Because that’s who we are!
A short time ago, I wrote a response to a newspaper article in which I’d read. Since the article dealt with a crime that had occurred, the race of the people involved, and the opinions others had combining those two factors, I identified myself as an AFRICAN AMERICAN. One poster, (we’ll call him “uniformed and unenlightened”) stated that he agreed with everything I’d said as it related to the article, but why did I have to identify myself as AFRICAN AMERICAN? He stated that “The peoples of Africa are so diverse, “African” is a meaningless term and the Afrocentric movement is also meaningless. Think of Europe where England and the English people and their history have nothing to with Poland.”
At first, I’ll admit, I was a bit taken aback by this persons audacity to challenge me on why I identify myself the way that I do. A bit later though I realized, that even out of the mouths of the most ignorant the most ingenious things can be realized by those who are wise enough to observe.
In the lives of black people in America, there has been, and still is, a common thread that binds us. That common thread is the fact that “we” are used to having things taken from us.
~ Now before I go into detail about what I mean about the statement I just made let me first say this…. My statement, in no way, is meant to discount Black/African Americans, and the things that they intentionally, unintentionally, purposely, or inadvertently given away. We must claim absolute responsibility for the things that we can control, and given the time that we currently live in, that means, just about everything. We have absolute control of the education we obtain, the way we relate to our neighbors, the way we walk, the way we talk, the jobs we choose, the way we present ourselves to others, the way we raise our children, our response to authority, the things we expose ourselves to, etc. etc. etc. My words are not meant to justify decisions of stupidity, or to blame the “WHITE MAN” for the things that currently happen to us personally, and/or as a community. It is, however, meant and said to remind you of things that must not be forgotten…~
Now back to what I was saying about our ‘common thread’…. To my black /African American readers… How far can you trace your ancestry back to? Chances are, you can trace it back to maybe 4 generations (and that’s being generous). The simple truth here is that if you really wanted to, you’d find more than significant difficulty in attempting to discern what makes up the composite of what ultimately became you.
For many of us the stain of the American Slave Trade extends just to our Grandparents’ Grandparent’s, (and if your family is on the younger, side just add another set of Grandparents to the mix) and there you have it!
We are instantly taken back to a time where even our names were not something that we could absolutely claim. We go back to where no record was kept of who your mom, or dad actually were, where women were conspicuously raped, made to bare their masters’ child, have that child snatched away from them and given to another (to breastfeed, to raise) as he raped her again, giving her no more importance than a dog bought only for the purpose of being bred. We’re transported to a time where a husband & wife could be snatched from one another’s arms, their marriage instantly ended by the exchange of commerce, (as marriage was encouraged by slave owners to keep the men from being rebellious, and to keep the slave women bearing children, it was, at times, told to the women that they could obtain their freedom after they bore 15 children, girls were expected to start having babies at the age of 13 and by the age of 20 they were expected to have borne at least 5). Aren’t these facts and scenarios amazingly appalling? There’s more, oh so much more, but for the sake of time, and out of respect for my “carpal tunnel” I won’t continue on with the details but I’m sure you’ve heard and can imagine more.
Now fast forward to a time, not too long past, 1955-1968. It was a time when the Grandchildren of former slaves participated in the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.
“The civil rights movement was a struggle by African Americans in the mid-1950s to late 1960s to achieve civil rights equal to those of whites, including equal opportunity in employment, housing, and education, as well as the right to vote, the right of equal access to public facilities, and the right to be free of racial discrimination.” (www.encyclopedia.com) After returning home from WWII, and still facing oppression African Americans, in a sense, decided to revolt. They became sick and tired of their pride being taken and destroyed, tired of taking the back seat, tired of just standing by and taking obscenities, tired of not being able to speak up without having the fear of someone taking their lives.
Now, although we still live in a time when obvious racism still exists, we have been propelled, thanks to our African Ancestors, to be in a position to achieve what was once only a dream. We have the opportunities to make our communities a place where we teach our young right from wrong, encourage them to become educated and to be successful. We can set the standards by which we want to live, and demand that those standards be the rule and not the exception.
We need to know about our pasts and relate to the trials that were endured. We need to know something, if not directly, periphrastically, about the areas and the cultures from whence we ultimately came from, and then, ultimately lost.
Coming to the United States, for most of our ancestors, was not a choice or an option. Therefore, the loss of heritage cannot be something that we can take blame for. However, ignorantly, passively, living without taking advantage of the opportunity afforded to us, to be able to learn about those people, and the land from whence we came, is something that we can, most times, be held accountable.
With so many things lost in the transition to get us from where we were to where we now are, is it wrong for me to identify myself as an African/American? After all, African is what my Great, Great, Grandmother and Grandfather were, and it makes sense that if it were not for them then there would be no me. To deny their existence, to deny their struggle, and to deny their lives would be a denial of myself.
Although I am aware that there are people in the world who, because of my race, would prefer I have no identity at all I still call myself AFRICAN/AMERICAN my genetics come from the land of Africa, and my body resides in America. In my opinion that is the epitome of what an AFRICAN/AMERICAN is.
If calling myself by name offends, then guess what my dear? “I really, don’t give a damn!~ Because that’s who I am! Because that’s who WE are~ and for the record, that is something that can NEVER BE TAKEN.
Thank you for reading,
Trennell/ a.k.a Trenni