Oh Raven Symoné and Stacey Dash
I really think we need to stop and think about what Raven Symoné and Stacey Dash are saying before we jump to conclusions and ostracize them like the world tried to do with Beyoncé. Because to be totally honest with you, they are partially correct in their logic. The sad thing is the idea of calling people American who were actually born and raised in America is crazy when in reality, that’s how it’s supposed to be. If I was born in France, my nationality would be French and I would be considered French. Why does everyone outside of Caucasian or a “pure” ethnicity have to have some sort of label to distinguish themselves from everyone else in America? Why can’t we all just be Americans? Furthermore, why does the color of my skin assert that I am indeed African? In my opinion that is racist in itself. We don’t assume that all fair skinned folks are Caucasian so why do we force all dark skinned people to identify with a country they know nothing about? Even if we agree that people originated from Africa, so many generations of dark folks are removed from Africa that it is irrelevant. If humans are from Africa, it should be assumed that all of us no matter what color our skin is has some type of African roots. The sad thing is most dark skinned people can’t trace their ethnic roots and be proud of all the ethnicities that make them who they are. The only people I can understand being okay with a label in front of their name are people who can truly trace their ancestry like people who migrated from Saudi Arabia are okay with being called Saudi American. However, some may not like that label if they have four generations born and raised in America. Unfortunately, most Black folks aren’t privileged to know our true ethnic roots and we are still denied consideration to be simply American. This is our land just as much as it is our conquerors. How about America spend more time redefining what it means to be American instead of segregating people by labels?
First, let’s discuss Raven Symoné’s point. She said, “I don’t know what country in Africa I am from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American.” She is absolutely correct here! And I don’t care if I get flack for speaking up on my blog either, sorry Oprah. Unfortunately, people didn’t take a census of slaves when they boarded slave ships. So we have no idea where people were from and how their genes spread throughout their treacherous journey in America. Nor do we know if their lineage were of slave men or freed men. There is a huge misconception that every Black person in America got here by way of the slave trade and that is false! The only thing we have records of are people who claimed their freedom after the Proclamation of Emancipation in 1863 when the new census came out in 1870. I understand that if you have both your ancestors name and the slave owner’s name, you may be able to trace your roots prior to because they had to document their “property,” but still that is difficult and I think this information should be readily available. Quite frankly, it should be given to all individuals affected by slavery. When we think about this logically, it’s kind of difficult for someone to connect with people they don’t know. It’s like expecting a son to connect with their biological father he never met thirty years later. It’s not like the real history of our ancestors was written down in books and passed down through generations. No, it is literally lost history that has been whitewashed. I think the Jews were better able to cope with their tragedy because they at least knew who the victims were, where they were from and what they accomplished in life. They also got paid and was allowed to tell their government, “We will never forget.” Not only did Black folks not get paid reparations, they are still told to get over slavery and figure it out.
I’m not saying this because I think Raven should ignore her ancestry, I’m just pointing this out because I understand her stance. It’s no different than me trying to get Black women to wear their natural hair. They argue that they wear their hair how they want to and not because former Black women had to assimilate. They have accepted their European influences and don’t feel they should be criticized for adopting American hairstyles. It’s the same reason I understand why Raven does not want to delimit herself to a particular label that only a few people have to accept.
Sometimes I wonder what people expect Black folks to do. Are we all supposed to change our names, grow dreads and start wearing dashikis? Should we all move back to Africa and learn the ways of our ancestors? Sometimes I feel like we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If we try to be American we are sellouts, if we try to be African, we are being someone we are not. What’s funny is most Africans born and raised in Africa don’t care for Black folks born in America, lol! Can we just live in peace without being hated and killed because we have more melanin in our skin? Can we call our country of birth home without being crucified?
