What is the definition of African American?

To define African American can be quite complex. This term describes a very diverse group of people in American society. They are made up of different ethnic backgrounds that consist of: Generally, African Americans, also known as Black Americans have family characteristics described by Robert Hill in 'The Strength of Black Families' as: The family and spirituality tend to be very important to the African American. They make up a collective family structure.(Harry, 1992) Their choice of religions tends to be Christianity, but there is a growth of African American Muslims.(Harry, 1992)

African Americans tend to be somewhat bicultural in American society.(Hairston, 1983) This occurs because many African Americans are forced to adapt an assimilate to mainstream society due to strides in higher education and social economic status.(Hairston, 1983)

Insight and Application: The African American culture is so diverse in so many ways that it is quite complicated to define them. Every individual has their own unique and special qualities and experiences. A lot of who African Americans are, came about due to historical events of slavery and racism in American society. There was a time when all they had was family, which included the community as a whole and the church. They developed their own values and traditions which may be different from mainstream society.

It does not mean that because their values and traditions may differ from mainstream society, they are wrong, but they have different life experience. It is important to respect and value these traditions and experiences. It may take getting involved in the African American community or getting to know African Americans on a personal level, to help understand and appreciate their culture. It is not the responsibility of others to change or assimilate their culture to mainstream society or place your own personal values and traditions on them.

Cohen, O. (1993). Educational needs of African American and Hispanic deaf children and youth. In Christensen, K. & Delgado, G. (Eds.) Multicultural issues in deafness. White Plains, NY: Longman Publishing Group.

Cohen, O., Grace, C. (1992). The role of a special school for deaf children in meeting the needs of Black and Hispanic profoundly deaf children and their families. In Conference Proceedings. Empowerment and Black deaf persons. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University.

Hairston, E., Smith, L. Black and deaf in America. Silver Springs, MD: T.J. Publishers, Inc.

Harry, B. (1992). Cultural diversity, families, and special education system: Communication and empowerment. New York, NY: Teachers College.

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