Everday Use: African-American Heritage

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"Everyday Use:"

African-American Heritage

Everyone is raised within a culture with a set of customs and morals handed down by those generations before us. As individuals, we view and experience heritage in different ways. During history, different ethnic groups have struggled with finding their place within society. In the 1950s and 60s African Americans faced a great deal of political and social discrimination based on the tone of their skin. After the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, many African Americans no longer wanted to be identified by their African American lifestyle, so they began to practice African culture by taking on "Afro hairdos, African-influenced clothing, and adoption of African names" (101). By turning away from their roots, many African Americans embraced a culture that was not inherited, thus putting behind the unique and significant characteristics of their own inherited culture. In "Everyday Use" written by Alice Walker, the family's contrasting views convey that the honest and most truthful way to honor one's heritage is by treating it not as superficial but rather as practical. Mama represents the practical way of honoring heritage by appreciating the items that were obtained from other generations and putting them to everyday use. Dee, on the other hand, honors the superficial way of heritage by being concerned with the materialistic values of her African American heritage. Mama and Dee's individuality contribute to their conflicting views of how to respect heritage. Mama, the narrator of the story, describes herself as a "large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands who can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man" (102). She does not provide a fascinating picture of herself; however she goes on to describe the many things she can do and accomplish. The many things that Mama can do and accomplish were passed down through generations before her. By honoring the practical use of her heritage she is a well-rounded...
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