Friday, July 20, 2012

Research Paper on African Americans

Relations between Minority of African Americans and White Americans

In this paper I will study African Americans as a minority group and their attitudes to the majority group, presented by white Americans. The United States of America consist of people of different nationalities, that is why it is called “a melting pot”. Ethnocentrism is still present in the American society despite multinational origin of the USA. The term “ethnocentrism” has a lot of interpretations, but they can be reduced to one meaning and it means to look down at people, who are different from you, and put your ethnic group in the center of the universe. Ethnocentrism leads to miscommunication, appearance of stereotypes and these factors have a serious damage on the cross-cultural communication.


In general, there is nothing bad in patriotism and good attitude to your motherland and people who inhabit it. These feelings are even laudable. Problems appear when this love to your country, people or social group is expressed by the prejudice of the others. Unfortunately, distinction between true patriotism and ethnocentrism is very subtle and we can see poor consequences of the substitution of these notions on the example of Nazi terror. Ethnocentrism is a wrong way of thinking, as it creates false assumptions about the superiority of one group above all the others.

History of African American Minority Group
Colonization of America started in the 17th century. A lot of people came here to find shelter and start a new life. Immigrants and slaves from different countries and various social backgrounds came to the land, which late got the name of the United States of America.

Despite the fact that the United States of America was initially proclaimed as a country of liberty and equal opportunities from its very beginning, such shameful things as slavery and segregation were accepted in this country. America is a rather young country. Its written history is only a few hundred years old. It is still often called “The New World”. America is known as the land of great opportunities and high level of development. America claims to fight for the democracy all over the world, though its history was the hotbed for the slavery. In this way, America has become one of few countries of the world, which made a great leap from slavery to democracy.

However, in spite of democratic ideals, which made the basement of the American country, it turned to slavery. Slaves, brought from African continent, served as a cheap labor force in the newly created country. The physical labor of slaves was used by the most Southerners. That is why it was impossible to abandon slavery right at once. The changes of behavior of the slave owners did not happen until the end of the civil war. Founding Brothers had to make a difficult choice when they decided not to mention slavery issue in the Constitution. The issue of slavery became that compromise that gave Northern and Southern states an opportunity to agree on a federal government. Southern states agreed to ratify the constitution under condition that the slavery issue would not be mentioned during next twenty years (Thompson 69). The price was too high, but the foundation of the new state could not go smoothly and needed sacrifices.

The year 1776 is the year of American Revolution and American Independence, The Revolutionary War is sometimes called “The Tobacco war”. “Newly arrived immigrants had found themselves perpetually in debt to British merchants; by 1776, growers owed the mercantile houses millions of pounds. British tobacco taxes were a further grievance” (Henretta 69). American citizens proved their right for economical and political freedom and put much effort to defend it. As a result of the impositions of the British, America showed that it was ready to fight for their independence and their freedom.

Several years later the petition of Quakers had broken the silence when they addressed it to the new Congress. Quakers had raised the question of human liberty and equal rights and demanded the abolishment of the slavery institution. In 1866 Johnson, who supported the Southern leaders and the Congress which supported the interest of the African-Americans, withstood for the control of Reconstruction process. Northern voters gave a smashing victory to the Radical Republicans in the Congress that gave the Congress a possibility to control the reconstruction. The Reconstruction Act was passed in 1867 that divided the states into five military districts. Each district was obliged to accept the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. These amendments guaranteed freedoms to the African-Americans and also it provided the equal attitude to the black and white citizens of the country. Fragile balance reached in the creation of the young American country was a unique combination of different visions and values of its founding fathers.

Abolishment of slavery did not resolve the problem of racism and discrimination. Intolerance of the people toward other people and feeling of superiority, where some believed that some definite group of people can be regarded as chosen and superior by birth, did no disappear in the United States after the abolishment of slavery.

Race still created a big abyss in the relations between the black and white population of the country. The slavery was cancelled but a new social model has not been built yet and African-Americans had to find their way to survive and their place in the social ladder. A lot of them had to do the same work as being slaves. The 1860s are noticeable for the rise of the Civil Right Movement which had a lot of consequences. The period of Reconstruction included global changes in the political, social and economical structure of the society and the way the African-Americans fitted there now. After 1877 the liberties of Black were restricted again. White Southern Democrats took control from Republicans and the achievements of the Reconstruction were deprived. The Supreme Court was also involved into this process. A black man was imprisoned in Louisiana in 1892 just for sitting in the white section of the train car. Later, in 1896 Jim Crow’s laws were legalized by the famous Plessy v. Ferguson case (Fredrickson 23).

