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African American Cultural Beliefs Essay

2416 words - 10 pages

African-American is a politically correct term used to refer to blacks within the United States. The roots of many African-American rites can be traced back to African cultural rites. However, it is important to note that not all blacks in America identify with African cultural roots. Therefore, some of the rites found within what many in the United States call African-American culture stem from Caribbean and other cultural traditions. For this reason, when making end of life decisions or funeral arrangements the “cultural identification, spirituality and the social class” the individual identifies with must be taken into account. The black majority within the United States identifies with Afrocentric traditions and perspectives. For this reason the term African-American will be used within this paper to denote the black population found in America as comparisons are made regarding how end of life decisions are viewed and made by African-American culture verses the traditional western European beliefs of American culture (Barrett, 2002).
When considering “the four primary dimensions of care for those who are comping with dying,” both similarities and differences can be found between African-American cultural beliefs and what have been considered traditional American cultural beliefs when making end of life decisions. Although both cultures share a physical need to have their bodily needs met, they differ on how physical distress is viewed. American culture often wants to minimize the distress and discomfort felt as a way of coping. However, some cultures may ignore the natural desire to minimize discomfort (Corr, 2009). The African-American culture is one such culture. African-Americans who are making end of life decisions often consider suffering to be honorable. Depending on their religious beliefs, suffering may be a way of identifying within their faith. To this end it is common for African-Americans to not mitigate pain and suffering while pursuing any and all life sustaining treatments made available to them (Barrett, 2002). African-Americans will generally even pursue life saving treatments aggressively when they are informed of the treatments futility (Barrett, 2005).
The African-American cultural view of death is one of normalcy. They view death as comfortable and familiar. The sanctity of life and its preservation is extremely important within African-American culture but when death comes it is considered natural and an accepted part of life (Barrett, 2002). This differs from the traditional American cultural perspective that after the mid to late 1900’s came to view death as unnatural and something to be hidden (Corr, 2009). African-American culture may consider death to be a natural part of life but the sanctity of life is also very important to them. For this reason African-Americans are more inclined to aggressively pursue life saving treatments than those from traditional American culture (Barrett, 2005). Members of...

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