Infancy and Culture: An International Review and Source Book

By Hiram E.Fitzgerald; Rosalind B.Johnson et al. | Go to book overview

2

RESEARCH ON INFANTS OF AFRICAN DESCENT IN NORTH AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN

FROM HISTORICAL DEPRIVATION TO NEW QUESTIONS OF RESILIENCY

Rosalind B. Johnson

The people of African decent in North America and the Caribbean have diverse traditions and values. This group of people includes African Americans, African Canadians, Haitians, Jamaicans, and Puerto Ricans, 1 among others. However, the present literature does not reflect this diversity. Though the term black is widely used throughout the world to describe people of African descent, this term does not capture the rich ethnic backgrounds and cultural diversity of the people (Slomin, 1991). The black people in North America and the Caribbean have created an abundance of variation in terms of traditions and values.

“Black” is used to encompass the many subgroups of black North American and Caribbean people. Even though these subgroups share a common African heritage, differences among them result from the environmental experiences they have encountered (Slonim, 1991). There are some traditional characteristics shared by black people that provide a general frame of reference for understanding black children and their families. However, African Americans and Caribbean blacks have different family structures, child-rearing practices, religions, values, languages, health care systems, and educational systems. Caribbean blacks share a similar heritage with African Americans. However, because of circumstances of history and environment, Caribbean blacks represent distinctive cultural subgroups quite different from American blacks. These differences are a reflection of the European cultures that immigrated to the Caribbean—British, French, Spanish, and Dutch (Slonim, 1991).

There are black families of all socioeconomic levels, beliefs, values, and cultures, and thus there is no such entity as a typical black family (Slonim, 1991). The diversity that exists among black families is rooted in variation of geographic residence, family values, socioeconomic status, and religious background. The effects of poverty and racism also contribute to the wide variation that exists among black families.

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