The book, Definition of Culture and society across the World defines Culture as accumulated knowledge, behavior, experience, language, art, laws, morals, beliefs, attitude, customs and traditions that are shared by a particular society and can be passed down from one generation to the other (Terry, 2016). Culture therefore defines members of a given society. Terry also explains Society as a large group of people bound together geographically and live in an organized way by sharing work and following laws put in place. People living in a country are therefore considered a society. The American culture according to David refers to the way of life of the American people who comprise of different races, and speak different languages (David, 2011). This research paper seeks to compare the American and the African culture in terms of the family structures, education systems, traditions that include rite of passage and initiation, religious beliefs and practices, diseases and medical accessibility, sexual norms as well as death rituals. The paper will research broadly on the components of culture as highlighted above with an aim of comparing the American and the African culture. Norms, traditions and values are important aspects that not only characterize a society but also differentiate one society from another.
Culture is a broad subject in the world today. As defined by Terry in her book, Definition of society and culture across the world, it is evident that every person is defined by a culture that was passed down to them (Terry, 2016). According to what she explains, one’s geographical boundaries determine their culture. The American and the African culture vary in various ways. Religion as explained by both American and African scholars is a key factor that defines and differentiates the various cultures (David, 2011; Lateju, 2012 & Van, 2013). Books on marriage, family structures and child rearing will also be used to outline the difference between the American and the African culture (Karla, 2011 & Rekha, 2014). In the book, Religion, rituals and African traditions, Kofi explains how religion, as well as customs and traditions not only define but also distinguish one cultures from the other (Kofi, 2011). Books on contemporary issues in the society such as homosexuality, divorce and matriarchal family structures will also be used in this research paper to differentiate the two cultures. These contemporary issues exist in the American culture and not the African culture. The book, Marriage as a culture for divorce for instance will be used to highlight divorce incidences in the US (Karla, 2011), an aspect that is not found in an African traditional setting. With the help of the books stated above, this research paper will clearly distinguish the American culture from the African culture.
The family structures of the people living in American and that of the African communities can be used to differentiate the two cultures. Troy defines family as a bounded set of a mother, a father and children who recognize each other through a set of emotions and love and are distinguished from other groups (Troy, 2014). Rekha also highlights that families are structured in two major ways: they are either patriarchal or matriarchal. Whereas patriarchy gives males primary power over the family, matriarchy allows the woman to be head and govern the family (Rekha, 2014) the woman in this case controls the property of the family. The African culture as described by Florence gives the power to govern a family to the father or any adult man while the women is given a subordinate role. Power and responsibility can only be transferred to the woman in the absence of the father (Florence, 2014). Most families in the American culture are matriarchal in nature. Education, women empowerment, laws that protect women and children rights, power and civilization in the US have boosted matriarchal family structures. Despite the rise of matriarchy in the world, patriarchy still exists in both the American and the African culture. Both societies are still male-dominated despite the American culture showing slight improvement on Matriarchy unlike the African culture (Rekha, 2014).
The difference in education trends and systems also distinguishes the American culture from the African culture. Education for children with special needs for instance, differentiates the two cultures. The American government has put a lot of resources into special education. The African culture on the other hand is still lagging behind in terms of provision of special education. Most African countries fall under developing countries that do not have much resources to pump into special education, needs and care. The education system in African is also that children are taught using foreign languages mostly of their colonialists and not their native language while the American children are taught with their native language, English. The education reforms that have been undertaken in most African cultures since after independence have not strictly addressed such issues making the quality of education extremely poor when compared to the American systems of education. The education system of a particular country therefore is not only a reflection of their culture but is also its distinguishing characteristic from other cultures (Kofi, 2011).
The rites of passage are another key distinguishing feature. The four rites of passage, birth, initiation, marriage and death are experienced in both cultures. In an African set up, these ceremonies are very important and every member of the society is invited. The community gathers in a specific place depending on the occasion. A burial ceremony must be carried out in every African culture (Fola, 2011). In the American culture, the dead are either buried or cremated. In cases of burial, there is normally a burial ceremony similar to that of the African arrangement.
The age groups and age sets in the African culture are formed during the initiation into adulthood. Oloo explains that a group of boys who are circumcised on the same day form an age set (Oloo, 2014). The American culture varies completely because circumcision is not considered a big deal. Initiation ceremonies are not carried out while can be done in various ways including in hospitals. This is considered a taboo in some African societies (Zuesse, 2013) Boys who do not undergo circumcision ceremonies in the African culture are considered outcasts in the society. African communities conduct customary marriages whereas the American culture allows any form of marriage. Wedding ceremonies are conducted in most American cultures while Marriage ceremonies that include marriage rituals conducted in an African set up. The birth rite of passage is also practised differently among the two cultures as explained by Bonnelle. The African community hold a celebration ceremony under a shrine while the American culture, involves baptism of the new born through a baby shower ceremony (Bonelle, 2013). Death and ritual customs are also performed in different ways in both the American and African culture. Death rituals carried out in American depends on the religious background of the deceased. The Catholic Americans for example, perform burial services in church, then the body is disposed of according to family decision. The African culture on the other hand buries their dead after a series of burial ceremonies that take up to a week (Mbiti, 2012).
