Theidea of what is right or wrong varies from one individual to anotherand across the globe. The phenomenon is described by the concept ofrelativism. According to this concept, what is true and real existsdependently of the mind (Nehrbass, 2016). The types of relativisminclude epistemological, moral, cultural, and cognitive relativism. refers to the idea that culture is critical inthe understanding of values, beliefs, and practices of a definedgroup of people (Miner, 1956). It is contrary to ethnocentrism, whichuses one’s own culture to understand another culture. From thisstandpoint, a group of people may argue that their culture issuperior to another. I am a black American, and our cultural valuesdiffer with Bushman’s culture of the Southern Africa. Theperspective an individual will use to judge other culture influenceshow the person understands that culture. This paper uses the etic andemic perspectives to examine the African American family and Bushmanreligion cultures respectively.
African American Family
Theculture of African Americans went through various changes, especiallyduring the slave trade era. Despite the influence of theAnglo-American culture, the black American culture has some aspectsthat have survived. Slavery affected the family structure due to theseparation of males from their wives. According to Belgrave &Brevard (2014), the entire culture was affected by the separation offamily members and Western culture. One of the changes in the AfricanAmerican culture is the responsibility of the mother in taking careof her children. Women were given ownership of their children themoment they were separated from their husbands.
Theinfluence of slavery and the Western culture is responsible for theexistence of several structures of the African American family. Thereare some characteristics of African American family that are distinctfrom other cultures. The family values blood relations. Most familiesare extended and multigenerational. The extended type includesparents, children, biological and non-biological relatives asmembers. The reason why the African American family is consideredmultigenerational is because grandparents are respected members of ahousehold. This structure is a result of the collectivist culture ofthis group of people. Other extended family members include cousins,aunts, and uncles. They may live within or outside the home. In mostoccasions, individual who are not immediate blood relatives such ascousins may behave and act like siblings. They usually live together.A fictive kin is considered an important member of the family andalways behaves and feels like one (Belgrave & Brevard, 2014).
Somepeople from other culture consider the African American familystructure as undesirable and uneconomical. A large number of familymembers may be difficult to manage financially. It makes it hard toachieve certain economic goals due to the high dependency of familymembers. Breadwinners have a huge burden of ensuring that allindividuals who identify themselves as members of their family arehealthy physiologically, spiritually, and mentally. It would beeasier to manage a family and improve its financial stability when itis nuclear. This argument disagrees with the collectivist culture ofAfrican Americans. The welfare of both immediate and distantrelatives is valued blood ties are important. Africanism is evidentin the African American culture and is responsible for the inclusionof people other than immediate and biological relatives in the familystructure. Unlike the Western culture, human beings and theirrelations are considered more important than wealth.
Othercultures view the extended family as a factor that makes theelimination of poverty a complicated process since humanism iscentral to the culture. The family is not only dependent onbreadwinners but also by an external force, the Supreme Being.African Americans usually consider themselves vulnerable beings andseek the support from God to overcome challenges they face in life.As a result, most families are regarded as spiritual. Membersnormally hold family prayers before eating, going to bed andimportant family occasions. The dependence on the Supreme Being byAfrican Americans is viewed as one of the factors that preventindividuals from increasing their efforts towards developmentprojects that may enhance their lives.
Somepeople argue that the extended nature of African American families isimportant for the psychological, social, and economic needs ofdependent individuals. Since most are single-headed families,relatives like an uncle, elder cousins, and grandfathers act asfather figures and provide support to children in cases where fathersare not there. Belgrave & Brevard (2014) argue that uncles andgrandparents play a significant role in shaping the behavior of theyouths who come from single-mother-headed families. Unlike Caucasianyouths, the absence of biological fathers has minimal effects on thebehaviors and academic performance of black youths.
TheBushmen, also known as San people, are indigenous hunters andgatherers living in the Kalahari regions of Botswana, Namibia,Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa (Kruger National Park,2017). They have had external influences such as discrimination andnon-involvement in decision-making by the government. Theexploitation of the resources within their territories has limitedtheir cultural practices such as religion and hunting. Religiouspractices of the San people were affected by conservation practicesof the government.
Thereligion of the San Bushmen consists of the spiritual and materialworlds. The spiritual world is made up of a Greater Supreme Being anda lesser one. The spirits of the death are important supernaturalbeings that influence the daily life of the San people. The SupremeBeing first created himself, then land and its food, the water andair. He is a good influence in people’s life since He protectspeople and teaches them skills. However, he can send bad fortune whenhe is angered. The lesser god is evil, a black magician, and adestroyer. He bears bad luck and disease. The spirits of the deathare also responsible for bad luck and disease. They want to kill thelivings to bring them to the same place they are. Ancestral spiritsalso play a major role in determining the fate of the living (AfricanCrafts Market, 2016).
Inorder to enter the spirit world, the shaman must initiate the processby hunting of power animals which include an elephant or an eland.Once the shaman kills a power animal, a link to the heavens opens.The shaman has to dance and reach a trance to enter the spirit world.They can communicate with the Supreme Being and give them the powerto heal people and protect them from evil spirits, ensure acontinuous supply of food, and pray for the well-being of the tribe.Kaggen is a trickster and usually takes many forms such as prayingmantis, hare, vulture, or even an ordinary bushman. Kaggen is usuallyhelpful to the Bushmen.
Accordingto Kruger National Park (2017), the religious aspect of Bushmen isevident in day-to-day activities. Bushmen believe that supernaturalbeings are responsible for the success of their hunting efforts.Elands are Keggan’s favorite animal. Hunting and killing an elandbrings good fortune to the tribe as well as to the next hunt. Boysbecome adults when they are successful in killing elands. There arespecific parts of the animal that are used to perform rituals. It isthe most spiritual animal. Other religious practices where the animalis used include girl’s puberty, marriage, and the trance dance.
Theuse of cultural relativism is important in avoiding misunderstandinganother culture. Looking down on another culture is not encouraged inthe relativist perspective. A better understanding is possible whenpeople view a different culture from an emic perspective. When theyinvolve their individual opinion in coming up with a judgment, theyare ethnocentric. A good example is the African American familystructure. Individuals from different cultures have varyingunderstanding of values and structures that are central to the livesof Black Americans. Viewing their family structure is responsible forthe varying understanding reasons for and consequences of AfricanAmerican family values. The religious practices of the Bushmen of theSouthern African are best understood from the relativist perspective.Bushmen believe that supernatural beings influence how they shouldbehave and act. It is important to employ their perspective tounderstand why they believe in the greater and lesser supreme beings.The belief in spirits of the death is also evident in San people’sreligion. Individuals from other cultures may despise the religiouspractices of Bushmen because they use their cultures in defining howother cultures should be.
African Crafts Market (2016), African tribes-Bushman,Retrieved fromhttp://www.africancraftsmarket.com/african-tribes/bushman-people.html,Accessed on 3 April 2017
Belgrave, F. Z., & Brevard, J. K. (2014). AfricanAmerican boys: Identity, culture, and development. New York:Springer
Kruger National Park (2017), San, Retrieved fromhttp://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_bushmen.html,Accessed on 3 April 2017
Miner, H. (1956). Body ritual among the Nacirema. Americananthropologist, 58(3), 503-507.
Nehrbass, K. (2016). God`s image and global cultures:Integrating faith and culture in the twenty-first century.Wipf and Stock Publishers
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