African-Americans: Anthropological Survey of Tradition, Culture, And Habits
African-Americans are often perceived as possessing a unique social status in American history. Although America is a nation of immigrants, African-Americans are the only immigrants who were forcibly migrated to the nation as slaves. Unlike white indentured servants, African-Americans were turned into a deliberately enslaved caste of people, identified by their perceived ‘race.’ Unlike other immigrant groups who formed ethnic enclaves in urban locations, African-American’s cultural affiliations with their various original African lands were deliberately destroyed, in an effort to make their enslavement more manageable for their ‘owners.’ Africans appropriated European Christianity, songs, and other cultural norms as vehicles of liberation and formed a unique culture that has been called the only truly ‘American’ culture.
Slavery was present in all of early America, but it became a particularly entrenched institution in the South, where prejudice and discrimination against African-Americans became a source of self-definition for many whites. With the invention of the cotton gin, slavery also became wildly profitable, and the nation was torn asunder, at least in part, because of conflicts over slavery.
The enslaved status of African-Americans was a profound challenge to the notion of America as place of justice liberty. African-Americans, from slavery onward would stress the hypocrisy between the American ideal of freedom and democracy for all, and their inability to enjoy such institutions. Even after formal emancipation, African-Americans continued to experience discrimination in the north and south. African-American schools were segregated, either by law or because of where African-Americans were forced to live, and this resulted in fewer opportunities and reduced economic power in the rapidly industrializing nation. The African-American family had often been separated, due to slavery, and many families were broken once again as fathers were forced to leave and travel to earn money away from their wives and children.
The role of African-American parents has often been characterized as more dominant than those in white families, at least partially due to the difficulty of keeping the family together under pressure. Extended family structures are still more common in African-American families: for economic and later cultural reasons, grandparents are more likely to live with adult children, and. Grandmothers were often asked to function as babysitters, as African-American women were more apt to be forced to work than their white counterparts. However, this multigenerational framework has had a positive effect on many families and created a strong social support structure for families during trying times.
In highly stressful circumstances, such as crime-ridden urban locations, children may be more apt to have children earlier, and to leave school given that their observable role models do not present college as a likely future option. Such has been the case for many , who are statistically overrepresented in records of , and exhibit greater difficulty finding a social niche, compared with their white counterparts.
The need to present African-American young people with role models other than athletes or rap stars (since sports and entertainment are two arenas in which African-Americans have excelled, despite discrimination even in these fields) was spoken of in the current President’s address to the school children of the nation. However, merely because America has elected its first African-American president does not mean that discrimination has been eradicated. President Obama’s election has provided a vision of hope for many, but the historical legacy of discrimination continues. Civil rights legislation and affirmative action has undeniably changed America. Yet bias against African-Americans, often unconscious, still acts as a barrier to social mobility.