African-American Culture

African-American Culture & My Family Background

How do you define your culture?

I am part of the African-American culture, which is not a culture that can be defined universally because there are many subcultures within the African-American ethnicity. There are many socioeconomic divisions within the African-American culture but basically my parents are black, I was born in Landstuhl, Germany and I was raised in Chicago Illinois and in Hampton Virginia. Both my parents were in the Air Force, which is why I was born in Germany. My great grandmother on my mother's side is Cherokee and my great grandmother on my father's side is German. So I have a little Native American blood in me, and a little German blood as well as African-American blood.

How I define my culture historically relates to the history of black people coming over as slaves from Africa. You can't review the cultural history of African-Americans without including the dark side of our culture. The story of slavery and the Civil War are well-told and fully reported. Subsequent to the end of slavery there was the Jim Crow segregation in the south, the Civil Rights Movement (led by Martin Luther King, a man my family reveres).

Today, black folks in America have a president of the United States (Obama) who has shown wonderful leadership notwithstanding some of the rude and even vicious slurs and smears (that he wasn't born in the U.S.; that he was born in Kenya; etc.). The Black community is very proud of our president though he may not always make decisions we expect of him; the alternatives in the Republican Party and the "tea party" are unattractive (even contemptible) to us.

TWO: Are there particular values that are especially meaningful to your culture? Family is very meaningful to the African-American community. Education, health, and career opportunities are also vitally important. Many leaders in the Democratic Party (Bobby, Ted, and John Kennedy, among others) have fought hard for the values that our culture holds as important. Those values include racial justice, civil rights legislation, an end to poverty, strong and stable Social Security and Medicare systems for our future -- and basic fairness and a dearth of bias.

THREE: What are some of the customs or family traditions that you have learned as a member of your culture? I have learned to respect my parents and back up my parents and my family in all matters of social and economic importance. Traditionally we observe Christmas by exchanging gifts and baking wonderful cookies and pies for the occasion. We invite friends and family to our house for the holidays. We watch movies together and have dinner together.

FOUR: How do the rules and traditions of your culture affect the way that family members relate to one another? Do people have certain roles or particular levels of status based on cultural traditions? In our house we have our own unique traditions that may not be embraced by all Blacks or even a majority of the Black community. Because my mom and dad were in the Air Force, our family has certain habits and routines (neatness in out bedrooms, a spotlessly clean kitchen nearly all the time, things in the garage and elsewhere around the house kept in an orderly fashion) that may not coincide with a majority of African-American or Caucasian families in America. My mother is like many African-American women in the sense that she is a strong individual, active in her community, and stands up to my father when it is appropriate for her to do so. We observe Juneteenth ("Freedom Day" -- June 19), the day that Abraham Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves. We also observe to a degree "Kwanzaa" (Black families drink from a unity cup and light red, black, and green candles) from December 26 to January 1. This event mirrors the harvest rituals in Africa.

FIVE: How do factors such as religion or a cultural philosophy of life affect family communication? I am an only child so I don't have to go far or raise my voice to be heard. My parents are very open with me, and I have always tried to be honest with them and gain their trust. We have good communication, not because of the culture we share, or because of our spiritual beliefs, but rather because my parents are very intelligent, morally upstanding people who believe in…