Culture is the guiding force of every group and society. It is the driving force of all the actions that its members individually and collectively make. It dictates to its members their worldview, their values, norms, likes/dislikes, and approaches to dealing with other people. Essentially culture is the dominant dictating force in people’s lives. Unfortunately many of the problems within the African American culture derive from a lack of understanding about what culture is. Dr. Wade Nobles defines culture as “a process which gives people a general design for living and patterns for interpreting their reality”. Ali A. Mazrui states, “We define culture as a system of inter-related values, active enough to influence and condition perception, judgment, communication and behavior in a society.” The understanding of culture and its sphere of influence over all aspects of life leads to the understanding and cooperation with the people who are a product of that particular culture.
The basis of the problem of internal and intra-cultural conflict is that the aspects of African American culture that reflect African culture often time are belittled and devalued among its members, because they are dichotomous to European American culture. For example, the idea of even studying African spirituality is appalling to most African Americans, because they have been falsely taught that Africans were paganistic heathens before Europeans introduced Christianity to them (often times by force and coercion). Due to historical and modern day factors African Americans have adopted these erroneous beliefs about themselves.
The aspects of African culture that are so unique and beautiful are viewed as uncivilized and ignorant by those who seek to gain acceptance in the majority culture. When a person attempts to deny aspects of the self they are living in turmoil. When an individual hates an entire part of their essence, it makes it easy for them to harm another individual who may exhibit those same qualities that are so hated in the individual. This hate causes a constant inner battle in most African Americans because they look to other cultures to find the solutions to all of their problems without even considering their own. It is impossible to look to your own original culture for inner peace when you have been taught to believe that your ancestors’ culture produced nothing of value, and was completely unrefined and uncivilized. The acceptance of other people’s definitions of culture refinement has created a culture of inner turmoil inside of many African Americans, rather than a culture that is rooted in their native culture, yet also grows from learning about other cultures.
The internal and intra-cultural conflict manifests itself in ways that often go unrecognized as a continued denial of the African aspect of the African American self. One of the most common manifestations occurs when African Americans essentially attempt to put a “black face” on other people’s culture in an attempt to discover their own culture. I am not arguing that there are not aspects of other cultures that African Americans can benefit from, but the mistaken act of using another people’s culture to define one’s culture, inevitably causes inner cultural and intra-cultural conflict because the definitions for one’s own being are founded in a foreign culture. This behavior leads African Americans to put the struggles and obstacles of other people before the massive struggles of their own people. For example, African American Muslims will often spend more time fighting for and defending the Palestinian and Bosnian struggles, and not even discuss atrocities occurring in Northern Nigeria, and the Sudan. Any of the cases are worthy causes that should be fought and defended, but the inner cultural conflict in African Americans is evident when the African struggle is taken up without the same fervor as the Arab/Muslim struggle.
Many people would say that the African American Muslim is only defending those that they have a cultural and religious (religion is an aspect of culture) connection with. But the fact that an African American cannot see or is ignorant of the cultural connections that he/she has with Africans on the continent and the Diaspora speaks volumes about the conflict that has caused and created such a profound level of intra-cultural and disunity among Blacks in America.