Monday, July 21, 2008

Not All African Americans Think Alike

While that headline should not be news to any of us, the reality is that many think that African Americans somehow have a collective conscientiousness when it comes to worldview. Many of my black friends have shared how they find it peculiar when asked by those of other ethnicities to give an opinion for all African Americans. Even more odd is when I get asked this question. Because of friendships that I have with black people and because I minister among black students, well-meaning white friends often say things like, "Tell me, Scott, how do African Americans feel about affirmative action?" or "What do black people think about the war in Iraq?" Well, how am I supposed to know?!?! It's kinda difficult to answer for 40 million people, ya know?

It is true that there are generalizations that can be made about various ethnic, national or religious groups. For example, most African Americans are not fans of the Confederate flag, evangelial Christians in America are generally opposed to abortion and Americans usually root for the athletes from the U.S. during the Olympics. But there are always exceptions to every rule. And, because of this, all individuals need to be treated as individuals with their own thoughts, feelings and opinions.

An article last month in USA Today reports on a study that confirms this. Because of varying factors such as the growing black middle-class, increased access to technology for many Americans and the diversity with those that identify themselves as "Black", there is a shift in how many African Americans view the world. From the article...
"...the survey finds that blacks have made progress economically and educationally and that most have a positive outlook for the future. Nearly one-third make more than $50,000 a year and 47% own homes. Those surveyed also believe that blacks have a distinct history that makes solidarity important. Many also maintain a high level of distrust of the government, criminal justice system and mainstream media.
The study should widen the lens through which other ethnic groups view black America, says Catherine Hughes, Radio One's founder. Perhaps most important, Hughes adds, it will give black Americans a more informed view of each other. The survey's findings can be viewed at
The study pinpointed 11 distinct segments within black America. "There's a difference between the folks who are multigenerational descendants of slaves in the American South as opposed to people who are immigrants," says Ann Morning, an NYU professor who teaches the sociology of race and ethnicity. "To be a black person living in California is not the same as being a black person living in Georgia or New York."
The survey found that the so-called digital divide that previously was leaving behind minorities and others without access to the Internet has narrowed greatly. About 68% of blacks spend time online, the survey found, compared with 70% of all Americans, according to other surveys."
So next time you're curious about how someone feels about something, feel free to ask them, but don't ask them to speak for their whole race.

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