African Americans - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. African Americans can be found in every stratum of the American population. However, it remains a fact that the vast majority of African Americans are outside of the social culture of the dominant society in the United States. In a little less than 130 years, African Americans who were emancipated with neither wealth nor good prospects for wealth have been able to advance in the American society against all odds. Considered determined and doggedly competitive in situations that threaten survival, African Americans have had to outrun economic disaster in every era. Discrimination against African Americans remains in private clubs, country clubs, social functions, and in some organizations. Nevertheless, African Americans have challenged hundreds of rules and regulations designed to limit choice. Among the major players in the battle for equal rights have been the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ( NAACP ) and the Urban League. These two Organizations have advanced the social integration of the African American population on the legal and social welfare fronts. The NAACP is the major civil rights organization as well as the oldest. Its history in the struggle for equality and justice is legendary. Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to sit on the Supreme Court, was one of the organization's most famous lawyers. He argued twenty-four cases before the Supreme Court as a lawyer and is credited with winning twenty-three. Although there is no official organization of the entire African American population, and no truly mass movement that speaks to the interests of the majority of the people, the NAACP comes closest to being a conscience for the nation and an organized response to oppression, discrimination, and racism. At the local level, many communities have organized Committees of Elders who are responsible for various activities within the communities. These committees are usually informal and are set up to assist the communities in determining the best strategies to follow in political and legal situations. Growing out of an Afrocentric emphasis on Community and cohesiveness, the committees are usually composed of older men and women who have made special contributions to the community through achievement or philanthropy.

Political Organization. African Americans participate freely in the two dominant political parties in the nation, Democratic and Republican. Most African Americans are Democrats, a legacy from the era of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal Democrats who brought about a measure of social justice and respect for the common people. There are more than six thousand African Americans who are elected officials in the United States, including the governor of Virginia and the mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Detroit. A previous mayor of Chicago was also an African American. Concentrated in the central cities, the African American population has a strong impact on the Political processes of the older cities. The national Democratic party chairperson is of African American heritage, and some of the most prominent persons in the party are also African Americans. The Republican party has its share, though not as large, of African American politicians. There is no independent political party in the African American community, although it has remained one of the dreams of leading strategists.

Social Control and Conflict. Conflict is normally resolved in the African American community through the legal system, although there is a strong impetus to use consensus first. The idea of discussing an issue with other members of the community who might share similar values is a prevalent one within the African American society. A first recourse when problems arise is another person. This is true whether it is a personal problem or a problem with family members. Rather than calling a lawyer first, the African American is most likely to call a friend and seek advice. To some extent, the traditional African notion of retaining and maintaining harmony is at the heart of the matter. Conflicts should be resolved by people, not by law, is one of the adages.

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