My life has gone through various stages and currently I am still growing and learning. I am an African American female born into a prestigious family and religious practices that ensure I will be well off in the future. A few concepts and world views that we learned this semester tie into these five significant points in my life and will be demonstrated while viewing through a psychological lens.
Church has always been a very important aspect of my life being that my grandfather is a preacher. Before he became a preacher I was raised in the church since a newborn. I am the oldest siblings of two a little brother and a little sister and we have each had our experiences within my grandfather’s small church in Montgomery, Ala. With me being the oldest I’ve always wanted to do whatever it takes so that my little siblings could have something to look up to. At times in the past, I would get mad if my little sister would “copy” me, at one point it was annoying because I don’t know what it feels like to have a big sister to look up to. At this point I want my little sister to be much better than I am. I don’t want her to make the mistakes or decisions that I’ve made. I and my sister are 6 years apart but their generation moves at a much faster pace than mine. Luckily, I’ve done many positive things that she has followed such as getting baptized. Once she saw me get baptized she was so amazed and begged my mother at such a young age to let her do the same. My parents were appalled because my little sister never paid attention during church. I came out of the water and expected to feel totally different after and I didn’t. I was only about 10 so really However, despite how I really felt, I began to enter a new world of the church since my life had been dedicated to Jesus.
Because children are not old enough to make their own decisions about religion, often the decision must be made for them. Religious groups such as Christianity and the religion of Islam are regularly judged based on the extremist of these religions. Due to this, a certain stigma has been created that has caused prejudiced thoughts to form about these religions “forcing” their children to follow at such a young age. However, deciding to have religion enforced early in the child’s life can have positive effects. The outcome of allowing children to assimilate to a certain religion is that they may have better relationships with their parents. A study was done by John Bartkowski, a Mississippi State University sociologist, and his colleagues, on first graders as well as their teachers and parents. The children from religious backgrounds had a wider imagination and added to the argument that children should be brought up in religious backgrounds (Corriveau et al., 2014). It is also argued that religion adds a sense of belonging. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs at the preschool period the psychological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization differ greatly from that of early teenagers. A sense of belonging is necessary for the overall development of a child, especially when entering the schooling system. By being from a certain background, children can feel that they belong alongside children of the same faith (Wenner et al., 2008).
The Worldview Paradigm “Religion/Religious Expression and Practices” adequately describes my introduction to religion after being baptized. I began to recognize that there is a Higher Being and that church was the way we communicated to this Being. Involvement in the church did increase my sense of belonging, especially since all my family at the time attended the same church. Religion continues to confound me even now at twenty years old and I continued my journey with my personal religious belief well into now.
As mentioned, my immediate and extended family have always been involved in one another’s life due to everyone attending the same church. During the summer before my sixth-grade year, my family decided to move from our neighborhood that was only ten minutes away from my grandparent’s house to a part of town that was undergoing gentrified changes. My father received a promotion at a new company which meant we’d be moving to a better part of town away from all the family that heavily contributed to my development to this point. It’s also important to mention that this new town was all white. Well not ALL the way white, though there were only four black kids in my entire sixth grade class of three hundred students, including me (just to give an idea). The move to a new school affected me more than I assumed it would. The ability to have family closely available to be instrumental in one’s life is needed. My grandma had a daycare business running from her home that my sister’s and I attended daily, up until the move. There would be no more going to Grandma’s after school since her house was on the other side of town. This meant that I would not get to see my aunts and uncles, my cousins, the members of the church who stopped over frequently, family friends, and my “play play” cousins who all frequented my grandmother’s house. These were the people who had shaped my childhood.
The Worldviews Paradigm model of Extended Family manifests that there is high popularity of family meetups and other socializing methods amongst African Americans. Extended family members have been proven to be an important source of support for African Americans (Lincoln, Taylor, & Chatters, 2012). This could be because we tend to generally rely more heavily on kin than others for support in various instrumental ways (Gerstel, 2011). The transition into my young teenage years and essentially teenage years depended on how
instrumental family could be in my life. Location played a large role in the kinship and closeness of my family that ultimately affected my development. Though I continued to develop into the person I am today despite transitioning to an all-white school, I do believe that if I would have stayed closer to family, the outcome would have been significantly different.
