What are the differences between black and white America?

And how great are these cultural differences? This is a poll, more than a debate, but I’m putting it here because of the subject.

This thread is a continuation of a hijack in this thread

Relevant Quotes:

Well white America walks like this, and black America walks likkkkeeee thissssss.

What are the differences between East and West Americans?
What are the differences between North and South Americans?
What are the differences between old and young Americans?
What are the differences between blond and brunette Americans?
What are the differences between Italian and Irish Americans?
What are the differences between tall and short Americans?
What are the differences between Republican and Democratic Americans?
What are the differences between thin and fat Americans?

The degree of differences depends on where you live, I guess. Black people are probably more similar to white people when there concentration is smaller and more diffuse. It’s harder to maintain a separate culture when it’s just you and another guy and y’all don’t even like each other.

But when you go to an urban environment where there’s a big, long-lasting concentration of black people, it’s harder to pretend there are no cultural differences between black and white. Even when you remove class from the picture.

Is it a big difference? No, but it’s discernable. Perhaps it’s more agreeable to think in terms of subcultures based along socioeconomics. For instance, a given person may identify more with the black bourgeious (bougie) subculture, which is perpetuated by upper middle-class folks who support HBCUs like Fisk and Howard and encourage their kids to go into medicine, law, engineering, and business (the rebels major in the humanities). They belong to civic organizations like the Links, send their kids to Jack and Jill, and tend to be less Afrocentric than other subcultures. These folks may have little in common with poorer folks of the same hue and more in common with wealthier folks of a paler hue, but that doesn’t mean that they are just like latter. There’s an insular culture there that it’s members try to protect.

I’m not an anthropologist, so I don’t know anything for sure. But I do know that when I hear someone say, “Black people don’t have a different culture”, I get defensive because I think what they’re communicating is, “Black people shouldn’t have a different culture”. And I think that’s wrong.

This is a hard thread for me to contribute to, especially in Great Debates, because I find myself being in the “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it” mindset (I’m not holding that up as a positive thing, it always seems so intellectually weak).

In general, I think that there are substantial areas of overlap, and that age, geographic location, and SES are going to impact the exact size of the shared area in the Venn diagram.

In another thread recently, the stereotype of black people drinking Kool-Aid and fruit sodas came up, and it made me wonder if there was a relationship to the fact that in general, as a population (can I stop prefacing things with “in general, as a population”?), black people have a higher frequency of lactose intolerance, and perhaps were more likely to grow up with Kool-Aid or juice at meals instead of the big glass of milk that came standard with every meal I ate until the age of 16. So diet, I think, is something that is cultural but also may have links to more specific issues.

And just to throw out another item for discussion, for a long time I have a general sense of the fact that black Americans are less likely to follow hockey as opposed to the other major sports leagues. And I always assumed this was due to a number of things, SES being a huge factor because hockey requires much by way of equipment, and geography because a white American’s likelihood of watching hockey is also largely based on where they live. So I was somewhat surprised recently when a coworker, who is black, is from a “hockey town,” was raised with a SES higher than my own, and is a big sports fan in general, mentioned casually that he didn’t watch much hockey because “black folks just aren’t that into hockey.” This leaves the factor of “few black players in the NHL” but my coworker is also someone who comes in and talks about a curling (match? game?) because that’s what was on ESPN2 last night. Anyway, I was surprised that I couldn’t come up with a “reason” for this one.

For starters, blacks and whites usually pronounce “strength” differently.

Delphica, wouldn’t a more meaningful reading of that situation be that hockey fandom is a niche that is currently disproportionately white? Because it’s not the case that hockey is a nationally popular sport that for some reason only blacks aren’t into.

Oh absolutely. I think we’re saying the same thing, and if we’re not, perhaps you could clarify. Hockey fandom is definitely, disappointingly, disproportionately white.

I think my surprise at his statement came from the fact that his personal circumstances seemed likely to mitigate most of the factors I would usually associate with people not liking hockey, some of which have a disproportionate impact on the black population, and at first blush (as in, in the context of us sitting in the breakroom shooting the breeze about sports as opposed to doing any research or anything), the only thing left on the table was “he’s black.”