Jim Crow is a name of the system of laws that fixed the racial discrimination and supreme attitude to the African-Americans. But it has become more than a system of laws. It has become a way of life. Jim Crow laws represented the legitimization of anti-Black racism and covered the period between 1877 and the mid-1960s. The Jim Crow system stated that the white race was superior to the black race, sexual relations between Blacks and Whites would produce a mongrel race which would destroy America. This system also demanded to keep the blacks on the bottom of the social stratification by any means and to use forth if necessary to keep this separation. Jim Crow signs (such as “exit\sets\facilities for white only”) was put everywhere. Prisons, hospitals, schools, churches, cemeteries were separated.

The Features of African American Identity
We definitely take notice of the fact that “constraints of cultural domination and a consequent power deficit have posed serious problems for African American leadership. This reality has affected the character and dynamics of leadership options, ideas, strategies, and resource mobilization” (Hall 110). Because of a long adaptation, process to the conditions of the American society African American community may be characterized as stable, flexible and independent. “These are matters of growing importance in the emerging post-modern/post-industrial managerial age of complexity, uncertainty, cynicism, and interdependence.” (Hall 110) All these features peculiar to African American community form identities of its members.

Leadership can be the main characteristic of the African American identity. This feature of the African American identity became dominant due to centuries of segregation and discrimination. African Americans had to prove their rights for their white contemporaries and leadership and passion for equality and independence had helped them a lot. These very features have given the African Americans a possibility to gain a great number of privileges in the contemporary American society. The main aim was to reach the following conditions: political rights and freedom of speech, quality of education, personal worth, economical independence and self-sufficiency, cultural integrity and many others. It is obvious that most of these positions were reached and now African American policy is moving in this direction. Such progress can be explained by African Americans’ persistence, diligence, hard work and will for freedom. These are the most characteristic features of these people and they help to simplify the process of integration.

Stereotypes Connected with African American Minority Group
There are several stereotypes concerning African Americans in the modern American society. There is so-called “blackface archetype of minstrel shows”. According to this stereotype African Americans are lazy, ignorant, joyous, superstitious and musical. It is worth speaking about “Sambo” stereotype, which was created by Helen Bannerman in her book “The Story of Little black Sambo”. It is considered to be the racial derogation in America. “Mammy archetype” is a term usually used towards black women. It comes from the past when this term was generally used for back female servants and slaves. Nowadays it is very insulting for African American women. Another archetype is “Magic Negro”. It was applied by Spike Lee and it means “super-duper magical negro” (Kempley, p.67) According to this stereotypes African Americans can possess some magical abilities, such as Voodoo magic and so on.

Despite slavery and segregation are left in the past, there are a lot of cases of discrimination and racism in contemporary American society. Even modern mass media depicts African Americans as less intellectual as white Americans. A lot of famous people show their scornful attitude towards black people. Spike Lee, a famous film director, comments this situation in a such way: “In my neighborhood, we looked up to athletes, guys who got the ladies, and intelligent people,” said Lee. “If you’re intelligent, you’re called a white guy or girl.” (Kempley 69).Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki in their book The Black Image in the White Mind state that negative images of black Americans in mass media have a great influence of their perception in the society.

Among African American population exists a stereotype that every second white person either despises or undervalues African Americans. There is also a stereotype that White-Americans are too self-confident and ambitious and so do not accept black Americans as equal citizens.

Stereotypes neither about African Americans nor about White Americans can be justified. They are generally based on controversial and problematic past. The ground is usually subjective evaluation of these or those people without any obvious evidence.

Strategies for Integration Used by African American Minority Group
Specialists (Hall, Marvin) distinguish three main integrative strategies that are used by the African Americans while adopting white culture. They include multicultural strategy, separation and assimilation (acculturation). Multicultural strategy presupposes fusion or integration and alteration. This strategy is aimed to reserve ethnic identity but at the same time join American society. This strategy means peaceful co-existence of numerous nations without cultural confusion.

