Older Americans of African Decent People are People

Disclaimer: African-Americans are not a monolithic group. There are as many different cultural separations of black people as there are separations of any people. There are black people in all social classes: upper, middle, and lower class - city folk and country folk. There are educated black people, and un-educated black people, and everything in between. They are laborers and skilled workers, professionals, inventors and entrepreneurs, artist types and athletes, churchgoers and skylarks, some lost souls, all in families, you get the point…

They are spread out across the states, so their regional identity varies just as much as any other American. You can’t stereotype black people in this country because they can have so many different combinations of identities, considering their foundation; their heritage, social class, gender, environment, etc.

There are so many different ways to be different.

When I started this project I thought I would be able to show the plight of African-american seniors, and bring awareness to this sub-culture in that respect. However, my interviews showed me that people are people, and my subjects rejected being put in that box. It may be the case in a socio-demographic study, but in an indvidual’s life, it is something much different, more real. That could be why they rejected the idea of being put into this group, that I was trying to focusing on. They objected to the notion that their race or ethnicity was a significant factor on their identity as older people. This is not to deny their heritage, but I understood that in getting older, there are so many different ways to relate to yourself. So you just are what you are.

This passage captures some of the point that I am trying to make here. "Many issues of identity are closely tied to our notions of self. Each of us has a personal identity, which is the sum of all our identities, but it may not be unified or coherent. A dialectical perspective allows us to see identity in a more complex way. We are who we think we are; at the same time, however, contextual and external forces constrain and influence our self-perceptions. We have many identities, and these can conflict." (Martin and Nakayama p. 199) We are the sum of all of our identities. And besides, "race is an illegitimate concept which our selves have created based on fear and ignorance.” TRANSCRIPT – embracing others.docx - Thandie ?

Notice how little Mr. Overton associates his racial identity in this inspiring 12 minute clip.

Researching the term 'African American Seniors' yielded many gloomy headlines like the following. Click on the buttons to read further about some of the struggles and conditions of this marginalized group. However, we can’t put statical stereotypes onto a real person. Especially a person who is resilient enough to have made it to the advanced stages in life. So in this report, I mean to bring awareness to older people of African-American decent. I believe their experience is worth documenting. But my findings were more inspirational. To paraphrase both of my interviewees, I can’t tell you much about what it’s like to be an African American Senior because that is not the way I experience my life. They both separately explained to me in their own ways, that my target concept of the older African American identity was only an abstract construction, and not something that could be isolated out so easily. My older relatives that I interviewed could not see themselves solely in this light. Their experience in life as older people was about so much more than just their racial identity.

African American senior citizens represent a minority group in the United States. They have seen a lot of changes in the course of their lifetime, but still face adversity in some situations. -Lindsay Woolman

While this may be the case in a socio-demographic study, in examining an individual’s personal life, it is something much different, more real.

African American senior citizens have witnessed vast improvements in social and economic status over the past decades. From the civil rights movement in the 1960s, to electing the first African American president in 2008, these seniors have been a part of many significants events offering increased opportunities. However, the senior population, and the population as a whole, still faces serious struggles and instability, such as low income and lack of financial security. -Lindsay Woolman
A recent report, Severe Financial Insecurity Among African American and Latino Seniors, showed that African American seniors and other minorities are especially at risk for lack of health care and living in poverty. -Lindsay woolman

Interview with father Arthur Warfield: My father is 73 now and had a lot to say about getting old. He has been through a lot. Being born in the early forties means that he has seen this country change drastically. He grew up in Queens, NY, and explained to me that his grade school and high school were only around 5 percent minority. So he was brought up feeling very comfortable around majorities. He got into his share of confrontations over race, but he always judged people for their actions and never attributed it to white people in general. He had more white friends than enemies. Some of them even became friends after their altercations.

One of the more interesting observations that he brought up about being older was that he noticed that he has shed the image of a ‘threatening’ black man. He doesn’t get the same reaction, as he would have in his prime years. He noticed that the media perpetuates an image of young black men and women as aggressive and potentially dangerous, and that is something that he used to have to be aware of. Now people are more comfortable in their interactions with him from the outset.

“Different generations often have different philosophies, values, and ways of speaking (Strauss & Howe, 1997). “(Martin and Nakayama p. 183) So you might be likely to identify with a person of a similar generation than a person of a similar race.

Interview with Aunt Vivian on age: “But to me it’s just a number. It has nothing to do with anything else, although you can get psyched out about it. I mean, not as an African American, just as a older person. You can start saying, dang, I’ve been on this earth over 70 years. And then, like I said people die, your friends die, childhood friends, your parents, your siblings, classmates, schoolmates, people in the entertainment industry that you grew up with, watching on the screen or hearing on the radio or seeing on TV. And it’s like you kinda look up one day and say there’s so few people left that can remember what I remember. It can kinda bug you out mentally, but you gotta stay on top of it. And the way you do it is to be active.”

Aunt Vivian playing the Shekere (up front in purple attire) living life ‘her way’ at 71. To her, age is just a number. “What am I supposed to look like, A grandma."

Works cited: *Martin and Nakayama, Intercultural Communications in Contexts – Mayfield Publishing Co. -2000 *

Credits:

Created with images by Leroy_Skalstad - "people man old"

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