African American Cultural Awareness Cultural Studies Essay

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With this research paper, I intend to study two minority cultures living in my state. I want to research the lifestyles, values, and other characteristics of their cultures to better understand, and be sensitive to the needs of these culturally diverse students, so that I may apply this knowledge of cultures in my class room, where I am committed to respecting these differences.

I plan to research both the Latino and African American cultures, because these are the two largest minority populations in my state, and therefore will be the most likely to be students in my class. I will explore common themes between the cultures such as traditional foods and educational goals, as well as other cultural specific items such as language, religion and cultural holidays.

I want to research the lifestyles, values, and other characteristics of their cultures to better understand, and be sensitive to the needs of these culturally diverse students. The African American culture, in the United States, is the social benefits from Americans of African descent, to the culture of America. Their distinct identity is rooted in their generations past. Their contributions to American society have had a great impact on America's cultural development.

Few things have become more definitive of a culture than the food which they eat. Much of the farming produce in America, such as, peanuts, okra, cotton, grits, and rice have been linked to Africa. African American food represents a unique response to the racial and economic oppression and poverty forced upon African Americans while in slavery. Slaves were not permitted to dine on the finer cuts of beef, and after the emancipation, most could not afford any. So a hearty cuisine would commonly require creative use of affordable staples obtained from farming and hunting. Items such as ham hocks and neck bones provide seasoning for stews, boiled greens and Additional foods, like fried fish and chicken, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, black-eyed peas, and rice where common staples because they were affordable, accessible, and simple to prepare. Many of these food traditions are still eaten by many people living in the southern United States.

African Americans, much like other cultures in American have come to understand the importance of education. With the desegregation of the public school systems in 1971, and the involvement of groups such as the NAACP African Americans are attending institutions of higher education in high rates than ever before. Over the past 20 years studies show that with higher education levels, African Americans are filling larger percentages of the professional work force. During 1992, about 18%t of the African Americans employed in the United States had not received a high school diploma, How ever, that number had decreased to only about 9% by 2009. While African Americans in having completed college increased 16% to about 24 % in the same time frame. African Americans completing a bachelor's degree program or higher, are earning as much as double the income of a person without a high school diploma. Unemployment rates also decline sharply; proportional to the level of educational a person receives. By the end of 2009, the unemployment level of African Americans, age 25 years plus, who had not graduated from high school was about 21%, where the unemployment levels for those who graduated from high school dropped to 14% and those who graduated from a four year college program, dropped to about 7%.

The majority of African Americans speak Standard American English, but there is a form of the English language that has been associated directly with their culture known as African American Vernacular English (AAVE). From years of oppression to the African American population, by the slave trade of early American society, African American slaves were usually combined with many tribal groups who spoke different dialects, to confuse communication in any language besides English. This mixing of tribal groups blended together to created distinctive language patterns forming the structure for what today is known as the African American Vernacular English (AAVE), it is a variation of the American English language, formed from the speech pattern of early African Americans. (AAVE) is considered a viable dialect because it has logical structure. Never the less, there are people either black and white, who consider (AAVE) a form of slang or a just a weak command of Standard American English. Inner city children confined to speaking primarily the African American Vernacular, often find it hard to perform well on standardized tests , and if they complete school, they find it difficult to enter mainstream America post secondary education and the labor force often require a good grasp of standard American English.

As with many cultures, The African American population is grounded in deep religious beliefs: while African Americans have freedom to participate in a verity of different religions, by far, the most prevalent in their culture is Protestant Christianity. This religious institution is often collectively known in America as the black church. From the oppression of slavery, many African American were separated from their traditional African beliefs, and were usually denied the freedom to practice their own religions. But African Americans managed to integrate some of the own religious traditions into Christian worship and maintain a small aspect of their religious foundation. The African Methodist Episcopal Church focused on the theology of equality, and a hope for a better tomorrow. While Protestant Christianity is the primary religion of African Americans, Islam is taking a strong foot hold in their culture.

