The most shocking revelation related to being a Negro in a white society came in an educational course. I could not believe the words that I was seeing—that I and my ethnic group were “culturally deprived.” There it was, a scholarly article based upon mythology and ignorance of cultural differences. Cultural deprivation is a sociological theory that asserts the notion that ethnic and social groups possess inferior values, norms, skills, and knowledge, which places them at a disadvantage in a larger society. Cultural deprivation as it relates to Negro culture is a myth based on stereotypes of an enslaved group’s cultural, intellectual, and moral existence.

It is the dynamic and empowering Negro culture that has made it possible for this Negro girl, despite segregation, discrimination, and a lack of equal access to opportunities in a larger society, to succeed.

Resilience is described as the capacity to withstand and recover from adversity. Resilience provides the psychological strength to successfully adapt to and cope with struggle and hardship. Cultural resilience based upon collectivism rather than individualism has within it the innate capability of a cultural system of beliefs, values, and norms that will enable individuals and communities to overcome adversity.

Cultural resilience in the Negro culture is the result of spirituality, our complete faith and trust in the Creator, the traditional values of hope transmitted by ancestors, a collective community consciousness, and our racial identity.

  • Spirituality: the church is a key institution in the community, with a strong belief in access to spiritual energy, the release of fear, and the expectation of good and joy. Religious services include clapping, which releases stress and provides healing energy, and the belief that moving stirs the spirit.

  • Hope: the bridge of the past to the future; the sharing of community values and accomplishments by elders. Elders provide models, stories, and achievements despite obstacles. Storytelling is the oral tradition of overcoming. Hope is a belief in and expectancy in the future; it is the ability to see past the current situation and the expectation to preserve and promote the well-being of the community.

  • Community consciousness of “we” versus “I” and the belief that “I am because we are” promote a sense of connection and interdependence, keys to resilience. The value of “giving back,” providing a service to others in the community, provides an atmosphere of emotional release, the sense of freedom one derives from letting go of pain and fear by helping others.

  • Ethnic identity: knowing “who I am,” my heritage and history; belief in the influence of our ancestors, their overcoming of and resistance to subjugation; and relying on cultural traditions over generations, a cultural coping strategy.

Joy, the ability to laugh, sing, and dance despite racial oppression and violence, is an expression of cultural resilience. As people, we choose joy as an expression of freedom. Joy is our resistance against negative stereotypes and our conscious decision to celebrate who we are as a people. Our food, families, and music provide joy as they support and uplift us. In our separate societies within our overall population, we have the freedom to create and express our authentic selves, unfiltered, all of which promotes our joy and capacity to not only survive but to thrive despite the obstacles and oppressions we experience.

Current research suggests that African Americans may be more resilient than white Americans. Studies suggest that while white Americans, on average, are the healthiest group in society, they are far less resilient than African Americans. Resilience, the keystone of Negro culture, refutes myths characterizing the culture as deficient.

I graduated from Western Michigan University with a major in Speech and Hearing Therapy and was encouraged to pursue a Master’s degree. This Negro girl had no idea that my racial designation and sense of self-definition would evolve widely very soon.