Contrasting Attitudes Towards Achievement Within the Black American and Black Caribbean Communities
Differing Attitudes Towards Achievement Within the Black American and Black Caribbean Communities
This subject has been under historical and sociological discussion within the Black community for sometime. Many historians, social scientists, and sociologists often wondered that although there has been racism in the United States, why is it that Black Caribbeans(Black West Indians) have outachieved Black Americans in terms of careers, education, and socioeconomic living environment. This is a good rhetorical question which needs to be addressed and to have an in-depth anaylization.
Blacks have been in the Americas since the early seventeenth century. Blacks have endured inhumane conditions of enforced servitude in the Caribbean and the United States. The conditions of slavery were often more inhumane in the West Indies, especially in Jamaica and Barbados, where there was a very high replacement for slaves. The respective policies in those countries dictated that enslaved Blacks were simply to worked to death as it was more economically feasible. Slavery ended in the Americas in the nineteenth century.
Slavery has affected the Black diaspora in the Americas differently. Black Americans, because they were in the minority, believed that they were inferior to Caucasians. In contrast, Black Caribbeans, who were in the majority, seldom believed that they were inferior to Caucasians and possessed a strong sense of Black pride.
Black Caribbeans taught their children that they were just as good as Caucasians. They instructed their children that educational and economic achievement were paramount in life. They imparted to their children that knowledge was power and that it was essential to success. Black Caribbeans emphasized work and achievement in addition to contending that socialization was idleness and frivilousness.
Many Black Caribbeans are raised in strict and exacting homes where educational and economic achievement were stressed as foremost in their lives. I have Black Caribbean relatives, friends, and associates who were raised in this manner. Education and economic achievement was the sole thing that mattered. They were forbidden to socialize outside of school as their parents believed that socialization was superfluous and would not bring food to the table and/or put money in the bank.
My father, a Black Caribbean, subscribed to the same principles. He adamantly contended that social life was nonessential and that people who loved social life usually do not achieve anything of great significance. My father achieved great success although he did not possess a college education. He stressed the importance of education, having a great career in addition to saving and investing monies. I was indoctrinated in those Black Caribbean values. I wholeheartedly contend that socialization and the social life are utterly superfluous. I assert that educational and economic achievement are important to live a high quality of life without constant stuggle for survival.
Black Caribbean children are also high achievers in school. Black Caribbean children usually earn higher grades than their Black American counterparts in school. Black Caribbean parents inundate their children that school and education is serious business and it is not to be taken lightly. Black Caribbean parents exhort their children to achieve As and Bs and will accept nothing less than that. To Black Caribbean parents, education and grades come before television and socializing.
I can recall my father telling me that I will study an American History lesson and get it correct even it it took all night. I further remembered that I was "supposed" to go to the movies with a friend; however, he called the friend's home, cancelling my going to the movies with her. A former co-worker of Black Caribbean origin, who is a high-placed professional, related to me that her parents forbade her to play with other children and go out on Halloween festivities because they believed it to be a total waste of time.
Black American parents, by contrast, believe in education but they also believe in socialization. Furthermore, they raise their children in a more lax fashion than Black Caribbean parents raise their children. I have heard many Black American parents, including celebrities and professionals, stating that socializing was the most important thing for their children.
Although many Black Americans believed that education was important, it was not important as socialization. One Black American celebrity bragged that her children could socialize but the celebrity did not stress how educated her children were. This celebrity stressed social activities over educational and intellectual activities.
In the Black American community, children are torn between being popular with their peers and academically successful. In the Black American culture as opposed to the Black Caribbean culture, the bookish child is derided and told to be like "normal" children. I remember when I spent summers in Wellford, South Carolina with my maternal grandparents, I was often told to go play outside. I was not interested in playing outside but was quite content reading a good book.
My maternal side of my family, who are Black American(Black Southerners) believed subsconsiously that they were not as good as Caucasians. They expected that they were not to achieve great success educationally and economically. They are content to live on a meager economic level. However, they believe in socializing and being popular, placing that over any significant educational and economic achievement.
When I was a high-level professional, one of my maternal relatives asked me if I was a secretary working in an office. A secretary working in an office-I obtained a Bachelor's Degree and had a high professional position within a social service agency. That relative could not see anything beyond her meager economic level. None of her eight children ever achieved middle class status. Three of her daughters have a total of nine children out of wedlock.
All of my paternal cousins (Black Caribbeans) are inordinately successful with positions as doctors, lawyers, entrepeneurs, and high-level businesspeople. In contrast, most of my maternal family, even in the second and third generations, are content to work in the factories and have low level clerical positions. Only a minute percentage of my maternal family hold professional positions. There were educational opportunities however all of my paternal cousins and a minute percentage of my maternal cousins took advantage of the educational opportunities available to them.
Many Black Americans blame Caucasians and the system for their dilemma. One of my distant maternal cousins who holds an advanced degree in psychology, believes this. I disagree with this philosophy vehemently. Many Black Americans do not hold self-sacrifice, education, and economic attainment in high regard as opposed to many Black Caribbeans who will do anything to achieve their goals.
My paternal family made many sacrifices to become highly educated and economically successful. To reiterate, most of my paternal family, especially in the second and third generations, are successful professionals and entrepeneurs. My maternal family, especially in the second and third generations, believed in having fun and a good time and viewed obtaining an education as an onerous process. They wanted easy jobs and are mostly factory workers and low level clerical workers. They complain about their economic circumstances but refuse to acknowledge that they made their own dire economic circumstances by making incorrect choices.
Even today, many of the leading members and the movers and shakers of Black community are/were of Caribbean origin e.g. Louis Farrakhan, Governor Patterson, Constance Motley, and Shirley Chisholm among others . They did not let race deter them from achieving great educational and economic success. They did not blame "the man" or "the system" if they did not achieve but looked within themselves to see what can be done to achieve. I remember my father telling me that "you make your own destiny and that you can achieve anything" , "cannot is a cowardly word", and "that is no such thing as impossible". Contrast that to my mother who said " you have to WAIT for the opportunity to present itself to succeed." I believe that Black Caribbeans outsucceed and outachieve Black Americans because they are PROACTIVE whereas Black Americans are more PASSIVE and FATALISTIC and expect the world to come to them.
© 2010 Grace Marguerite Williams
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