Trayvon Martin’s case is the case that truly “woke” me up. I still remember hearing the story break for the first time and being confused. I still remember going to church and having a moment of silence due to his death. I still remember watching the case develop in front of the Supreme Court. And I still remember the day, the exact moment even, when it was announced that the perpetrator was not guilty. Minutes before the announcement broke, my mother encouraged me not to get my hopes up about the outcome. She wasn’t saying this to be negative but rather realistic. Up until this point, I’d put too much faith into the United States judicial system. My faith was tested this day and henceforth. The words “not guilty” rang in my head all that night and well into the next day. I began to enter the climax moment of my first Nigrescence. The stages of Nigrescence are divided into five parts that ultimately shape a black person “becoming Black” (Belgrave et al., 2014). After the verdict was decided, I became immersed in Black awareness. I wanted people to know that what happened was wrong and be made aware of the flawed system. The hashtag needed to be known. To whatever extent that it took. Luckily, I emerged into the person that I am now. Being proud and unapologetic black at all times is a gift, however, being aware of that Blackness changes it into a curse. And I believe the next part of my life attested to that. This is why Nigrescence is a continuing process (Cross, W. E., Jr.,1971). The Trayvon Martin case was a significant event that impacted my life greatly by shifting the view in the lens from focusing on what was happening around me to what was happening in me and my viewpoint on it all as well.
When I began the decision process of making UAB the next step in my education, it came with some opposition. Both of my parents attended prestigious HBCU’s and my older sister was in her second year at the Xavier University of Louisiana. XULA and UAB share very few similarities. Yet, I still chose UAB due to the Biomedical Sciences program which seemed to satisfy my parents when I solidified my decision to #ChooseUAB. My time at UAB has been everything and yet nothing that I expected. black specifically has shaped my experience greatly.
I do not believe there is a better example of Social-Affiliative Emphasis (Jamison, 2014) than black. Upon getting to UAB, I immediately made friends with people who looked like me. I was soon introduced to BSAC who’s core values and closeness enticed me. The African American cultural community’s frontier is defined as a force that separates insiders from outsiders and offers shelter and refuge for its members (White, 1998). Feeling a true sense of belonging for the first time in my life here at UAB positively affected my development at this point.
These impactful moments of my life led me into my adulthood or twenty-somethings. As mentioned at the beginning of this paper, religion continues to confound me. While I have been able to define my physical place at UAB, my spiritual place has moved around. A year after I entered high school, my parents decided to switch to nondenominational Christians as opposed to the strict COOLJC-style churches that we grew up attending. I assumed that this would decide on a new church home easily when I came to UAB.
Since the beginning of time, society has incorporated religion into many aspects of life. Religion plays a large factor in the overall well-being of a person which in turn relates its purpose to mental health. However, the correlation between religion and mental health has been up for inquiry amongst researchers in recent decades (Cohen 2004). In the African American church, many entrust in a specific person, or clergyman, who has a direct connection with God to guide them (Neighbors et al., 759). Current data shows that these “divine” ministers do not see a difference in the mental disparities that are seen by a licensed mental health professional. The position that the minister takes and the status that they uphold cross the line from confident to reliant. The level of respect that ministers hold causes a cloudy understanding of whether or not the treatment they provided was actually beneficial.
Finding a church home has been difficult for me due to the importance that my mental health plays in my life and the line that church crosses when it comes to this. It would be juvenile to place all African American churches and their stance on mental health in the Black community under one umbrella. In my experience, however, Black churches have not been able to understand and attempt to deconstruct the mental health stigma without the use of the preacher. The “Go to God about it” rhetoric is backed with biblical power however stained with the idea that seeking professional help is below us.
Upon reflecting upon my life and applying the various World Views as well as Identity theories, I appreciate the development that I have made up to this point in my life. Through this lens, I have been able to dismiss the “ignorance is bliss” mentality and become avidly aware of my Blackness.