With root tied back to Africa, Islam in Black Africa was spread peacefully to African kings and notables, who passed the religion to the population they ruled over.. Today Islam is re-emerging in The African American culture through its introduction to the younger male population, the Islam teachings are spread through a group known as The Nation of Islam, The (NOI) preaches morality and personal demeanor, teaching modesty, personal respect, with discipline in the way one carries and dresses himself. The Nation of Islam members adhere to the traditional beliefs, do not to consume pork, and frown upon the consumption of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, while stressing a healthy diet and physical fitness. Although Christianity and Islam, are the dominate religions, currently in the African American culture, there are still many African Americans who worship thru Judaism, Buddhism as well as some other religious practices. There are still some African Americans' participating in traditional African religions, such as West African Voodoo, Santeria, or other traditions like the Rastafarian movement. Many who practice in these forms of worship are immigrants South America and the Caribbean, as such worship still take place.

African Americans observe some of their own ethnic holidays, along with the traditional American holidays. Holidays celebrated by African Americans' are not only celebrated by African Americans, and in most instances have become widely considered as American holidays. The birth of the American civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was officially celebrated as a national holiday since 1983. Emancipation Day is a holiday less celebrated outside the African American community, but the celebration is more commonly referred to as, Juneteenth or Freedom Day. It is celebrated in recognition of the first time the Emancipation Proclamation was read to the public, on 19, June 1865 in Texas. Kwanzaa is another popular African American holiday, and similar to Juneteenth, it is not widely celebrated beyond the African American community. African American scholar "Maulana" Ron Karenga, started the celebration of Kwanzaa, in observance of the harvest rituals of Africans, in 1966, as a protest to the commercialization of the Christmas holiday season. Kwanzaa is celebrated between from December 26 to January 1st, as a testimony to the African traditions of family, community, and to remember the struggles of African as well as those African American for their liberty.

Hispanic is defined as the Latino population within in the United States; the term has been given to the population of people from countries that were governed by Spain, and speak Spanish as their native language. Hispanicization refers to a culture whom have adopted the characteristics of Latino society and culture. Modern hispanization of America can be observed from the use of the Spanish language in media and businesses. The English-speaking culture, in the United States, has historically been the accepted cultural, where immigrants normally achieve assimilated into the population by their third generation. Hispanics have resisted this trend for the most part, because in the U.S. is not Hispanic Americans were an established culture in North America for centuries.

Hispanic Americans have carried on the food traditions of their native lands, It is custom that Hispanic families eat three meals a day, the most important meal is eaten at supper time. Eating together as a family is important to Hispanic Americans; most families spend time in prayer before the meals. Busy schedules often prevent families from enjoying meals together during the week, so on Sundays, the family gathers to eat with each other. Latinos enjoying spend time together with their extended families over a meal, fellowshipping and discussing current events. The meals consist of a main dish, usually beef or pork, seasoned with spicy sauces cooked with a verity of chili peppers. Beans, potatoes, rice, and corn, are staple foods of the Hispanic diet. Latinos also enjoy many native fruits Mexico and the Caribbean, which have been either imported or grown locally. These fruits include: the prickly pear, plantains, mangoes, papayas, passion fruit, and guavas. Like Many cultures, The Latinos enjoy egg or fruit for breakfast, each provide a fast simple meal. They enjoy adding rice, peppers, cheese and tomatoes to the eggs for an omelet or a breakfast burrito.

The Hispanic populations in general, live in communities that are segregated outside of the "white" school system. Hispanic families are not enrolling their children in quality preschool programs, while American preschool aged children enrollment steadily grows. Similar numbers of African American and white children, ages three and four, are being enrolled pre-kindergarten programs, while Latino children are still not likely to enroll. Perhaps it is because lower income Latino families, accept that their homes are better environments for their children than pre-kindergarten programs. As a result, by the time Hispanic children reach kindergarten age, they relational skills are less developed than a child who attends a pre-k program. For the majority of Hispanic children,

Elementary school is their first experiences with formal learning, this means that Hispanic student historically, have trailed behind other students in areas like science, reading and math, throughout elementary and middle school. This educational gap is one of the main contributors to high, early drop out rate in the Hispanic community. About 40 % of Latino dropouts, leave school with no more than a ninth grade education. Compare this to 13% of white student dropouts and only about 11% of black student dropouts.

