African Americans - Kinship, Marriage and Family

Marriage and Family. African American marriage and kinship patterns are varied, although most now conform to those of the majority of Americans. Monogamy is the overwhelming choice of most married people. Because of the rise of Islam, there is also a growing community of persons who practice polygyny. Lack of marriageable males is creating intense pressure to find new ways of maintaining traditions and parenting children. Within the African American population, one can find various arrangements that constitute Family. Thus, people may speak of family, aunts, uncles, fathers, mothers, and children without necessarily meaning that there is a genetic kinship. African Americans often say "brother" or "sister" as a way to indicate the possibility of that being the actual fact. In the period of the enslavement, individuals from the same family were often sold to different plantation masters and given the names of those owners, creating the possibility that brothers or sisters would have different surnames. Most of the names borne by African Americans are derived from the enslavement period. These are not African names but English, German, French, and Irish names, for the most part. Few African Americans can trace their ancestry back before the enslavement. Those that can do so normally have found records in the homes of the plantation owners or in the local archives of the South. African Americans love children and believe that those who have many children are fortunate. It is not uncommon to find families with more than four children.

Socialization. African American children are socialized in the home, but the church often plays an important role. Parents depend upon other family members to chastise, instruct, and discipline their children, particularly if the family Members live in proximity and the children know them well. Socialization takes place through rites and celebrations that grow out of religious or cultural observances. There is a growing interest in African child socialization patterns with the emergence of the Afrocentric movement. Parents introduce the mfundalai rites of passage at an early age in order to provide the child with historical referents. Increasingly, this rite has replaced religious rites within the African American tradition for children. Although it is called mfundalai in the Northeast, it may be referred to as the Changing Season rite in other sections of the United States. This was done in the past in the churches and schools, where children had to recite Certain details about heroines and heroes or about various aspects of African American history and culture in order to be considered mature in the culture. Many independent schools have been formed to gain control over the cultural and psychological education of African American children. A distrust of the public schools has emerged during the past twenty-five years because African Americans believe that it is difficult for their children to gain the self-confidence they need from teachers who do not understand or are insensitive to the culture. Youth clubs established along the lines of the African age-set groups are popular, as are drill teams and Formal youth groups, often called "street gangs" if they engage in delinquent behavior. These groups are, more often than not, healthy expressions of male and sometimes female socialization clubs. Church groups and community center organizations seek to channel the energies of these groups into positive socialization experiences. They are joined by the numerous Afrocentric workshops and seminars that train young people in traditional behaviors and customs.

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