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Published by kobemalgha, 2019-05-13 19:35:01

black family (1)

black family (1)

Banzouzi Malgha 1

Prince Banzouzi Malgha
Dr. Wright
Afrs 515
05-20-2015

This is for future me. “If you ever forget these little truths of life, read this. I hope you have
grown wiser with time.”

Banzouzi Malgha 2

In recent times the concept of family structure has changed drastically from the way it was a few
decades ago. Gender roles that have been stereotyped for many years are not what they used to
be before. Amidst all this evolution of human co-existence structure, the question of the Black
family in the ever-changing society can be too much for a person that is deeply affected by its
shape and form. This booklet tries to explore the present, past and future themes associated with
black family life and different people associated with it.
The word culture means different things to different people. Understanding the core meaning of
this single word can be a little tricky at times. But if a middle point is to be reached in terms of
this definition for the sake of studying its impacts in terms of black families in the United States,
culture can be defined as a set of norms or believes that a group of people hold sacred of
following in their day to day life. Culture is mostly inherited from one generation to another.
This makes the practicing of these believes and norms somewhat complicated as it is affected by
the quality of communication that occurs between the two generations. In today’s day and age,
the quality of this communication is at its absolute low. With the hurdle of generation gap issues
already set in place, the additional pressures and conundrums of a totally transformed family
structure, is making understanding black family values and structure even more convoluted. In
this complicated scenario, one thing that can facilitate in removing these blockades in the way of
knowing black families today and how they have become what they are now is to understand the
culture and root values associated with them.
For decades, there have been studies regarding the issues of the black people in a mostly white
population dominant country of the United States of America. There has been the question of
pointing out the root cause of the dilemmas and crisis faced by this faction in the overall society.
There is a certain school of thought that believes that these conundrums are bought about the

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dominant Caucasian, light-skinned race that has dominated the black people since their arrival
from the African countries. Political and economic violation of the black masses in the country is
thought to be the reason behind the troubles of this community. But then there is another school
of thought that takes a totally different route and puts the entire blame on the way black families
function. There are certain salient issues associated with black families in the United States of
America. Illegitimacy, households run by single unsupported women, total dependence on social
welfare and many other such family disorganization issues that are thought of as the basis for the
distressed lives of the people in this community. Issues such as joblessness, increased rate of
street crimes, minimal political representation, and economic down-gradation have been
associated with a disorganized black family structure for many years. But this concept is in itself
quite flawed. Trying to understand the causes behind the plight of a community is a task of
mammoth proportions. And for many decades, mainly white researchers have been trying to
impose certain set standards and rules to derive certain conclusions about how black families
function and how their organization or rather disorganization is the root cause behind all the
troubles black people face in the American society. There are too many assumptions made in
these studies that make them biased and unreliable. To fully comprehend black families in this
part of the world, it is important to first have a clear view of the fact that black families in the
United States have formed as a result of an amalgamation between the old African norms and the
predominant Anglo-American culture of the continent. Therefore, to study the black family by
applying only the set standards and rules of the later part in this composition are inaccurate and
irresponsible at the same time.
Traditional values of the African black people are dichotomous to the Anglo-American culture
that became a vital part of the equation of black families in American society. The African belief

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system has a set of notions that play a huge part in how the black families existed before their
arrival in a totally new continent of the Americas. According to the African traditions, the family
constitutes the center of the existence for any human being. There is a concept of having a
connection with the universe that makes the human one with everything. This sought after
connection with the universe can only be attained through having one’s self-centered in the
family. There is also the concept of believing the family ancestors to always be better than the
progeny. This creates a sense of submission to the elders of the family and strengthens the bond
through obedience. All these factors illuminate the significance of family in the African tradition.
The roots and beliefs of the African people regarding the functioning of the universe around
them are set deep in concepts of spirituality and have a major influence of themes related to
respecting the spiritual aspect of the human relations. These human relations then form the basis
for the relation with the greater entity of the universe. The concept that all humans are one with
the universe and that oneness is attained by bonding with the family shows the contrasting nature
between the African way of life and the believes of the white Anglo-American race of the region
that not only affected these people and the way their families worked but also used their own
family structures and beliefs as the frame of reference to study black families. This has proven to
be the fatal error in the studies done to understand the black community and family life for a
really long time. In the African tradition and norms, the family existence of a person is
considered more significant than the individual existence of that person. Historical evidence
proves that these norms and traditions were passed down from one generation to another.
However, with the brutal enslavement and immigration of the African people to the American
continent led to very different conditions for the people of the generation that faced this period of
struggle. The long and painful episode of enslavement resulted in the era of separation for the