One of the most radical strategies of integration into the American society can be the organization of separate African American schools, communities, businesses, housing and so on. Supporters of this concept state that it will end racial discrimination (Hall, Hoges, Welch). Nevertheless, most scientists suppose that this policy is more segregation than integration and that it will just complicate relations between black and white Americans. Separate schools, hospitals and other institutions created additional barriers between African Americans and white population. They state that it will be degradation in black-white relations. This strategy implementation helps African Americans to save their ethnic identity but it does not guarantee normal relations in the whole American society.

Assimilation or so-called acculturation strategy assumes solution of African culture in American one without preserving of its peculiarities. A lot of scientist state that it is the easiest way for the African American population but at the same time not the best one because ethnic identity is characteristic for every ethnic community and community loses its sense without it.

Education has become an important social mechanism, which is used for both – getting rid of unbalance between two groups and making this unbalance stronger. This approach is not widely used recently. Welch and Hoges developed their own methods, which help to construct academic identity among African Americans. They believe that “Academic identity is one of the important factors that facilitates or impedes students’ academic achievement in school and their eventual admission into college.” (Hoges, Welch 12) They believe that academic identity has a great influence on the achievement of students from minority groups in general and African-American students in particular. Developing this kind of identity can finally end unequal opportunities in schools and cultural deprivations.

Consequences of Status of African Americans
Worse status presupposes worse conditions of life, worse conditions of life, in their turn, guarantee population’s dissatisfaction.

The official statistics show that white people predominate in housing, economics, healthcare and education in American society. “If African Americans were considered three-fifths (60%) of population in 1788, when the framers of the Constitution counted slaves for tax purposes, then their economic value in 2004 amounts to less than three-fourths (73%) when compared to their white counterparts” (Thompson, Hickey, p. 152). These means that black people earn almost 73% less than white people (Thompson, Hickey 152). In such spheres as housing, economics, health, civic engagement, education and social justice African Americans prevail only in the civic engagement. Of course, such status has both personal and group consequences for African Americans. Due to such status only 50% of African American families have their own homes and their homes can be valued at 42,000 dollars less than those of white Americans. The recent reports show that 54% of black Americans are not satisfied with their life conditions and states that it will be even worse in the future, 51% states that Asian Americans and Latinos are provided with better conditions (Thompson, Hickey 2005).

Relative Success of Strategies Used by African American Minority Group
For more than 30 years African-Americans have been fighting for their equal rights and, of course, some prominent achievements have been made. The percentage of Afro-American managers has increased but at the same time powerful decision-making jobs are not still widely available for them. As we can see, race discrimination in organizations still exists. Nowadays, “despite gains in entry, African-Americans clearly stagnate their climb up the managerial hierarchy, thereby failing to make inroads into key decision-making positions and in the racial redistribution of power” (Collins 97). Inequality in job allocation is obvious now despite all the official reports and speeches of governors, which claim that business of the USA can be called “multicultural”.

Beginning from the 1960s national minorities staged a number of walkouts demanding equal civil rights. So called Affirmative Actions have been implemented by the government in order to guarantee equal rights and liberties for African Americans and white Americans. The government had nothing to do but to guarantee equal opportunities. White companies, being afraid of governmental sanctions, beginning from the year 1960 had to provide Afro-Americans with working places. The 1960s are characterized by the enlargement of educational possibilities for national minorities and the occupation of Afro-Americans in management is easily explained in such a way. During the 1960s and 1970s college-educated Afro-Americans got business-related professions and managerial jobs. (Farley, Freeman). Black people were most employed in labor markets. Freeman (Freeman) gives such a statistics: in the 1960s only 7 percent of black college graduates could become managers in comparison to 18 percent of white students, who got same positions. The next decade was more progressive: the percentage of black managers increased to 12 percent (Freeman). During the 1970s and 1980s the number of Afro-Americans who occupied managerial, executive and administrative jobs, increased at twice the rate of white graduates (Farley 1987). Later, the process of deindustrialization took place and the level of welfare decreased dramatically and “a significant class polarization occurred among Black people between 1974 and 1994, with an increase in the percentage earning less than $15,000 and of those earning more than $75,000” (Hurst 198).

