African American cultural hybridization and stereotyping
Christina Voicu emphasizes the fact that the transition concepts such as hybridity, alterity, diaspora creolization, transculturation, and syncretism have become primary conceptualizations in denouncing issues that align with discrimination on the basis of culture or race(Voicu, 2011). The term culture, on the other hand, is termed a social construct that is linked to the social interaction processes. Cross-cultural and communication is, in essence,how diverse cultures interact and how they attempt to communicate across cultures. The paper studies the African American in terms of hybridity (in-between cultures) and stereotypes accrued to them by other groups- Caucasians.
Culture can be defined as a constituent of identity that is learned and not hereditary, and observed through norms, values, accents, religious views, social and moral ideologies. The different nations in the world are accrued to particular national cultures and religions.However, the assumption of homogenized national cultures can only occur through cultural hybridization and homogenization.Marwin connotes hybridity as a conceptual inevitability and denotes the need for intercontextual theories that understand the dynamics of global culture by the articulation of hybridity and hegemony(Kraidy, 2002). The different countries through globalization and colonization are characterized by diverse sets of cultures. For example, the United States was traditionally the land of native Americans who were colonized by the British and during the period characterized by a high influx of European settlers in the country. The superiority of the European culture- hegemony- resulted in the almost extinct native American cultural practices. In the later years, during the scramble and partition of Africa, slaves of African descent mainly from the West African nations were taken to the United States and hence, African-American culture.
The paper explores cultural hybridizationof the African-American specifically in the New York area where there exists a multiplicity of other foreign and native cultures. Cultural hybridization refers to the interaction between two cultural groups that result in a mixing up of elements in the diverse cultures(Kraidy, 2002). The term hybridization can be said to have transcended from the field of biology where it implied the crossing of species and has since transformed from the racial emancipation era discourses of contamination and desecrations to discursive and cultural intermixture.Haj Yazdiha acclaims that the contemporary landscape is a confluence of cross-cultural influences, blended and layered upon one another(Yazdiha, 2010). Bhabha in his book suggests that there exists a third space enunciation where cultural systems are constructed(Homi, 1994). He continues to denote that it becomes of viable importance to create a distinction between the semblance of the symbols across the diverse cultures- literature, music, art, ritual, life and death(Homi, 1994). The author denotes the dynamic nature of culture and highlights that it can only be seen through or within the context of its construction(Yazdiha, 2010). The narratives of a culture rely on each other and thus, showing a mutual construction- hybridity.
In New York City, the youth culture can be connoted to be mainly based or founded around music and the amalgamation of cultural music and dancing styles to produce a unique New York Style. Harlem can be accredited for the many dancing styles that continue to trend around the world. The Azonto dance from Ghana represents one of the depictions of cultural homogenization as the concept of hybridization continues to grow away from the colonial connotations. The history of the African- American is one of slavery where the diverse group of cultures cohabited together and can be said to have been homogenized during the slave life period. The American dances as suggested in the study can be acclaimed not to belong to a specific cohort of individuals from Africa but a blend of the common elements amongst the diverse African groups. The homogenization of culture was motivated by the slave masters who endeavored to strip off the “African Drums” from the slaves introducing Christianity that created a sense of dualism(Birt, 2002). The new generation found an oppressive culture that did not allow the Africans to thepractice orto perform their culture. The slave masters created a new notion of the sacred and secular with the slaves being stripped off their communications methods in entirety.
The hegemonygenerated by the settlers during the slave period can be said to be the history of the onset of African-American cultural hybridization(Birt, 2002). Joseph, Robert, and Lucinda accredit the creations of the blues and jazz music genres to the Africans(Straubhaar, LaRose, & Davenport, 2010). However, due to racial discrimination and oppression white musicians appropriated the music of another group as observed from the performances of Al Johnson, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles among others(Straubhaar, LaRose, & Davenport, 2010). In the contemporary society, black hip-hop has become popular and is being embraced worldwide. However, according to the authors Joseph, Robert and Lucinda white artists such as “Eminem” continue to earn more from the black music(Straubhaar, LaRose, & Davenport, 2010). In retrospect,stepping out of colonial and discriminative thinking, it can be highlighted that this can be the natural occurrence of cultural hybridization whereby the whites borrow from the African-American culture. The NYC area can be said to host most hip-hop rap artists and home to most of the production companies.