Banzouzi Malgha 5

people from their roots. Therefore this physical enslavement of the people led to a more
catastrophic dilemma for the people of Africa in the time that followed. The African black
people were cut off and strayed away from their culture and consequently from their ways of
family life.
Studying black families in America without studying the context of how things were molded and
became what they are now is quite irresponsible. Such endeavors to understand the African way
of family life will always result in inaccurate findings. “Africanity and the Black Family” is a
book that talks about this issue in great detail. The book by Wade W. Nobles is an interesting
read as it opens the eyes of the reader regarding the conundrums of defining the black family life
with the ideological lens of the white race. Taking white families and their way of life as the
standard to weigh and compare everything against is inherently a flawed concept. Understanding
the roots of African people and how things work in their culture is very important for any
research work. One facet of black family life that is mostly misrepresented in the common
rhetoric is the economic conditions of the black families in the United States of America. It is
important to understand here that capital and money has meant different things to different
people in varying regions of the world. Traditionally black families did not save money as capital
for them is something that is utilized to keep a household functioning. Therefore comparing the
financial habits of black families with a framework that is not the true representative of their
traditions and cultural norms is not fair in any shape or form. Thus, social scientific investigation
regarding the functioning of the black family should only be carried out in the context of an
African world-view because the organization of black family is influenced greatly by the African
traditional heritage of their ancestors.

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Another interesting topic that is often white-washed and tabooed in modern society is the
concept of Polygyny. Dixon in her book "We Want for Our Sisters What We Want for
Ourselves" explores this issue with an unbiased and well-rooted manner for the black people of
the American continent. Monogamy is the prevalent form of marriage in American society due to
the teachings of the dominant religion of Christianity in the region. But the African scenario in
terms of having a single legal spouse is quite different. Polygyny is considered a common
practice in many parts of Africa even today. Dixon argues that this provides a way of life for
many black women to have a stable household and legal progeny. The arguments presented by
her in the book are quite interesting and present a fresh introspect into the concept of marriage
and relationships as to how we see and know them today. Dixon believes that the romantic
imagery of marriage in American society is both impractical and unfair from a broader
perspective. She believes that if a man can have more than one wife, it can create steady living
conditions for multiple women in a black household. The fact that it is normal in a society for a
man to a have a wife at home that can reproduce, cook and clean for him and they can also have
sexual relations with women who are dragged into prostitution due to economic instability but
giving the same respect and security to the other woman that caters to the sexual needs of a man
is considered tabooed is disturbing. Dixon argues the fact that polygyny has been in practice in
greater parts of the African subcontinent and is still considered normal in most of the regions.
According to Dixon, the practice of a polygynous form of marriage results only in the extension
of stable household conditions. Dixon disagrees with the normalization of monogamy created by
the white Christian people of America and the imposition of this ideology on the black masses
that they coexist with. The ideas presented are quite plausible as they support the notion of
having healthy households rather than ones based on disloyalty and untruthfulness. One

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argument presented by those that oppose polygyny in modern American society is that it is a
difficult and unfair situation for the women involved in polygynous marriages. This argument
can be refuted by the study Dixon talks about in her book in which research carried out amongst
sixty-six Yoruba women. When asked about their thoughts on polygyny, a greater percentage of
these women considered polygyny to have more advantages than disadvantages. Although
disadvantages like competition and rivalry in polygynous marriages cannot be denied, the pros
still in many ways outweigh the cons (Dixon).
The study of these concepts changed my thinking about the following three misconceptions
associated with black families in the United States of America. All these errors fall under the
umbrella of eliminating African heritage from the norms of black families and comparing them
with entirely Anglo-American households. The first factor is that of the concept of bonding with
the family to be rooted. In today’s modern society ’individuality’ is considered to be the most
sacred of all rights. Black families tradition believes in the prevalence of being one with your
community and family over individuality. The issue of predominant financial spending habits of
the black families that are often times considered irresponsible and unorganized became clearer
after studying about the ancestral mindset associated with these patterns. And finally, it is the
idea of polygyny that was totally changed for me after reading Dixon’s work. A little research
and discussions related to this often neglected issue have transformed my being in many ways.
The greatest advantage to having come out of this entire experience of knowing about the black
families of America is that it has given me the ability to think outside the set standards and
stereotypes created by the society we live in. The broader perspective on this issue has molded
me in some ways to have a more liberal take on many other things in life as well. It has made me
more aware of the people around me at home and in the community. My thoughts are more

Banzouzi Malgha 8

rooted and logical rather than influenced and stereotyped like they used to be in the past. I had
many misconceptions regarding the black community due to the same error of misjudging the
entire community due to the wrong frame of reference. After knowing our joint history and
struggles, I feel more connected with the community now. I now understand the underlying
factors associated with the way black families are the way they are in the United States of
America and the knowledge has awoken the feeling of both pride and humility in me.

Banzouzi Malgha 9

Works Cited

Dixon-Spear, Patricia. We Want for Our Sisters What We Want for Ourselves : African American
Women Who Practice Polygyny by Consent. Baltimore, Black Classic Press, 2009.


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