Organizations try to provide jobs to people of different ages, genders, physical abilities, ethnic backgrounds and levels of education. Gender and racial factors can not be left without attention and ignored, because solving of this problem will give a possibility to uphold the success and welfare of organizations.

People think that they are moving in the progressive direction and not many people know that in the 1960s and 1970s highly educated African-Americans had more chances to get a higher-paying job. Moreover, few people know about their careers and achievements.

Beginning from the year 2000 the situation has changed. American organizations can be called work-balanced, because only 58 percent of work places are occupied by white Americans (Jones, p.79). The term “cross-national teams” appears. It supposes that people of different nationalities work together without any difference. The process of globalization of business takes place nowadays and so requires numerous workers. Economic necessity and lack of work force makes employers turn to people of other nationalities and use them as a work force.

In her book “Black Picket Fences Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class”, Pattillo-McCoy challenges the opinion of the society that the racism problem is overcome and no racial discrimination and segregation can be found in modern American society. In her autobiographical and research documentary work Pattillo-McCoy dispels the opinion that middle black class has moved to the white neighborhood and naturally joined this society class. As she states, the middle and lower black class stay together to get more chances to survive in a hostile for them society. That put the middle class under the influence of criminal elements, bands and gangsters. When black family moves to the new surrounding white neighbors move in some time and later less well-off peers from the black community appear.

Pattillo-McCoy challenges the thought that suburbs are left by the members of black communities and they coexist happily together with the white members of the society.

Racial segregation, changing economic structures, and disproportionate black poverty still affect the residential experience of black middle-class families, and especially the youth (Pattillo-McCoy, 2000). Children of the black middle class have to attend same schools and colleges as their criminally inclined peers.

All the policies are directed in order to make people forget that the problem exists. The situation has changed since the time when Jim Crow’s laws were legal but visible success of the black representatives of the middle class and their successful promotions can make the wrong impression that all the classes of black people are treated as equals and no segregation exists and the question of race division is still open. And even when people face the problem they try to limit it to the problem with the lower class of black people – poor people. When it comes to the middle class nobody wants to see the problem and the means to resolve it are not even discussed. There are very few people who can admit that segregation in the middle class still exists. At the present moment, American society dominated by white Americans, tries to close its eye to this problem and to any kind of a division. “Racial segregation means that racial inequalities in employment, education, income, and wealth are inscribed in space. Predominantly white neighborhoods benefit from the historically determined and contemporarily sustained edge that whites enjoy” (Pattillo-McCoy 154). Real estate agents would use different means to avoid the appearance of black neighbors in the white surroundings.

Sometimes, the prices for the houses are intentionally uprated and sometimes the empty houses are told to be rented just to avoid undesirable black neighbors. Middle class composed of black people differs from what usually stands behind the notion of the white middle class. The black middle class is generally characterized by the more poverty, higher crime, worse schools, and fewer services than white middle-class neighborhoods. Black communities surround the white arias place in center like the “black belt”. The representatives of the middle class did not assimilate other citizens and state separately from poor black class and separately from the middle white class representatives and stays as a buffer between them. Middle class blacks face same segregation level as their poor representatives and can not be the members of the society of the same kind as their white peers are. African Americans are the most segregated ethnic group of the country despite its impressive quantity.

Comparison of African American minority group with Vietnamese Minority Group
Very often the attitude to minority groups reflects political and social system of the country. From the way different representatives of minority groups are treated in the country we can judge about the humane values accepted hare. Attitude towards minority groups accepted by the government of the country very often reflects the attitude of all citizens of the country towards strangers and foreigners. It is not surprising that in democratic countries the government reflects the will and sympathy for its population. American attitude to minority groups can be defined as liberal and pluralist. Under liberal we understand “favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded” and pluralist we defined as “a condition in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present and tolerated within a society” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). The United States of America was founded as a multicultural country, which has become the motherland for many immigrants and refugees.

Federal system of the US, stable party system and pluralist approach to social and political issues made American approach to minority group more fragmented. “The Jacobean ideal of equality before the law held by many French citizens and the liberal ideal of equality of opportunity at the heart of recent American political development explain the openness and attraction of the 2 countries for foreigners” (Revue Europeenne des migration International 1990).

