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Culture and its Effects

Posted Nov 17 2008 9:11pm

I went to a party last night for a co-worker who is of Indian descent.  The event was at a ritzy estate belonging to a doctor cousin of his.  Upon arriving I thought, isn't it amazing how financially successful many Indian immigrants are?

All this got me to thinking about how different immigrant cultures have fared in the United States.  On one hand, you have the Indian culture which has produced many successful doctors, businessmen, etc.  If you go to the doctor's office, and the physician you see is Indian, this usually isn't a surprise to anyone.

On the other hand, you have the African-American culture, which was brought into the U.S. under the worst conditions, and hasn't fared too well.  I took a minute to think: have I ever met an African-American doctor, laywer, or even a dentist?  No, I don't think I have.  I'm sure they are out there, but the numbers must be so small that a lot of people don't end up meeting them.

This seems like such a travesty to me, that a group like African-Americans that makes up a large chunk of the population is so under-represented in the higher professions.  Instead, the dominant role models in African-American culture seem to be the "lottery" careers - professional sports and music.  These are inappropriate role models for youth for two main reasons: 1) both careers depend on inborn talent, and 2) only the handful at the very top are financially successful.

This first point has really been bugging me lately, because I think it distorts a lot of people's ambitions.  Being a professional athlete (or musician) depends largely on talent - you can't just "practice hard" and become an NFL player.  You see evidence of this to an extreme when the Heisman Trophy winner in college doesn't even get drafted into the NFL.  Why?  Because he doesn't have the physical gifts, not because he didn't work hard.

I feel it's a disservice to youth to not give them realistic expectations and appropriate role models, and this is where the African-American culture has failed miserably.  For African-American youth, maybe one in a million (or less) makes it as a professional athlete or entertainer.  So what happens to the rest of them?  As I said above, they don't seem to be turning into doctors or lawyers.

Young African-Americans would be better served by having role models in careers where hard work can lead to success, like the Indian culture does.  Anyone with average intelligence can bust their tail and become financially successful in America, as the Indians have shown.  Many immigrants come to the U.S. with nothing, yet by the end of their life become financially successful and pave an even better path for their kids.  I truly hope the African-American culture changes its ways starts providing prudent role models for its youth.

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