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Comparing Italian American immigrant families to black American families: A sociological analysis of the family in America

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  1. Introduction
  2. History of the African Americans
  3. The African-American and the Italian-American communities
  4. The study carried out by Harry, Klinger and Hart
  5. The article by Letiecq
  6. Study by Cain and Combs-Orme
  7. Italian-American cultural studies
  8. The emphasis on spoken language
  9. The idea that one should remain silent about the family
  10. Conclusion
  11. Bibliography

This paper will offer a comparison between African American families and Italian American immigrant families, by exploring family cohesion and identity. What are the ways that the black American family is written about in sociological literature, and how does this differ from the perspective or orientation which shapes discussion of the Italian-American family. How do gender roles impact family structure, and how do families who face discrimination cope, in varied ways, with hostilities external to the family or larger cultural group?Historically, African Americans first came to the U.S. primarily as slaves. Following the cessation of slavery at the end of the Civil War, Black-Americans endured and survived through a century of segregation before beginning the concerted, organized fight for full equality characterized in the late 1950s-1960s Civil Rights movement. This equality still remains elusive, depending on factors such as class position. Italian Americans came to North America from the 19th century onward, as skilled and unskilled migrant labourers; often the men came first and sent remittance monies home. Later, the husbands or fathers might have helped bring other members of their families or members of their local communities to America. Italians Americans are part of a larger Italian world Diaspora, as black people in America may also consider themselves as living in the Diaspora, with Africa a homeland, distant in time and to large degree in the contemporary cultural imaginary (Pozzetta and Ramirez, 1992; McWhorter, 2006)

[...] Willie writes, ?`Billingsley tells us that a high level of egalitarian relations exists among African-American families, that black women are prominent in the provider role and make great contributions to the economic viability of their families, that less than 10 percent of African-American families consisting of a husband and wife are supported by the earnings from the wife's employment only, that marriage and family life are important characteristics of the African-American community, that homeownership continues to be the primary way in which African-American families accumulate wealth, that childrearing and companionship are, in the opinion of African Americans, the most important functions of family life and that teaching offspring how to cope effectively and overcome a world of racial prejudice and discrimination continues to be a goal that receives high priority in the socialization of African-American children. [...]

[...] Using a conflict approach, as well as detailing family dynamics and history through a feminist lens that explores gender as a social construction, this paper will discuss how Italian American families and Afro-American families define themselves, and how they are seen by outsiders. How has historically embedded systematic institutional racism and ethnic prejudice continued to impact individual families, and how have struggles to overcome race prejudice impacted upon or contributed to changing roles in the family? There is no single black family form, just as there is no single Italian American family. [...]

[...] In Canada books such as Frank Colantonio's From the Ground Up: An Italian Immigrant's Story, or Joe Fiorito's The Closer we Are To Dying, which is a sensitive portrayal of a father-son relationship, based on a folkloric style of storytelling, to examine the response of three generations of immigrants to life in North America, is a notable framework for understanding changing ideas of masculinity as they relate to family and community history (Fiorito, 1999). As Gianfausto Rosoli (1992) writes, in Canada a key way to understand the Italian immigrant experience has been through ?this cluster of diverse autobiographies which reveal substantial variety of popular experiences that have characterized the Italian migrant experience. [...]

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