The problem with your OP (or at least with the general way in which you phrased it) is that it is likely to get a combination knee-jerk liberal reactions that there are no material differences and various jokes about racial stereotypes.

Also “black” and “white” America are not two distinct monolithic structures. There are many subcultures whithin those groups, many of which cross racial boundaries that make a side by side comparison difficult.
I haven’t had much exposure to black folk or black culture so I can only speak to my own culture. I grew up in upper middle class suburban Connecticut and went to an overwhelmingly white public school. The only black people I was aware of lived in relatively poor Bridgeport and other cities, with the exception of like three in my school (who, of course, played basketball). My college and graduate school experience was very similar - overwhelmingly white, token amount of minorities with the vast majority of blacks living in less affluent communities or neighborhoods. Looking around the office of the Manhattan consulting firm where I work, there is like one black professional. The other black people are all administrative or mailroom staff. In my particular group, however, technically I’m the minority as most of the other professionals are Indian, Asian and Hispanic (although 80% of management is European white).
Since I have a limited number of actual black people to draw from, I can only assume from watching MTV that most of them are off living the high life in their mansions in the “hood”, drinking Courvoisier and driving around gold-plated Hummers with those spinning rim dealies.

Huh? What’s the white way? “Straynth”? I thought that was the gay way.

White people are named Lenny and Black people are named Karl.

Black people usually don’t pronounce the “g” (strinth), whites usually do (strankth). Those I know, anyway.

I think that’s a Southern thing, not a Black thing. And I say “strenkth”, not “strankth”, but the “k” sound is maybe midway between a “g” and a “k” sound.

I would add that, to my ear (being a New Englander by birth), Blacks tend to sound somewhat like southerners no matter where they live. Which probably makes sense, since so many are from the South originally. Of course not all Blacks, but many.

It definitely depends on where you live. I’m white southerner, from a small town, and I find that there seem to be a lot of cultural commonalities between me and many of the black folks around here (DC area), that being southern culture, food, sense of humor and laidbackedness, whereas the generic northerner suburban types that predominate the white population here seem more foreign, or “other” to me than the black folks. If I still lived in Arkansas, I would never have known that.

It isn’t a Southern thing in my experience, at least where I grew up and still live, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a white person say “strinth”.

There are two pronunciations that I hear black people use frequently that I can’t stand, pronouncing ask like “axe” and saying “scu’ meh” instead of excuse me.


Also whites usually say “my dad died last week”, blacks usually say “my dad passed last week”.

Most black children are born out of wedlock in the US. Most non-Hispanic white children are not.


That’s a perfect example of the tenuous validity of the idea of a black culture. Besides it being used to refer to transient pop-cultural fads, black culture is often used to refer to a collection of American pathologies that are especially prevalent amongst blacks. Of course, a culture can’t be defined by pathologies, or else they wouldn’t be considered pathologies. Shodan’s point would be relevant if the statistic he pointed out was either always the case or was a trend independent of the rest of the American population, but that’s not true. Out of wedlock births isn’t a unique aspect of black culture, it’s just a symptom of national cultural changes that is especially common amongst blacks.

While technically true, in order to get a black/white comparison, here, I think we ought to get the poverty numbers for the children of each group. If the best correlation is to poverty, for example, then numbers that seem “black” may be skewed by the percentage of the black population that lives in poverty. (And I do not know the actual answers, but in a thread dealing with cultural differences, I suspect that ignoring economic differences will not be productive.)

/strenth/ or /strinth/ is very prevalent among a number of white groups I have known, particularly some Irish-Americans and certain groups of East Coasters.

/aks/ is an old English dialect pronunciation that settled in certain regions of the South from which it was adopted by many blacks who lived there. (Although, I also worked with a third generation Italian-American who had never lived in the South or a black negighborhood who also said /aks/. I never quite figured out where he got that.)

“Passed” as the standard word for “died” and “passed away” and other euphemisms does seem to be limited to the black neighborhoods with which I am familiar.

Yes, it seems to be more a problem of socio-economic class. And whenever something is more common of poorer people in the US, it’s going to be more common of Blacks.