Then we have Stacey Dash. Poor Stacey. But you know what, I agree with some of the things she said as well; I just think I have a better explanation than she does. She feels like we shouldn’t have a Black History month if we are trying to move forward. To a certain extent I agree with her! Black History should not be condensed into the shortest month of the year, instead it should be so rich in our culture that it is celebrated daily on the same scale as all other prominent American events! To be totally honest, sometimes I feel like rehashing and reliving slavery does more harm than good. Please tell me what learning about Emmett Till being burned to death by evil folks does for us today? Absolutely nothing, but fuel our fire and make us hate each other even more. Why not focus on some of the positive contributions that Black folks gave in America just as much as the negative? Thanks to social media, we are learning more about our Black History from facebook than a textbook ever taught us. That’s what’s sad. That’s what people should be upset about. But no, we would rather shoot the messenger. Imagine if schools stopped lying to kids about slavery. Imagine if we truthfully discussed the original inhabitants of America and maybe Columbus would not be so popular anymore. Imagine if we stopped lying about war photos claiming all Blacks in the pictures were just slaves and not heroes of battles. Imagine if Europeans admitted how much they emulated African heritage and customs because they admired it. Imagine if we taught the true origin of organized religion and education. Imagine if we talked about the contributions Black folks made in American science and politics. Imagine if Black inventors were acknowledged just as much as Einstein and Newton. Imagine if all people involved in the Civil Rights Movement (it was not just MLK by the way) and Jim Crow laws were studied to the same extent as the Holocaust and Hitler. You see, we would create a well-informed culture who understands all of American history. And then maybe we could stop pretending that inclusion has not become the new definition of equality. There would be no need to call it Black History month because if it was taught correctly, people would understand that it is American history. Everyone needs to understand what really happened in this country even if it does burn. I believe the only way we can truly move forward is by accepting our past and righting our wrongs instead of acting like the past never existed and the consequences did not render real sufferings that people still experience to this day.
What Stacey fails to realize is that we don’t need a White History month because their history is taught and celebrated on a major scale in America. They are the default American. They don’t need the label of White or Caucasian in front of American. Our history is taught from their perspective. It’s kind of like the idea that heterosexuals do not need to march. They make up the vast majority of couples, well for now anyway, and homosexuals have parades because they are not widely accepted so they come together and fellowship. The same thing with Blacks in America. We are not accepted by all and so we have a month dedicated to us to mourn our ancestors killed in slavery and the Civil Rights Movement as if that’s all Black folks ever accomplished in America.
The problem in America is our lack of diversity. It makes absolutely no sense that a country known for attracting immigrants seeking refuge from their homeland only represents 70% of its population. Our government and legislature is predominantly Caucasian. Our police force is predominantly Caucasian. Our music record labels are predominantly Caucasian. Our CEO’s are predominantly Caucasian. Our award show sponsors and nominee selectors are predominantly Caucasian. Our television and radio stations are predominantly Caucasian. Our school systems are predominantly Caucasian. Our standards for beauty and good behavior are predominantly Caucasian. This is the problem America. This is why people create BET awards and celebrate Cinco de Mayo in America. Because otherwise they would not have any representation at all! We shouldn’t use affirmative action to fill these gaps, we should want to make sure our population is fairly represented across the board! It’s no different than making sure young boys regardless of color have male mentors. It is important that everyone sees a positive image of themselves succeed in life. And then we wonder why our young Black men are constantly killing and slanging. Well, last time I checked, all we told them about themselves was that they were slaves, their ancestors also sold themselves into slavery, they are violent, ignorant, should be sold to private prisons and deserve to be killed because their statures invoke fear. When will we ever stop this vicious cycle of inferiority and allow our minority leaders to infiltrate prestigious roles in this country and show them a better way?
When I think about what Raven and Stacey are trying to suggest, that we should all just be called Americans, I think about how difficult that will be. How will we ever stop considering race in our everyday lives and become one as Americans? Will any of us ever not look at the color of someone’s skin and assume they are indeed what their stereotypes suggest? Will we ever just focus on getting along just as much as we try to label and isolate each other? I would like to think that one day we will, but after what I have witnessed from this current election, I don’t think people are capable of it. There are too many people who side with evil because it’s easy to be evil. It’s easy to assume a guy in a hoodie has a gun underneath instead of using your facial muscles to form a smile and give a pleasant gesture. It’s easy to hate people who don’t believe what you do instead of realizing they are just as adamant about their beliefs as you are about yours. It’s easy to pull a trigger instead of using effective communication to solve problems. It’s easy to hate people versus loving people in spite of indifferences. It’s easy to allow our fear of the unknown to drive us to hate our neighbors.
I’m afraid we may never move forward the way we allow negative history to repeat itself. I guess America will forever remain the mother of the melting pot where Blacks and Whites feud, incriminate non-Christians and try to get rid of Mexicans and anyone else who is not snow white as if this land was made for them. Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I too have a dream. I have a dream that one day when future generations are studying our current history, they look at each other in disbelief that we were once categorized and segregated by stupid color spectrums. I hope the world becomes so diverse that trying to figure out someone’s color becomes an impossible task. I hope our future scholars love each other more because they get to live in peace with one another unlike what they will discover after reading about our generation. I believe interracial dating will be the savior of America. More about that in another blog. Until next time, stay American.
Related Articles: To gain more understanding about how I feel in regards to labels, please check out my former blog, ‘Africans Born in America.’