For African-Americans, being "just like" the dominant culture was to a large extent impossible.
Color was a barrier, keeping them from reaping the various benefits associated with cultural assimilation (Eshleman, Cashion and Basirico 272). Thus, even if African-Americans began to develop hope for a new and better life, as many did following emancipation, this hope could never be fully realized due to difficulties achieving assimilation, to profound problems and difficulties such as those associated with Jim Crow laws. And due to the refusal of many states to even allow African-Americans to vote (Eshleman 160), they had little hope for changing the sociopolitical orientation of the country.
On the other hand, one long held-difference between Italian-Americans and African-Americans, namely the role of the family, is now being looked at anew. Italian-Americans have strong attachment bonds and a good deal of cultural value and mores associated with the place and role of the family in their lives (Nelli 42). However, sociologists have traditionally held that the socio-historical experiences of black families had led to both marital and familial instability, to the disruption of husband-wife and kin networks, to matrifocality, and to a lack of authoritative fathers (Gutman 5).
Eshleman reports that research has now begun to challenge the assumption that slavery and other socio-historical experiences of African-Americans led to family and marital disruptions (161). More current studies are indicating that most (70-90 percent) of African-Americans have had a husband or father present along with two or more other members of a nuclear family unit. Also, the matrifocal pattern has only been infrequently observed, and an extensive and strong kinship network has been repeatedly found in research (Gutman 5). Thus, despite their sociological differences, the bond with family is most likely a similarity rather than a difference b...
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