Despite the Vietnamese minority group is not as numerous and widespread as the African Americans, it still makes an integral part of the American society. In the 1960s and 1970s large numbers of Vietnamese refugees were admitted to the country under special laws. The law of 1965 removed the severe restriction for Asian immigration but in the 1990s the situation changed a bit (Isaacs).

There are several considerable differences in the strategies Vietnamese choose when trying to integrate American society. A number of reasons can be given in order to explain this difference. More than 80 percent of modern Vietnamese Americans were not born on the territory of the United States and it explains why Vietnamese culture is still very important in Vietnamese communities. Practically all the traditions have been preserved. Such strong cultural ties with motherland distinguish Vietnamese Diaspora from other minor groups such as Italians, English and Irish.

Close connection with Vietnam encouraged most Vietnamese Americans to take jobs that were similar to those they had in their native country. Mostly it was fishing and it caused tolerant attitude of the native population and other immigrants at first but soon the Vietnamese began to succeed in their fishing business and to compete with native population. Attitude suddenly changed and a lot of cases of racial violent towards Vietnamese Americans took place. “Boston had 339 civil rights crimes reported in 1980 with many of them targeting Vietnamese immigrants.”(Hamilton-Merritt, p.198)

The history of the Vietnamese Diaspora in the USA is rather short and numbers only 25 years but still its history is rather progressive and dynamic. In the early 1990s the Vietnamese community of Southern Californian was created and was the push for further steps. This community gives a possibility for the development of the Vietnamese immigrant, youth hand employment programs and united more than 300 other Vietnamese organizations (Rutledge). A lot local Vietnamese organizations and institutions such as Vietnamese radios and temples were created.

“One 1977 survey found that more than six in ten of those immigrants who had held white-collar jobs in Vietnam held blue-collar jobs at the time of the study…less than one in five of those who were employed as professionals in Vietnam had been able to find similar work in the United States” (Rutledge124). In the early 90s almost one fourth of Vietnamese immigrants were living in poverty and even starvation. The median family income for the Vietnamese in America was about $30,000 while for the Europeans it was more than $37,000. It can be explained by racism towards Vietnamese immigrants, low English vocabulary and lack of connections in the professional sphere (Rutledge).

The existence of unique Vietnamese culture in Diaspora in the USA does not mean that American culture was not adapted to the Vietnamese. Most Vietnamese Americans wear American clothes, listen to modern American music and eat American food. At the same time Vietnamese people have strong ties with their families and communities. It gives simple explanation to the existence of such communities as Orange Country in California, where Vietnamese and Asian population prevails.

There is even a special term for the Vietnamese who lives outside Vietnam in a Diaspora; he is called “Overseas Vietnamese”. This term is usually used for Vietnamese Americans or Vietnamese Europeans who were born outside Vietnam or migrated there after the unification of their native country in 1975. The term was used even before the year 1975 and we can often hear that in such a way are called members of the Vietnamese Diaspora who come for visits or business. Present-day Vietnamese Diaspora numbers about 3 million Vietnamese people all over the world. More than 300,000 have left their motherland for America, Germany, France and other countries before the year 1975 (Cargill).

The United States is the second motherland for most Vietnamese immigrants as there live 1,223,000 Vietnamese and it is more than one third of all Overseas Vietnamese.

Vietnamese minority group often turns to the policy of segregation making an attempt to enter American culture. This can be explained by the comparatively short period of the existence of this minority group. They assimilate its culture and social norms but try to save their own identity.

The question about the status of minority groups of African Americans is a subject of loud debates in modern society. African Americans are the most discussed group in America. Despite immense effort of American government African Americans still feel imbalance in social, political and economic spheres of life in comparison with white Americans as representatives of majority group. A number of steps should be performed by the government and society in order to reduce imbalances between majority and minority groups and provide them equal rights and freedoms. There are many fields, which cause concerns of African Americans as a minority groups. The scope of this issues rangers from complicated political matters to minor social issues. Race discrimination is not as much spread as it was in the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, but all in all we can meet this problem even today. It is very difficult to get rid of the thing that used to be common for centuries and we need time to achieve the new level of development of our society.

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