandmothers) play a vital role in holding extended families together (Jones, 2008).
- Many African American families are headed by women.
- There is also a higher incidence of single parent families among African Americans that the national rate.
Degree of Assimilation
- African Americans tend to integrate into their host communities.
- This seems to be a form of adaptation they have learnt after centuries of slavery, servitude, and segregation.
- This does not mean that they lose their identity. It only means that they find a way to survive in their environment quickly and easily.
- African Americans also intermarry freely with other people groups. More than 50% of all African Americans today have at least one ancestor from a different racial descent (Ulmer, 2010).
Heath Behaviors and Practices
- African Americans have the lowest life expectancy in America (Niles, 2010).
- Researchers attribute this to lower education levels, and a higher poverty incidence (Scott, 2005).
- African Americans also have the highest infant and maternal mortality within America (Niles, 2010).
- African Americans also rely more on traditional medicine and faith than other Americans (Jones, 2008).
- African Americans have access to a disproportionately low level of healthcare benefits. They also benefit the least from health insurance.
Jones, C. (2008). Study Shows Blacks don’t Share Similar Views of World. Web.
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Laster, K. (2001). The Law as Culture. Perth: Federation Press.
Niles, N. J. (2010). Basics of the U.S. Healthcare System. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Scott, J. H. (2005). The African American Culture. The African American Leadership Forum (pp. 1-9). White Plains, NY: Pace University.
Ulmer, C. (2010). Future Directions for the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports. Washington DC: National Academies Press.