The global interaction of humankind continues to open up and as such, a deeper understanding of different cultures and values is vital in enhancing communication between any interacting groups. Cultural interaction involves understanding of different cultural patterns, for instance, social practices, traditional tenets, values, and societal norms. This paper analyzes the culture of African Americans with respect to the aforementioned cultural patterns. In addition, the paper will further study the cultural patterns of Asians American in order to observe how these patterns influence the communication patterns of the two groups.
According to study by William Julius as quoted by Cole and Omari, (2003), “Black America was increasingly polarized educated, affluent middle class and an economically marginalized underclass. This economic pattern, he argued, suggested that class had become a more powerful determinant of African Americans’ life chances than race,” (p. 785). In addition, there is concern on how race affect the psychological mindset of the middleclass Americans. The identification of the population with sets of social classification and cultural patterns indeed confirm the existence of social, economic, political, and political segments. This calls for understanding of the various aspects in order to deduce best ways to communicate between people of different cultural patterns.
The African American group in the United States identify race as part a social issues that exists affect the minority community. Discrimination is a vice that persist within the African American population. As noted by Cole and Omari, (2003), “Even under slavery, there already existed a ‘mulatto elite’, a segment of the Black population who, by virtue of their light skin and blood relations to the White, slave-owning class, received benefits such as assignment of choice work tasks…,” (p. 786). This segmented group associated closely with the Whites and thought themselves as more privileged than other African Americans. In order to explore the difference existing within the Black community, it is vital to study intersectionality. The elite group is not only rising in material gain but also in freedom given the wider American society since the emancipation. The elite segment that popularized the ‘uplift ideology’, which viewed progress in terms of close association with the White middle class, instigated the rise in economic ladder. The identification of the elite group within the Black community raised tension with the others as shown by the rift between school administrators and the school-going age.
Talking from her own position, Hooks as quoted by Cole and Omari, (2003) writes from a feminist’s point of view and challenges the dominance of male sexists against female. She identifies racial abuses, sex, and economic exploitation as key problems facing the African American group. Freedom enjoyed by others comes at the expense of an underprivileged group that is oppressed and work under poor conditions. “Psychological experience of class, race, and gender are inherently intersectional, and that these identities shape our perceptions of who we are and, in turn, our relationship with the larger society in which we live,” (Cole and Omari, 2003, p. 798). The political ambition of the African Americans was initiated during the passage of the proclamation of emancipation. Since then, the spirit of the group continually rose and reached climax after Americans elected the first African American president in the history of U.S.
Another dynamic of the African American population is the perceived relationship between race and class with gender. Gender is a sensitive social issues in the wider American population intersectional approach suggests that there is gender concern in the social mobility of the Black community. Cousin as quoted by Cole and Omari, (2003) observed that, “underclass identity, stigmatized by school authorities concerned with respectability, is gendered in a predominantly Black high school, (p.798). Class is important in the lifestyle of African Americans as it influences racial identities (in-groups and out-groups).
In non-verbal communication, there exist specific patterns on how the African Americans pass message. The features occur consistently among the group, which can represent certain patterns of behavior. In a tensed conflict scenario, subordinates tend to ‘roll eyes’ as a show of disapproval of what the master says. ‘Rolling the eye’ is a non-verbal way of expressing impudence and disapproval of the person who is in authority role and of communicating every negative label that can be applied to the dominant person, (Jackson, 2004, p. 40). There is that understanding among the African Americans but the non-verbal communication would not be effective if communication involve an Asian teacher for instance, with an African American child. At times teachers may interpret the message as a gross misconduct and punish a child, which continues to widen gap of animosity between conflicting groups.
Asian Cultural Patterns
There is shifting migration pattern in the U.S. that has seen the surge of numbers of immigrants with Asians and Pacific Islanders (API) origin. The growing number of API is significant in analyzing the demographic trends and planning for the group. As such, understanding cross-cultural communication is basic, especially, in the education sector. This is because the group has a distinctive dialect from other Americans. As noted by Huang, (1993) “Problems in communication between education professionals and APIs, if not thoughtfully dealt with, may evolve into conflicts between APIs and the education institution,” (p. 1). Conflict is demonstrated by polarization of school academic achievement, psychosocial issues, and criminal activities, which are an extension of aggression.
The API community consists of three main ethnic groups (Pacific Islanders, Southeast Asians, and East Asians). This composition shows a different combination from the African American group that explains the overt and covert cultural dimension of the API. Overt, also known as open culture, are the main and identifiable issues such as dialect, religious group, and traditional tenets contained in folklore. Hidden culture on the other hand refers to conceptual patterns and perceptions rising from daily social interaction with the general population. The Chinese Confucianism in which East Asians modeled a multifaceted literal culture was based on distinctive family groupings that influenced the overt culture of the API. On the other hand, Southeast Asians cultural patterns are a reflection of traditional Indians and Buddhists whereas Pacific Islanders is a group that fought for cultural preservation amid the influence of colonialists during independence. Due to their preservation, they hold a significant cultural heritage that is unique and interesting.
The other aspect of the API cultural pattern is their belief system. According to “Cultural contrasts are, of course, sharpest between APIs and American mainstream society. APIs think about social institutions such as school quite differently from American educators,” (Huang, 1993, p. 2). The group views itself as inferior compared to other America teachers, and as such, they give total authority to teachers against their children and hold the opinion that parents should not interfere with the learning process. It is therefore the responsibility of teachers to instill the idea that conventional American education system requires parents to engage in education system. There is a compatible relationship between the APIs and the in-group Americans with regard to values and traditional tenets. This presents a good platform to stump out the obstacles in education system that interferes with earners. “Like middle-class Americans, East Asians, particularly Chinese, highly value formal education. They often consider their children's schooling directly related to the family's integrity: high achievement brings honor and prestige to the family, failure brings shame,” (Huang, 1993, p. 2).
An example of covert cultural pattern among the APIs is shown in communication dimensions that can be classified as either high-context or low-context. Use of non-verbal communication is a form of high-context that requires body mobility to show effect. The API culture, just like the African Americans contain high-context culture of communication. In addition, the APIs are similar to African Americans considering their submissive tendencies that give superiority to the in-groups. However, the two groups differ on how to handle disputes, as the API tend to be high-tempered. When conversing, the Asians unknowingly give hesitant and ambiguous statement to appear respectful but they avoid spontaneous responses when making crucial remarks. Educators and APIs may experience communication breakdown because they are not aware of the misinterpretations emanating from different verbal and non-verbal expressions. There is another difference in communication patterns between the African Americans and the APIs. Whereas they both have misinterpretation of their non-verbal communication with the teachers, the African Americans seem to have superior command of English than APIs, who have poor mastery of the language.
From the discussion, there are both similarities and differences that arise from the cultural patterns of the APIs and the African Americans. Good understanding of the two groups is possible given their preferred use of high-context communication system. In addition, they both have a tendency to give superiority to in-groups due to social effect and emergence of racial discrimination in America. Understanding these patterns is important for any person as it gives an insight on how to handle economic, social, and political perceptions of a people. Another vital point in studying cultural patterns is to remove obstacles in the education system and give education based on needs of a racial or ethnic group.