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It's All Here In Black And White

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It is all here in black and white:

An interview with an African American male

I had the privilege of sitting down with, and interviewing, a person whose cultural background is different than mine. I came up with a list of questions to ask about eight weeks ago in preparation for this paper. Since that time however, some of the questions were changed. I changed some of the questions to better suit the interviewee. The changes did not affect the scope of this paper though, in fact the changes may have made it a little more interesting.

On March 20, 2006 around ten o'clock in the morning, I spoke with T. Oliver about the differences and similarities between Caucasians and African Americans. The interview lasted roughly 30 minutes and covered nearly 20 questions. I started the interview by asking T. Oliver to describe some African American cultural norms. His response was "large social gatherings are a key element to our culture. We gather together with our friends, family, and fellow church members regularly. That is what keeps us closely knit together". I explained that Caucasians also carry out social gatherings with our family, friends, and church members, and I asked him what he thought the difference was between the types of gatherings. He replied by saying that African Americans do not necessarily, have to have a reason for their gatherings and Caucasians usually have a purpose for their gatherings such as a wedding or a birthday. He also told me that, from what he has witnessed here our small town, African American gatherings are larger than Caucasian social gatherings.

I asked T. Oliver if he felt that his culture blended well with Caucasians. Oliver told me that on the surface and in person that the two cultures blend well now, but in the past the two cultures were clashing due to the slavery and oppression issues. He went on to say that he felt like there was still some repressed animosity in both cultures. Oliver said that both cultures in his opinion were two-faced. "People act pleasant toward you when they are in front of you, but as soon as they get away from you their attitude changes and they couldn't care less about you. It makes me wonder what the truth is". He asked me what I thought about that. I think that Oliver has a point. I believe that there are a lot of people like that in all cultures, and that it is a sign of personal weakness for those who can not display their thoughts and opinions truthfully regardless of the company they are in. I would rather know where I stand with people as opposed to being mislead into a false sense of friendship with a person who is only pretending for whatever reasons.

When I asked Oliver which cultures did his not blend with very well, he said that he could not think of a single entire culture that African Americans, as a whole, can not blend with. Personally speaking though, he said that he had the most difficulty getting along with those who do not speak English. He stated that he is only fluent in English and, for him, listening to others speak different languages was frustrating. So I asked Oliver how intense these language barriers were. His response was "I like eating spicy foods, and living here in Texas spicy foods are plentiful thanks to the immigrating Hispanic culture. The problem is finding a local Mexican food restaurant with enough bilingual workers where I can order what I want and they can understand me. That's about as intense as it gets for me".

I explained to Oliver that ethnic enclaves are a part of the Hispanic culture he mentioned in the last question. Enclaves are like a city within a city where specific ethnic groups live together separate from other cultures as in a Chinatown or little Tokyo which can be found in many major cities across the U.S. I asked Oliver, now that you know a little bit about ethnic enclaves, are, or were, enclaves a part of African American culture? Oliver said "if you consider a ghetto as an enclave, then yes enclaves are a part of my culture, and have been ever since the government started building housing projects. I lived in the pj's (government housing project) as a kid in Miami". I said that brings us to my next question; how beneficial to your culture were the "pj's"? Oliver told me that the housing projects were easy

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