I remember back in 2007 while working at Enterprise Rent A Car, I had one of the most stimulating conversations in my life. I was giving this gentleman a ride home and he asked me flat out, “So, do you consider yourself an African-American?” While the topic was not new, I wrote about it for the Roddey McMillan at Winthrop University when I was there a while back it was shocking coming from the other side. The gentleman in the car was a native African. To him it was strange that Black Americans called themselves African-Americans without recent African descendents. My thoughts exactly. Most recently, I worked with a young lady who was from South Africa. She had recently married an American was talking about starting a family. I said to her, “You know when that baby is born he/she will be an African-American.” To that she laughed. I did too since they’re white. I’ve seemed to have had this conversation over and over through out the past couple years. The term African-American only refers to Americans who are descendents of Sub-Sahara Africans; you know the dark skinned ones. All the while people ignore the fact that Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria are also part of the continent. When was the last time you heard an American born Egyptian refer to their self as an African American? Even at a young age I’ve preferred Black American to African-American. You don’t see whites classifying themselves as European-American. To me, the term separates us from the freedom and civil rights those before us have fought for as American citizens. So now I ask, does African-American refer to all black people living in America including those from the Caribbean and Africa or just the descendents of the slaves that were brought here in the 14th century? I only pose this question as a way for us to think about how we define ourselves in the 21st century. When we look at the contributions black American has made to the advancement of American society, should it be limited to being just an African-American achievement? The accomplishments of these great Americans deserve to be more than a mention that comes along only during Black History Month. We need to stop applying labels to ourselves as they eventually serve to lessen or make light of our contribution we have made to American greatness. I hate when I hear someone’s name mentioned only to be prefaced with a term describing the color of his or her skin as if it was a shock that it happened. While we have come a long way to cement our value in this country we still have far to go. I have never been to Africa in my life but I do wish to make the journey one day if only to experience the culture. And the guy that I gave a ride home to said if you do make it to Africa, tell them you are American not African-American, some people might not take to kind to you calling yourself that.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Someone once asked me if I was always the way I am today. To that I replied with a simple ‘no’. You see after graduating from college (Winthrop University), I went in search of my own self-identity. Unlike those who travel the world or go on a mission, I took a totally radical approach. I went into the proverbial “closet”. Yes I went in the closet. As I sat there, I said to myself “When I come out of here, there is going to be a noticeable change.” So the first thing I did was to empty the vessel that was me in my current state. I questioned everything that I was taught and told to be true. I came to the realization that like the majority of us, I was a direct reflection of the status quo. For as much as we would like to believe we are our own person, what we are is the culmination of traditions and beliefs held by others that have been passed down to us. So while I sat in the dark, cool closet my question became “Who Am I?” As I slowly started to put the pieces together it became clear that I was remarkably different from who I once was. My views from the role religion played in my life (none) to marriage being an outdated institution was taking shape. I was becoming my own person. A person of my own set of values. A person who had an objective point of view free of judgment and preconceived misconceptions. As I stood up and prepared to walk out into the light, I took a deep breath and exhaled. I now knew who I was without apology. Many of us made resolutions vowing to change. Whether the change is a subtle one or a major one, with a thorough evaluation of who ‘you’ are, you’ll end up the same and the change you sought will not take effect. So while we think ‘the closet’ is a place for gay people to come out of, I would say more of us should be going in so you can come out and reveal your true self. You only get one go around in life. I chose to be ok with me and not worry what others think. Once you realize its ok to be different and not follow protocol, life can really be worthwhile. I had a teacher tell me to challenge everything and not accept anything just because it’s the way it has always been done. Without fundamental change we allow the status quo to remain acceptable. So to all of those seeking change in 2012, the closet awaits.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
What's good folks. I've been thinking about doing a blog for a while, and finally stopped being lazy to just do it. I've had a lot of thoughts, opinions, and things going on in my life that I wanted to share with the world. So I welcome you to join me on this journey as we explore everything from love, life, religion, politics and any other topics I feel necessary to speak on. Again, welcome to a different way of thinking.