Afroamerican Essay, Research Paper
The American people have a serious identity crisis. It?s rare while in the country to hear someone say that they are American. People say that they are Irish, Scottish, German, Italian, African, English, West Indian, etc. Often people are a combination of these. For black Americans it becomes even more complicated. Many want to identify as African but others would never dream of such a thing because it?s so foreign to them. I was speaking to a man at a party I had at my apartment. He was telling me about how he plays African drums, traveling around to different towns and performing. He had even been to my part of Cape Cod, Wellfleet. I asked him if he was African and his reply was vague. He couldn?t really say yes but he wasn?t about to say no. I thought that maybe he was second generation and that his parents were born there so I asked if his parents were African. He said, ?well I can?t really say no, you know what I mean. It had come up earlier that I was An Afro-Am major and after that point as far as he was concerned we had some kind of connection. I was glad that it never became my turn at 40 questions. I am BI-racial and people react to that differently than others. To some it?s a scar on my blackness being that I?m also half-white. To some it ain?t no thing black is black even if your not 100%. Of course finding a person whose 100% of anything these days can be a challenge. In the states if you are a small part black then you are black. We have this system, thanks to the good old days of slavery where no matter how white you looked and no matter how much you resembled the master?s children, you were still black enough to be a slave. In other parts of the world the tables are turned. If you are even a small percent white then that?s what you are.
The past thirty years have seen many changes in the lives of black people in America. With the civil rights movement and the black power movement forcing changes in the sixties. My generation lives a different life than most of our parents did and they lived a very different life than their parents. Many people in my grand parent?s generation were able to take advantage of the booming steel and auto industry at least in the urban areas. There were certain jobs that blacks were perfect for. Jobs involving hard labor and any kinds of jobs that no one else wants such as cleaning the sewers, slaughtering pigs and other distasteful jobs. Before the 60?s blacks were almost solely employed in the domestic areas cooking and cleaning (for women) and in the hard labor fields (for men). With the civil rights movement came a new awareness of the blatant prejudices that Americans held and a realization of how the racism overflowed into everyone?s social and economic life. Blacks were underrepresented in every aspect of life. With the passing of the 1954 civil rights act and the demonstrations that followed slowly things began to change. Finally the oh, powerful federal government was setting standards for the way that black people were to be treated, in public and in the work force. Obviously the government can?t force people?s minds to change but in the public sector they had a lot of control. Government contracts were used to wheel and deal. Those companies who hired blacks in large numbers received contracts. Those who didn?t tended not to. So now what do we have? We have a large number of African Americans getting jobs that in the past were impossible. Jobs opened in large corporations that offered room to advance up the ladder. At times in order to get hired you had to have a skill but other times you were hired to fill the quota and taught to work as the time went on. Collins speaks about how blacks were hired as a means of control. If your working your not out on the street protesting. Within a corporation black people may be promoted to manage a large group of blacks that were working. They were often the eyes and ears of those upstairs, and often just a way of keeping the peace to make it one less thing to worry about. A new group emerges out of this mess of government contracts and hiring on site. A group of African Americans who are earning more money than they ever dreamed and with them a prominent middle class. On the books middle class refers to those people in a certain pay bracket. I think that the idea of middle class changed with the change in the labor field. Blacks were getting closer to white simply by moving into a job force that was not traditionally black. The birth of the black middle class. It is not all-inclusive. Not every one gets in. You may have whole families but often one person has to start the ball rolling setting off towards the big scary white world that offers opportunity and cash.