In high school, college prep courses have been designed to prepare students for the transition from high school to post secondary education. But few Hispanic students enroll in these programs; only 23% of Hispanic students in the 10th grade were enrolled, while the white students' enrollment rates were higher, at about 34%. So Latino students are finding themselves under prepared to move to college after high school. About 33% of white students, and 25% of African American students, move on to college while only about 19% of Hispanic students are enrolling in post secondary education. Due to the lower than normal percentages of Hispanic students entering, and ultimately graduating from post secondary programs, Latinos have been unable to attain a suitable portion of professional level job position, to represent their over all percentages in the American population.


English has been established as the official language of the United States. This political statue has pressured Latino immigrants, to learn and only speak English in public settings. American society in large, requires a strong command of Standard American English for upward socio-economic mobility. How ever, despite all the social pressures, Spanish has remained a healthy language in the United States, because communities populated with continual immigration, and the established Spanish-language mass media market in America has made it is comfortable for their culture to continue speaking Spanish in their everyday life. Mainstream American retailers are finding big business by catering to the growing Hispanic market by advertising bilingually to Spanish-speaking areas and offering Spanish/English customer services.

Hispanic Religion has long been associated with the Roman Catholic faith. Latinos are raised participating in many typical Roman Catholic traditions such as attending mass celebrations on Sunday Fro many Hispanic Americans their religion plays an important part of modeling and guiding their views and ways of life. Symbols are vital to keeping them in touch with their faith. Hispanic Americans surround their environment t with physical representations of virgins, saints, and the crucifix to show their devotion to their religion. Many Hispanic homes have special alters prepared in their homes in which they can display their tributes. Hispanic American are taking a vital part in the transformation of the religious structure of the United States, many Latino immigrants continue to transfer to America bringing with them their individual religious beliefs, which for most is the Catholic religion.

Like African Americans, as well as many other cultures in America, Hispanic Americans observe many of their own ethnic holidays, along with the traditional American holidays.

Cinco de Mayo, or the 5th of May, is not Mexico's Independence Day, instead this celebration, commemorates a Mexican victory in battle, against the French. The Mexican army was outnumbered, ill-equipped, and poorly armed, but some how despite the poor conditions the Mexican's face in the battle; their army came out victorious against overwhelming odds. The battle was won through courage and spirit! This spirit is the motivation behind the celebration of this holiday.

Guadalupe day, observed on December 12, is considered to be Mexico's most important religious holiday. Groups travel from all across Mexico to the chapel, Tepayac Hill, in Mexico City. It is believed that this is the site where Jesus' mother appeared to the Indian peasant, Juan Diegoin 1531. Mother Mary spoke Juan urging him to appear before the bishop and request a church be constructed in her honor on that hill, where she could stay near to her people. Surprised by the request, the bishop needed to verify Juan's vision and requested that he have Mother Mary perform a miracle by Mother Mary. Juan returned to Tepayac Hill to find a roses growing where none had earler been. Juan gathered the roses inside his coat with a picture of Mother Mary for the bishop. The bishop believed Juan, and the chapel was constructed..

The day of the Three Kings, also called Epiphany, or Little Christmas, is celebrated by not just Hispanic families, but by many families all over the world on Jan 6th. Because the Three Kings rode camels, on there way to bring gifts to the "New Born King", on January 5th children leave their shoes or empty box stuff with straw outside their home, or under their bed, to give the magical camels something to eat during their trip. When morning arrives, the straw is gone and little toys and candies are left in its place. There is also special bread that is baked for the celebration called Rosca bread. This bread is shaped like a little crown, and each loaf has a prize baked inside. Tradition says that "Good luck will come to the person who discovers the prize."

F1) Through the research I have put into this paper, I have found that are the many similarities between the Hispanic and African American cultures. Both cultures have strong ties to family. The family unit seems to be the main reason for most of the day to day actives that take place in each society, from jobs to provide support for their families to the evening meal where families sit together and enjoy each other's fellowship; the family remains a central focus for each group. And both groups seem to try to carry on the traditional values that were brought with their ancestors to United States from the homelands. Weather it is the food they choose to eat, or the holidays they celebrate, each culture seems to find value from supporting traditional values from the homeland respectively.

