African Americans...What Will We Be Called Next?
This is not written from archives, research or academia. This is my life experience...part of my story. Again...Nini Mappo provided a spark that lit the flame.
African Americans... Most of us know nothing about Africa.
Except what we see on TV, documentaries, NGO charity commercials, and film fantasies on Disney, Marvel, Netflix-Nollywood, National Geographic and restaurants.
I will only speak from my experience and for those in my tribe.
My tribe meaning my family, friends, neighbors, associates who were in the same time, space and reality.
Most of us cannot look back to our African ancestors at all. Only those of us who can afford the genealogists are able to do so.
Most of us on our own, using Ancestry.com, can go back maybe two generations of records if we are lucky.
Today, due to the results of the slave trade we are all now called African Americans.
Scholars got busy, found some roots, and gave us a new name. People were trying to create a more concise label.
Many of us bypassed the entire ordeal and don't have any relatives in the southern USA. Many of us are Caribbean, same origin, different history of sorts and more ports.
We were Negro, Colored, Black and now African American. Nigger has stood the test of time.
How do we relate or don't relate to Africa? And how does Africa relate to us? Do we belong to one another?
Most of us know that Africa was the source the slave trade, both willing and unwilling. No matter how we feel about that today,
Africa gave us the foundation to most of our incredible achievements. Africa gave us the structure for music. Africa gave us spices and cuisines.
Africa gave us our dance moves that we think we created. Africa gave us our love for colors. African gave me love for textiles. Africa gave us our magic and spirits. Africa gave us our beauty.
Africa gave us the genetics, no matter how diluted and transported, of all things that we are known to do well.
What's in a name?...
Some of us never adopted the term African American, because we have no idea who the Africans were in our lives.
So many of us still use Black American, because it was a movement of all inclusive identity and racial pride that we created for ourselves in America.
The name "Black" in English eradicated "Negro", which is black in Portuguese & Spanish and the name for the slaves, adopted by the Anglos for trade purposes of cargo identification.
Black is for the race all inclusive. It means that we are the sum of all our racial colors in our spectrum. We don't all look alike because of our history in America. But because we are here and share so much, we are alike.
Black Americans/African Americans, we are our own very unique race, here in America. We are an amazing outcome from an abomination. And we are mixed up AF (as [email protected]).
People like me...I'm an atypical Black American woman. An element of what makes the Black /African American a unique race.
I am a very light skin, aka "high yellow" Black woman.
What's in a color?...
By default, it is very common for a Black/African American family to have no two people with the same color skin.
In the West Indies long ago we were creole. Light skin married light skin. Creating generations of light skin. Or...mixed race to mixed race in updated lingo.
We know who the Black people were of our past. But we have no clue who the White people were. Even though our surname is Scottish, and has been passed on for 4 generations.
The less complicated mixed race Blacks have a White parent and Black parent resulting in a mixed race child directly from those two people.
In America, that child will be treated in society as a Black child, later as a Black adult.
Mixed race is now acceptable on the birth certificate. But years ago, 0.125% was legally written as Negro, formally / derogatorily named Octeroon.
In America, systematic racism, and the rules of white supremacy dictate the labels, of where and how you belong.
Even though we are post slavery, post Jim Crow, post segregation and post desegregation.
Seeing race for the first time...
Here are some facts of life of being light skin Black American,(because Light Skin Black/African American just sounds too weird).
Blacks in America don't always know Blacks by sight, or just by looking, probably because of an expectation of the stereotype of themselves.
But White people can always identify White and non-White. Someone trying to pass for White fools no one.
But it has been tried by many. And successful by some because they were given credit for trying.
In the past, Census clerks recorded light skin Blacks as Negro-White, because the clerks were trying to be concise.
As a child from a post WW2 GI ghetto in Queens, NYC, I didn't know there were different races.
My neighborhood was all "Negro" at the time.
In the 1960s we moved out of the city and into the suburbs where I encountered real white people for the FIRST time.
Real White kids. And Black kids that hated White kids. They all hated each other. I missed my NYC ghetto because this was scary!
Having been a teen of the 1970s during the Black Power Movement, I was taught to embrace my Blackness.
My people forced me to do so as well, or I would be chastised, ridiculed, beaten and hated beyond belief.
Curtis Mayfield was my savior who wrote the anthem of the time, We People Who Are Darker Than Blue sang the words...
High Yellow Girl, can't you tell you are the surface of our dark, deep well. Can your mind really see that you're color is the same as me?
Yes, I did see and proudly. My mother called me "her lightest child who is her Blackest child".
Black in America was much more than a color. It was a movement.
Confirmations, reminders and memorable moments...
My bubble shaped nose, which my father affectionately named me "Bubble Nose".
My healthy, full lips, hair texture that is happiest natural, oversized-protruding round butt, thick thighs, small waist, and innate rhythm that can out dance the best of them.
My mother told me how I sounded too Black when I relaxed, "we moved out of the ghetto and you talk like you're still there".
