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Cultural Background Paper Essay

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – 2002) defined Culture “as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society …. it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs. ” With migrant ethnic groups, they become so far removed from their homeland that their traditions have considerably been altered, are gone, or simply forgotten. It was mostly after World War I, in the 1500s to the 1800s in the Great Migration when most African immigrants were taken against their will to the New World.

They were brought in as slaves and their hard work was responsible for the prosperity of the New World. Similarity of African and American Culture. America is a melting pot, where all cultures meet and blend. America is multi-racial because of the continuous influx of foreign migration to American shores. The culturally-diverse population of America makes it a pluralistic society. The Wikipedia (11 Jan 2002) describes Africa as “one continent with many worlds. ” Various ethnic, social and tribal groups make up Africa. Africa is more of a multi-ethnic culture.

Contrasts between African and American culture. The difference between Africa and America is on certain significant cultural aspects. African society is male-dominant, where women submit to patriarchal authority. America is more liberal and espouses gender equality. Societal relationship in Africa is familial, very family-oriented even in business. America is individualistic. Food and eating in Africa is a ritual, in America food and eating is a basic need. Behavior, values and norms are often clannish or often dictated by the ethnic group or the clan.

America has always been independent. Africa has many languages, America speaks only English. Having been born in America, I have totally embraced the culture that is predominantly American. However, this is not denying my roots and my rich African heritage. On the contrary, I feel that there is something great that people like me can contribute to the mainstream culture. The support system of families, the sharing of trials and triumphs of Africans are cultural strengths that I would rather have than the individualistic ways of America.

The equal treatment and opportunities to both sexes of America, to me however is more acceptable than the male-dominant practices in Africa. The similarities in my cultural background and that of the dominant American culture made it easy to integrate to a society that is made up of culturally diverse people. I did not feel isolated or left out because of my color or creed. The similarities and differences of the both cultures had a positive effect on my life. I am shown the strengths and the weakness of each one. The primarily independent-thinking American culture is necessary to make choices and standing by it.

It is a trait that I believe in and which I try to be all the time. Food and Eating as rituals and basic needs at the same time are to me necessary for us to enjoy and sustain life. I do not wish to rush all the time and so I take every moment to find meaning in my every action. I believe that my own cultural background has to a certain extent contributed to the mix in the dominant American culture. When the early Africans banded to demand equal rights from a society that was once discriminatory of their race, it showed the world and history what unity can do to push for reforms.

That movement has indeed gone a long way. There is respect for cultural diversity and equal opportunities now. In a culturally diverse society such as America, culture exchange flourished. With people of African descent like me in mainstream society, other people became aware of Africa. They got introduced to the sights and sounds, literature, its people, traditions, ways, and everything else. Pretty soon famous African Americans are into government service, entertainment, the academe, the media, and business.

I believe that to be the greatest contribution to of the African culture to dominant American culture. I learned of my cultural roots through a conscientious effort on my part. I knew I look different, I knew I belong to a defined group, I knew we had different ways of doing things, practically we have our own culture. I asked my parents about us, about our culture. Our family is one that takes pride on who we are. It became a pleasant, welcomed, and enlightening revelation. I read books about Africa, searched the web for more information and watched movies about Africa.

It was a moment of discovery. I connected to our cultural past. I have not let up until today. I still visit sites of Africa and learn more of my forefathers’ homeland. Having lived in America all these years, I know I have developed an entirely new culture that is neither African nor America. It might yet be a blend of both cultures. I may look and sound African, think and act American and I am African American. I have in me the clannish African and the independent American. The influences on me to develop a new culture are varied.

Interaction with those people who belong to other dominant cultures, opportunities to experience these other cultures first hand, unconsciously picking up the best in each one and living it are possibly the first ones that come to mind. The world is getting smaller by the day. With the advent of modern means of travel and communications getting in touch is relatively easy. Cultures meet and merge every second, every day. Sources: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/American_culture#Relationship_to_other_countries. 2Fcultures http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Culture_of_Africa


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