Cultural Diversity as an African-American Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Literature classes focus mainly on the works of dead white guys, and science talks about the accomplishments of dead white guys. While there are token mentions of the works of other races, they are not given equal representation. Furthermore, many of the classics chosen contain antiquated attitudes about race. However, I am against censorship. Stories do not lose their value because of discriminatory depictions of African-Americans; instead they capture a portion of the relationship between the races at that time. For example, Harper Lee is honest about race discrimination in To Kill a Mockingbird, but the racist language she uses captures a feeling and goes to the heart of the book. I would just like to see some more books from the point-of-view of those in the minority. Finally, some schools offer specialized courses or specialized months. An African-American literature course or women's history month, while well-intentioned, do not really address the root of the problem, which is that our schools are failing to include minority contributions to history, science, the arts, and literature.

One of the ways that my community does include people like me is in the representations in some forms of media. Television anchors include members of my gender and race. However, looking through the newspapers available in Chesterfield County, it appears that those columns with pictures near the by-line are written almost exclusively by white people. I am not sure what races are included in those articles that do not feature pictures in the by-line. More telling, even though there are very wealthy African-Americans in Chesterfield County, the society pages focus almost exclusively on white people. One part of the mass media is even worse; almost all major network television shows are about white people. Even those that include minorities usually under-represent minority presence. However, other elements of the mass media, especially local radio, fairly represent African-Americans.

In fact, if I could make different aspects of my community as fairly representative as radio, I think that would go a long way towards healing some of the racial and gender conflicts and issues that are present in my community. In our textbook, Healey brings up the ideas of both assimilation and pluralism. I do not think that either one, by itself, is the answer to the racial problems that plague our country. Instead, I think that there is something to be said about both celebrating diversity, and for creating the idea of a typical American.

One way to approach this issue, not only in my community but on a broader scale, is to recognize that assimilation is not one-way. Bumping up against each other, small cultural communities introduce ideas and elements into mainstream society. In this way, segments of the society assimilate ideas from other cultures into the broader idea of what it means to be American. One example of this is with lasagna; it may be the most popular frozen dinner in the United States and is consumed by non-Italians as frequently as Italians. Lasagna has become an American food, even though it was originally considered an ethnic food. Assimilation is not limited to food: one need only look at the number of people my age tattooed with kanjis to see that certain elements of Asian society (both tattoos and the written language) are being assimilated into American society. Furthermore, even the whitest kid in the whitest neighborhood in America probably listens to music by black artists and wears clothing styles developed and popularized in the African-American community. In contrast, urban African-Americans have taken clothes targeted towards middle-aged country club members and made them hip and young. Furthermore, a few years ago salsa was the most popular musical style ad America was in the midst of a Latin dance craze. In this way, the barriers between what the races are slowly being eroded. Right now, a typical American might be signified as an Indian girl who listens to hip-hop, goes salsa dancing on the weekends, has a best friend who is Asian, and is married to an African-American man. This is how assimilation can work towards improving race and gender relations.

However, one must guard against danger of assimilation; loss of ethnic identity. If assimilation only flows one way, then one group is threatened with loss of their individuality. Creating a united community is not about creating a community full of identical people. Instead, it is about creating a community where people have open minds and are willing to investigate the benefits offered by other cultures, assimilating into their lives those things they enjoy from those cultures. In this way, racial, gender, and ethnic groups can understand each other, without suffering any loss of self.

References

'Demographics." (2005). Retrieved 17 April 2005 from WordIQ.com

Web site: http://wordiq.com/definition/Chesterfield_County,_Virginia#Demographics

"Meadowbrook." (2004). Retrieved 17 April 2005 from Chesterfield Connections

Web site: http://www.co.chesterfield.va.us/CommunityDevelopment/Planning/

2004…

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