If you read this and feel as if I’m ranting, I am.
My whole life, I have been lead to believe that I was just ‘Black’. I’ve never even given it a second thought until a recent trip to Toronto. A girl came to me and asked “What are you?” and I replied almost with a duh that I was “Black”. She laughed. I was confused. She went on to say “Duh we are all black, I mean where is your family originally from, what are your roots?” I had no answer, outside of saying that I was an African American, without even realizing that she was asking about my ethnicity. In light of the moment, I played it cool, but I have been thinking about that ever since. Ive made the same mistake that many of us have made before, of confusing race and ethnicity, and honestly I don’t feel like it’s my fault for being confused.
Think about it.
Do you know how ignorant it really sounds to call yourself black? A lot of us, including myself, have seriously misunderstood the concepts of race and ethnicity. Race is essentially a color identifier: you’re either white or non white. It has been socially imposed and is essentially hierarchical. You have no control of how your race is viewed by others, and here it’s almost as if the two are intertwined and one in the same.
No other place uses and emphasized on races as heavily as America. It’s as if your ethnicity does not matter at all. I want to know my real ethnicity , I want to know where my ancestors are from on both sides of my family. I know I’m not from here. This is not my true place of origin. Its unfair that we can’t pinpoint where we are from. I hate to say that all I know is that my ancestors are from Africa. Africa is the most diverse continent in the world. Kenya is a country. Nigeria is a country. Ethiopia is country. Africa is NOT a country. Imagine a white person being taken away from America and referring to themselves as being North American. That could be Mexico. That could be Canada. That could be Jamaica. Do you see where I’m going with this?
I’m not usually a jealous person, but I can’t deny my jealousy when I hear a white person say “Yeah I’m Irish and my great great great great grandpa was the Duke of Manchester” or something like that. I can trace my family lineage up too my great grandmother and great grandfather who were immigrants from Antigua and Turks and Caicos in the 1920s. And thats only because they told my grandmother where they came from. There are no records for them.
The fact that we were even taken is a problem to begin with, but could they not have had the decency to at least take records of what they were taking. Did they not realize that they were disrupting a heritage, robbing an identity? Was there no consideration of the future? Did they not think that we too would eventually want to trace our roots? Are we any less human?
I could go on, I probably will another day.
I love being ‘black’, I love our culture. But I hate being confused ethnically and incorrectely identified as ‘black’. But I don’t also do not like being simplified to being an African American, just because that’s where we needed up. I know that’s not who I really am. I want to know where my ancestors were stolen from. I want to know my real identity.
This is for everyone who is confused or has been confused. Don’t settle.
By Keith Haynie, Editor in Chief