F2) Despite the similarities in the Hispanic and African American cultures, there are many differences that make the two cultured both separated and unique from the typical American. Take for instance the acceptance into American mainstream society but the African Americans cultures. Most Americans have accepted the African American culture as equals in society, whether its in the work place, school system, or local neighborhoods , African Americans have gain equality in the public eye, while the Hispanic by in large, are still seen as second class population that have entered the country illegally and are overpopulating the American workforce. When the truth of the matter is, that only a small portion of the Latino population are in America illegally, and in many instances, the Hispanic population has been in American longer than most other cultures, but they are still not treated as equals. Secondly, the Hispanic population has not been willing to be a monolingual culture; they do not won't to be forced to give up their native language, Spanish, and fill like American society is unwilling to support their decision, while for the most part the African American culture has given up their native tongues and accepted English as the first, and usually only language. And third, The African American more apparent when it comes to demanding equal rights for it's citizens, where the Hispanic population have stayed on the fringes of society, not making demands on the American public and going on with their day to day lives relatively unnoticed or supported outside the tight nit communities by the American society.

F3) With a better understanding of the differences in cultures, I will be better equipped to provide idealized instruction to culturally diverse students. I'll provide a learning atmosphere that my students will find relevant to their personal situations, allowing them to gain a more in-depth comprehension of the subject material being presented. And finally I can apply the knowledge I have gathered from this research to design actives the students will find challenging yet engaging which will compel the student to want to take an active part in their educational success.

G) Bibliography

B1) Secondary Sources

Ebert, E., & Culyer, R. (2008). School: an Introduction to Education. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth (African American Culture)

Foner, E., & Underwood, J. (2005). At Freedom's Door. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press (African American Culture)

McCaffrey, P., (2007). Hispanic Americans. Dublin, NY: H.W. Wilson

(Hispanic American Culture)

Olmos, E., Ybarra, L., & Monterrey, M. (1999). Americanos. Boston, NY: Little, Brown and Company (Hispanic American Culture)

B2) - Primary Sources

Bureau Of labor Statistics. Spotlight on Statistics, "African American History Month" February 2010.

United States Department of Labor.

(African American Culture)

William J. Clinton. EXECUTIVE ORDER, "EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE FOR HISPANIC AMERICANS." February 22, 1994. Minority University Research and Education Division. (Hispanic American Culture)

Dr. José Jaime Rivera. Our Nation on the Fault Line: Hispanic American Education, September 1996

Who Are Hispanic Americans? (Hispanic American Culture)

Guide to Exploring African American Culture, December 2003.

PennState College of Agricutural Sciences. (African American Culture)

Fabre, G., & O'meally, R. (1994). History and Memory in African-American Culture. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc. (African American Culture)

Kanellos, N., (1998). Thirty Million Strong: Reclaiming the Hispanic Image in American Culture. Dearborn, MI: Fulcrum (Hispanic American Culture)

H1) The methods used to find the resources I gathered for this paper come from two main sources. I used the local libraries to find text book, magazines, newspaper articles and non fiction books to study general cultural details of both my study groups. I used the internet search engines to find more specific details such as population statistics and specific cultural facts.

H3) After gathering all the information from all the different sources, I realized I had gathered too much information on both cultures and had no idea where to start my studies on either. So I sat down and created my concept maps for each population, which gave me a visible out line of which topics I wanted to study for each population. I discarded the information that was less relevant to my chosen topic, organized the remaining information into the information pertaining to the categories I chose to study. Filtered out the information in each category and developed the remaining information into my research paper.

H2) I found the information that I could attain from the internet more useful than the information I received from reference books, or periodicals it reviewed. I found the information in those sources to broad for the information I wanted to cover. I could use internet resources to find specific information, relating to certain topics with a much greater amount of easy through the internet research.

H4) Through my research and studies into these cultures, I found that I have not been respecting the differences of other cultures to the degree they deserve, and that I assumed that all cultures have the same belief and values as I have. This study has broadened my prospective on other cultural beliefs, and with this new found understanding of these cultural diversities. As a teacher I can apply this understanding allowing myself to be sensitive to the needs of these the individual student, which I am committed to serve, creating an environment the includes each student and encourages them to learn.