Marriage practices, dating and divorce are practiced and viewed differently in both the American and the African culture. Marriage in the American culture for instance, can be done in church, by law or through the come we stay arrangement (Victoria, 2013). Multiple marriages are permitted in the American culture. Dating and courtship is also practiced in the American unlike the African culture whereby the African woman has no say in who she will get married to. Whereas dating and courtship is highly regarded in the American culture, the African culture does not recognize it. In the book, Marriage in a culture of divorce, it is evident that the American culture accepts divorce and recognizes it as part of the marriage process (Karla, 2013). The case is totally different in the African culture since divorce is considered a taboo. Marriage ties can only be broken by death. Polygamy on the other hand is recognized and considered a sign of wealth. Wife inheritance also take place in the African set up after the death of a husband (Mbiti, 2012).
Sexual norms and practices also vary in the American and African set up. Human sexuality in the African culture is considered sacred and only performed by the married. Ann explains that there are normally cases of divorce that are punishable by death. The American culture is a bit liberated. People are allowed to exercise their sexuality in whatever way. Violation of the minor, rape and any case of forceful sexual behavior is punishable by law. According to David, different forms of sexuality is allowed in the US (David, 2013). Homosexual marriages are forbidden in the traditional African set up. It is seen as a curse and those that practice it are rejected by the community (Letaju, 2013). Morals and norms are highly upheld in the African culture compared to the American culture. The disciplinary bodies in the African set up include the chiefs, parents and community elders while in the American set up it includes the police, teachers, parents and the court.
There is also a huge difference in terms of child rearing. Sexual behaviors and attitudes of a particular culture determines the child rearing practices. In an African set up according to Florence, children are owned by the community and not by the parents as in an American culture. The children in the African culture therefore can be disciplined by any member of the community (Florence, 2013). The different ways of controlling child birth and population are considered a taboo in the African culture. Children are a sign of wealth (Evans & Matthew, 2013). These practices of population control are encouraged and accepted in the American culture. According to Mbiti, children that are born out of wedlock in the African culture are considered as outcast and are therefore rejected by the society. In the American culture as explained by Bonnelle, children are owned and brought up by individuals, mostly parents. Children born out of wedlock are accepted and treated like any other children (Bonnelle, 2013).
Diseases, disorders and access to medical care is another factor that distinguishes the American culture from the African. The traditional African set up uses traditional medicine extracted from trees and other natural substances. They do not belief in hospitals and modern medical care as explained by Matthew (Matthew, 2013). The American culture on the other hand embraces modern medical facilities with improved technology. According to Dr. Kate, the improved technology assists in detecting and curing most diseases that cannot be treated traditionally. Access to medical facility is also faster and more efficient in the USA compared to the developing countries. People with disorders and chronic diseases in the African set up are considered bad omen and are most times killed through rituals (Evans & Matthew, 2013). Due to availability of efficient medical care in the American culture, their elderly are better taken care of. Most of the aged in the USA according to Taylor are taken to the elderly facilities where their needs are met (Laurie, 2011). The African culture on the other hand is totally different because the elderly is considered and treated as a burden in the society. African communities such as the Nandi in Kenya throw their elderly of the cliff because they consider them inoperable (Awolalu, 2012).
In addition to that, the difference in religious practices differentiates the African and the American culture. The book, Religion and American culture, outlines so many religious beliefs in American ranging from atheism, to protestants, Catholics, Islam religion, Hinduism, Buddhism and many others (David, 2011). The African culture on the other hand comprises of a common religion that beliefs in a supreme being called God. According to Mbiti, the African societies worship God in different ways based on their belief in his capabilities and existence. There are so many ways in which Africans worship God including in shrines, others under specific trees, others while facing the sun and many more (Mbiti, 2011). As explained in the book, Religion and culture, the religious beliefs of a particular culture is very key in shaping the society’s behavior and morality (David, 2011). Religion according to Mc Kate is the pillar of a society’s culture (Mc Kate, 2012).
In conclusion, culture is a very important aspect in a society. It shapes what people are and what their generation becomes. Factors such as religion, education, marriage, rites of passage, sexuality and many more characterize a society. The American culture is quite different from the African culture. Both cultures are defined by their unique characteristics that make the society a better place. Some cultural practices such as female circumcision and early marriages in the African culture deprive the members of the society the chance to enjoy a better future. Such practices should be eradicated. In order to curb preventable deaths caused by curable diseases, the African culture should embrace the modern forms of medical care rather than relying on the traditional medicine. The American culture should also strive to uphold values and morals especially those that govern marriages in order to reduce divorce rates in America.