Whatever Happened To Being Black???

 

The Black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.
Marcus Garvey

In high school, I would often get ask, “Are you Indian?” and I would often assume they meant Middle Eastern, although a classmate took it upon himself to refer to me as “Pocahontas,” so I guess it was open to anyone’s interpretation. There always seemed to be great interest in having me classify my ethnicity, so when “No, I’m black” slipped from my mouth, I noticed either two reactions. Either a comfortableness settles in as to say, “Oh cool, she’s one of us,” OR, there is a sense of disappointment, as if to say, “Oh, she’s just black, ain’t nothing going on around here.”

In college, I remember the question changed from “Are you Indian” to “Are you African?”  I would get invites from African organizations to attend events, but never remember giving out my email to anyone A level of disinterest rose when I informed them that I wasn’t, but I still supported them and did attend a few of their events, but here’s my proclamation:

I.AM.BLACK. POINT.BLANK. My momma black, her momma black, my daddy black, his daddy black, etc., etc.

Quite honestly, I don’t feel comfortable classifying myself anything else other than black or black American.  I honestly don’t care for the formal title “African-American.”  Do you ever really hear white people going around labeling themselves, “European-American?” Furthermore, being a descendent of slaves, I do not have the luxury of pin pointing my existence right down to a specific country like Japanese, Italian and German immigrants.  And unless Henry Louis Gates Jr. plans to visit my house and take a DNA sample to tell me which African country my ancestors were snatched away from, please refer to me as black, that is totally fine.

Yet, it seems more and more today my black people love everything “non-black.” We love the exotic, we love the ethnically ambiguous, but what’s wrong with just being BLACK??? While there’s simplicity in the name, let’s be clear, just being black means in no way I am taking from the complexity of the race. However, when it comes to appearances, why is it that we as black people associate all our good physical attributes with our European or Native American ancestry? Everyone has heard the line before, “Oh, I have some Cherokee in my family.” Or have you noticed that in commercials where a black family is featured, the daughter is always multiracial, biracial, something other than black?  I can’t list all of the songs in which the “baddest chick” is half-Spanish, half-Trinidad, “or videos where the main video girl is exotic looking.  Imagined as I watched the latest Jadakiss video, “By My Side,” and juice almost shot up my nose as I realized that the main girl was rather lily of the valley white. By far, that was worse video casting in hip hop history- I couldn’t help but to side-eye the entire video. The bigger question at hand here is what message are we sending to one another as a people and especially our youth when we’re constantly glorifying everything that is not black?

While I know and accept openly that America is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, when will we be able to accept that there is uniqueness to our race, our features, to who we are in general without any need for other cultural and ethnical additions????

* Cue, “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m PROUD”

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Justina
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 14:55:13

    I really appreciate this post because I deal with this all the time. I grew up with predominantly Latina friends and went to school in Latina communities. So it is not surprising to me when I am often thought to be Latina. I love the Latin culture, but I am proud to be Black. It is my heritage and what I can trace my family back to. I also dislike categorizing myself as “African-American”. My family can’t trace their roots to any African country, so I am perfectly fine with being called Black. It is a struggle for people to understand this because they think I’m belittling my roots or disregarding them, but when I know for a fact my great-grandmother was white (not sure what specific country) there is no reason for me to walk around saying I’m African-American. I’m a Black American, and I love being such.

    Reply

  2. MsLondon
    Jan 14, 2011 @ 17:33:14

    I actually find this post to be a bit problematic. I find it quite contradictory to want to claim ” I am black and I am proud” and in the same token wanting to distance yourself from being labled anything close to “African”. Your denouncing the term “African- American” is an indication of the same underlying problems you seem to take an issue with because you see when you make such comments you portray “African” as being a negative. The above comment just serves to further foster the notion that white=good and african= bad.

    ” It is a struggle for people to understand this because they think I’m belittling my roots or disregarding them, but when I know for a fact my great-grandmother was white (not sure what specific country) there is no reason for me to walk around saying I’m African-American.” This gets a serious side eye!

    Reply

  3. THE QUEEN
    Jan 15, 2011 @ 02:05:47

    Thank you both for commenting, both comments are greatly appreciated. However, MsLondon, I disagree with the comments you made because I think you misinterpreted my article. I want to say that I don’t want to distance myself from anything “African” nor do I believe any comments that I made portrayed Africa or African culture in a negative way. The point of my entire article was, as black Americans, why is it that being black is undesirable, not enough, average, etc.? Yes, I stated that I don’t feel comfortable with labeling myself as an African-American, however, this is not because I am ashamed or want to distance myself from my obvious African ancestry. I am quite proud of my African roots. I wouldn’t have raised the question, “Why is it that we as black people associate all our good physical attributes with our European or Native American ancestry?” if this were the case.

    However, I said it because due to slavery, I, like millions of other black Americans, cannot trace my African lineage down to a specific African country. Therefore, I am more comfortable referring to myself as “black.” Do I respect those who prefer to refer to themselves as “African-American?” Absolutely, do what works for you, but this is MY personal preference. Lastly, I didn’t find the statement “I’m black and I’m proud” contradictory at all; black is what I am. I do find ironic though how you indirectly ask, “what’s wrong with being African-American?” which from my perspective validates my entire point, what’s wrong with being black?

    Like I said earlier, thanks for commenting. I respect everyone’s thoughts and opinions, but when I feel that what I have said has been misinterpreted, I do feel the need to want to clarify things and hopefully I did. If not, hopefully you can agree to disagree.

    Reply

    • MsLondon
      Jan 16, 2011 @ 19:33:33

      “I do find ironic though how you indirectly ask, “what’s wrong with being African-American?” which from my perspective validates my entire point, what’s wrong with being black?” I am confused as to what is the difference between the two?

      My point wasn’t that a contradiction lies in the statement “I am black and I am proud”, the contradiction I was referring to is wanting to make this claim yet distance yourself from that which is “African”. And yes u mention that you are indeed quite proud of your African roots but clearly you can see how this can be questionable when you don’t even wish to be referred to as “African-American”.

      You attribute your preference to being called “black” to the fact that you are unable to trace your lineage down to a specific African country, but the term “African-American” in no shape or form requires ties to a specific country (at least from my perspective) making that a mute point. By all means you and everyone else are entitled to their personal preferences as to what they wish to be labeled as, one just has to really examine sub consciously why it is you have such preferences : /

      As a whole I understand that the intentions of your article were not to portray all things “African” in a negative light. I just wanted to bring attention to views that may arise when you make certain statements.

      Reply

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