One day I was riding my bike to my White friend's house and I was surrounded by little White kids yelling go home Nigger, go home.
When I applied for my first apartment in Queens, NYC, the owner of the building told me that he couldn't rent to Black people like me.
Entering the workforce as a young adult woman with cornrow braids was interesting.
I was hired as an Asst Designer and my boss called me Kizzie because the series "Roots" was airing.
When she asked me to bring her a cup of coffee, I reminded her that Kizzie secretly spit into her mistress' cup. Shall I do the same?
Later as a Designer I was in Taiwan for a month and decided to braid my hair because it was just easier.
My boss's wife called me BuckWheat, (a derogatory name reserved for Blacks based on a character from the 1940s) because she liked straightened hair better. I rocked the braids even when we got home.
I reminded her she loved when Bo Derek wore cornrows in the movie TEN. Bo was the first white girl to rock cornrows and "folks" loved it. But we couldn't, and it was ours.
Another former boss let me know, in a Los Angeles billion dollar corporation, that I was hired because not only did I meet the criteria of the job, but he was able to check off the hiring boxes of minority-Black and female.
He shared with me on his last day before he retired, "You were light enough for me to give you an office in the front".
When my boyfriend and I took a train to Germany from France, we woke up in a small town with children staring at us yelling, "Mommy, look at the niggers!"
My college friend informed me that I was the only one left in the fashion industry from our "click" at Fashion Institute. I asked why? He said because you're light skin. And the industry hates us. But you're okay.
From 1978 to present 2020 I have worked in the Fashion and Textile industries in design. New York and Los Angeles, East and West.
And I was always the only Black American hired. A few times there were two of us but only temporarily. And almost never was there a Black male present.
Racism is always the surprise that you never forget. But I'm surprised that I'm surprised.
Straddling the color lines ...
Genetics are rampant. I am the fairest of my clan. Complete with the unmistakable benefits of more favor, opportunities, misunderstandings, and mislabeling.
Because I am light skin Black American, I get to hear the things that people will not say when Black people are around.
I hear the jokes that White people, Hispanic people, and others enjoy because they think I'm okay with it. I'm incognito.
In NYC everyday I was mistaken for Puerto Rican. Everyday a Puerto Rican spoke to me in Spanish.
Sometimes I spoke Spanish. Or I would say, "Wrong island. Mine was 2 islands east, 100 years ago, the British colony, east of the Spanish colonies."
I don't know the White descendants at all, even though their name has been ours for at least 2 hundred years.
Ironically Blackburn is a textile town in Scotland. And I am a textile designer in Los Angeles. Blackburn made its way to Grenada BWI, then the USA.
My Grandparents and parents were Colored and Negro. Negro was on certificates. Colored was on segregation signs to include Asians and all other non-Whites.
My generation was colored at first, Negro by certificate, Black by choice during the movement, and later we were dubbed African American. Talk about confusion for evolution!
Grandma from NYC, "I'm not Black. I'm Colored or Negro."
Grandma from Grenada, "Those Black children used to pull my hair because it was long and beautiful, and they didn't have any."
Grandpa from NYC, "the only color that counts is green." Grandpa meant money. But Grandpa was right. Marijuana was the only thing in high school that ended the race riots.
My Dad - Tuskegee Airman, "Those Italians during the war loved us when we arrived. But we were hated in America."
Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm proud...James Brown!
I wore my Afro proudly and embraced what little melanin God gave me.
Many dark skin girls in America had stories for generations of wanting to be lighter. Using bleaching creams, etc.
That ideology became taboo and went right down the drain in the 1970s.
But I was light and wanted to be darker, like the rest of my family, and the rest of my race. My family has a broad range spectrum, like the entire race.
I found out that tanning was brutal, and I too had to learn to love myself as I am.
I received hate, ridicule and racism from my own race as well. But it didn't have much power over me. It did give me thick skin and a wickedly sharp tongue.
But somehow it was easier to deal with, because slurs against me from my own were not taking opportunities away from me.
It was like family being angry at each other. Not always to forgive and forget.
But systematic racism is harmful in every way. Physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, politically, scientifically and economically, blocking growth and development.
What will we be called next?...
Colored, Negro, Black, African American. Will Nigger always stand the test of time?
The labels jury is still deliberating in my humble opinion.
Colored is finished. Negro is out of the question. Black is a fond memory we still hold onto. And African American created both confusion and comfort. What will we be called next?
We are not the same race today as the race that arrived hundreds of years ago. We came from other places. Mixed with lots of blood over time.
We are being labeled under the same simplistic system as other immigrants who have more direct, less complicated journeys.
Most of our race were not immigrants at all. They came by force and in bondage. But many of us were and are immigrants.
Perhaps UNLABELING everyone in the world might be something to explore. Picture that! Just sayin'.
Please enjoy this spoken word video by the profound Smokey Robinson, A BLACK AMERICAN. Def Poetry.
This supports that I am not the only one that has been feeling this way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRfYMgZekMo
With sincere love to all my World Pulse family...and again special thanks to Nini Mappo for her spark.