The African-Americanhip-hop culture accentuated through music continues to popularize the African-American practices. W. Lawrence Hogue denotes the fact that in order to achieve a sense of purity and high culture, the Afrocentricpractice has to stay clear of musical forms such as the blues and jazz since they are the products of hybridization where the African forms of instruments blend with the Western ways and instruments(Hogue, 2013). He reiterates that the African American, in reality, is a product of the mutation and adaptation that is known as creolization of cultural and social hybridization(Hogue, 2013).The dances that emanate from the NYC- Harlem area also contain the fingerprints of a hybridization of cultures. African dances are characterized by a show of satire and polycentrism. The latter is the notion of dance occurring from any part of the body and hence, African-American dances such as breakdancing. The dance forms, similar to the music, have gone through lots of hybridization that distinguishes them from the pure European and African dances.Bhabba acclaims that partial cultures are the nodes that transcend form bigger cultures and ensure the interconnectedness(Hall & Du Gay, 2003).
Stereotypes can be positive or negative. Vlad implies that stereotypes are defined by their social, shared, generalized, contextual, dual and schematic nature(Glăveanu, 2007). It suggests that they are shared beliefs between groups of both their personalities and behavior (dual nature) that are formulated during social interactions (contextual) and present a simple myopic image of a group often disregarding the existence of individual differences (schematic)(Glăveanu, 2007). Laura Green highlights that the stereotypes are created over a small seed of truth and distorted beyond realities(Green , 1999). A study done applying social role theory showed that an account of the broad range of stereotypes underlies the observations of groups and this, establishes the stereotype content(Koenig & Eagly, 2014).
The African-American in the United States has been subject to racial stereotyping that transcends from the slavery era. Monnica T. Williams highlights that pathological- negative stereotypes- are notions about a group or groups directed at explaining and justifying the existent inequalities(Williams, 2011). The Europeans in America in the 18th and 19th centuries held on the stereotypical perception that blacks were inferior, unevolved and apelike. During the whole period, the blacks were also stereotyped as poor individuals, contaminated and diseased. The ‘unclean’ perception of the African justified segregation with the Jim Crow statutes serving as an example where African Americans were banned from utilizing swimming pools, restrooms, and other public places together with the whites. The profiling ensured that blacks were isolated in dire poverty and continued to engage in underpaying jobs such as cleaning, plantation farms and other forms of manual labor to maintain the stereotype by manipulating their economic progress and position.
Laura Green highlights the stereotypes linked to the black American group by the white majority. The Sambo character represented the simple-minded and submissive black American man(Green , 1999). The Jim Crow character according to the author was where white performers in ethnical slur portrayed the black man in a grotesque way with black wigs and exaggerated mouth sizes(Green , 1999). The Mammy character showed an independent large black woman who seemed to love her employer’s kids more than her own. In the depiction, the character is ruthless to her own children, values white culture and lifestyle, and viewed as masculine such that the white women did not feel threatened by her presence in their homes(Green , 1999). The representation was channeled at showcasing the inferiority of the masculine black American.There also existed a savagerepresentation of the African American that justified the violence perpetrated against them through the shows such as “The Nigger” in 1915(Green , 1999).A Research done by Joni Dubriel indicates that African Americans have been depicted in unfavorable conditions by television shows in comparison to the whites and from the study it is identified that such representation reinforces stereotypes and influences the attitudes of individuals towards each other(Dubriel, 2006).
In the modern society, the African American is still at the sharp end of the racial stereotypes that have transcended through history. The situation of the black American has not improved in most areas e.g. in New York with African Americans being the one of the poorest groups in the United States. The emancipation period was characterized by police brutality that has continued to alleviate in the recent times. The criminality of the young black Americans can be said to be motivated by the poverty levels and a drug culture fashioned by the mass-media as being “cool.” The stereotyping has led to the murder of young innocent African Americans due to the created notion of their violent and savage nature. It is a stereotypical content that has been through history, and this is evidence of the myopicnature of the cognitive shortcuts created by cultural stereotyping. It represents a distortion of the truth or reality.Monnica Williams perceives that the African Americans are disproportionately targeted, arrested and jailed for drug related offenses(Williams, 2011). She reiterates that this is because of the notion of the pathological stereotype that typical drug user and dealer is a black American man(Williams, 2011). She continues to acclaim the fact that the negative stereotype is an illusion of safety instigating the perception that if a black is in jail, then they deserve it (Williams, 2011)and hence, reinforcing the negative cultural stereotype.
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