Black people who make the change from their poor surroundings to those of a career that earns them more money than both their parents make in a year sometimes have trouble adjusting to the success. Katie Cannon felt great shame about her poverty. As a woman preacher who settled in the north the life she leads now is decades from the one she grew up in. Katie mentions the need to understand the white world she had matriculated towards. She was very uncomfortable to the point of contemplating ending her life. She had no idea how to life in the white world she found herself in. This truly shows how their are almost two worlds living under the disguise of a strong nation. It may as well be another country for all the similarities she found between the white students in her school and those black students from back home. Adjusting to this New World takes time. One of her colleagues suggested going home five times a year in order to stay in touch with your roots and keep your sanity. Living in an all white environment effects the way you think, feel and act. It can be a totally new life. I think that many middle class blacks find themselves dealing with what I myself deal with. Being black and white at the same time. I guess I would have the advantage since that?s all I?ve ever been but many blacks who move into the middle class or even grow up there struggle with how to keep their black identity in tact. In the professional world there is a right and a wrong way to speak, there is a right and wrong way to walk and act. Most of these ways are not consistent with black ways of speaking, walking and acting. This black middle class is an interesting sort of group. They work and tend to think that they are advancing. Many are experiencing the ?glass ceiling? and have a hard time understanding why. Sometimes the idea of racism can seem farfetched but don?t fool yourself. This middle class is not the majority and unfortunately because of their success the lower class will suffer more. Attacks of black people who have been helped along since the 60?s at least in the job field are chipping away at many programs that helped put those people where they are. Sociologists use examples of the black middle class, opponents of affirmative action use examples and of other programs designed to help them out black people. They seem to be doing quite well these days and many of the jobs that are put aside for blacks could be taken by poor whites. It should be equal. This is the start of the painful abortion of the second reconstruction. People forget so fast the grievances in the past that were never settled. I imagine that will cause a new connection between blacks no matter what their class. Right now there is a definite dividing line and an attitude to go with it. Those in the middle sometimes think that the lower class blacks are being lazy. If I made it why can?t they? All it takes is hard work. If time was taken to talk to those who tried to make it and failed some may see that it takes alot more than hard work. You can work hard and be qualifies and ready to do something as much as the next person. Today often times there is not enough space. If there are 300 applicants and only 10 spots it?s gonna be really hard to secure that job. In today?s world connections mean everything. It?s all in who you know. This is why many who make it to colleges in the Ivy league make money. They all know people who know people. It?s all about networking. Supreme Court justice Marshall and his friends knew this and tried to get the black students to go to school with the whites for this very reason. Making permanent friends who they could grow with and in the future share in their advances. It was a very good plan but all the white kids moved out as soon as the blacks started coming. Nice try!
The words used to describe black people have changed over the years. From Colored to Negro to Black to African American. As I explained earlier if you are a little bit of something else you?re not white. This has caused the population of all those considered black to take on a very broad spectrum. Cape Verdeans have for many years considered themselves white. It was not until the civil rights movement when black pride was so strong that many acknowledged their black ancestry over the traditional Portuguese. Black people needed each other it didn?t matter if you were from some unknown place if you were fighting for the cause you were in. Black people saw friendship in all their brothers? faces. Language is often something that separates people. Because Cape Verdeans had their own language they were often able to separate themselves from black descendents of slaves this helped in the feelings of non-blackness. Struggle brings people together. The younger generations began to think of themselves as black to the chagrin of their parents who had always considered themselves white. As more and more Cape Verdeans accepted their black ancestry the easier it was to assimilate into black culture in America. African American is now a term that refers to all black peoples at least in America. It does not matter from where you?re from if your skin is dark and your hair not so strait you are a welcome member. People still hold on to their ever-important identities. Cape Verdean, Haitian, Dominican, African, West Indian and black American which is actually encompassing of all. Often in urban areas these groups may live near each other and seperate themselves from others. As did the Cape Verdeans see themselves as different so do the West Indians. They have taken to distancing themselves from those black descendents of slaves. It is somehow considered terrible to be a black American. They were enslaved far to long. They don?t seem to understand that we were all enslaved and that we should not be looked down upon because it takes a strong people to go from where they were to where they are. Why are all those immigrants here? Because black Americans lead the way fir black school, churches, and organizations. Why can they walk down the street and not get lynched? Because of their brothers and sisters who were sent to different places and fought in different ways. Black people are united under their oppression. United we stand. In the eyes of white America everyone is black. This is obviously the deciding and strengthening norm that forces blacks to stick together. White America?s racist attitude that kept dark skinned Cape Verdeans at the back of busses even though they swear that they are white. This is the tightest glue of all. That of a racist society. I think that first generation immigrants cannot think of themselves as African American but their children will. When it?s all you know you are socialized to the ways of the world. When you have grown up somewhere else your value system is different. You look at things through the eyes of another world. Your children can only do this through you. They help to reshape America by intertwining the old vision with the new. This is what the American Ideals are. Mixing and Mixing until we get it right. It?s really amazing the attitudes that people have. My friends mom wants him to marry a woman who is Cape Verdean. She came home with a white guy and her mom almost had a heart attack. Later when she came home with a black man it was much much better but her mom still whispered ?I want the next one to be like us? My friend has never really been attracted to those of Cape Verdean descent. Most of those she meets become like brothers to her. It?s like family. Even in these times we see that people are so set in the ways that they think and believe it?s difficult to change this. All in all it?s the exceptance of black that keeps them going. Today is anyone said I?m not black I?m West Indian they would look really crazy.