When Actress Raven-Symoné sat down with Oprah for her Where Are They Now interview recently, she made some statements that sent the black community into a frenzy (as usual). “I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American,” Raven said. I accept this statement, and agree with her stance. I applaud her bravery, particularly knowing how vicious and un-accepting black people can be as well (sounds familiar).
“I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American”
White persons living in the US are simply called Caucasians regardless of where they migrated from, or where their family originated from. They are certainly not formally being labeled British-Americans or European-Americans and surprise, surprise, they are not fighting to be labeled either. I wonder why? The desire to be label-less is a humanist move that can be understood in a society where the separation of peoples cause more harm than good. Raven’s desire to be label-less comes more from a place of wanting to be accepted as a human being with equal rights as everyone else, as opposed to an entity checked off in a box. It should also be noted that the two labels she prefers not to be categorized as are the two labels that receive the worse treatment in the US, because they fall into those boxes. If we go by the labels of the social ladder, Raven is kinda assed out: she’s a woman, she’s black, and she’s a lesbian (a woman with a woman). These three categories alone will have her at the bottom of the social ladder, and if she wasn’t rich, we would see her having a hell of a hard time getting by right? However, as a human being and only a human being…need I say more?
“…my family is of Amerindian and French decent, but you don’t see me running around calling myself a French-Caribbean or French-Trinidadian right? “
Many people are upset. Wait. Many “African-American” people are upset because Raven chose not to be labeled as“African-American,”stating that she does not know her roots in Africa. She has been accused of selling out to white America, not being properly taught, and a “product of Hollywood.” She has even been called a “house- slave.” However, she continued to state that she is sure she is from Louisiana. A fact she can proudly attest to because it is the truth. I ask many of you “African-Americans” out there, where in Africa are you from? What region? What tribe? Are you able to trace your roots? Or is your family just from Bed-stuy and you eat Nigerian food once a month? I am from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T). I know this for a fact. T&T is in the Caribbean, thus I am of Caribbean decent. I know this for a fact. As a part of the American fabric of society, I can also identify with being a Caribbean-American as a fact because of the aforementioned tracing. My lineage could very well be from the slaves that were shipped to the Americas, however, I don’t know this for a fact. As far back as I can trace my roots (so far), the black side of my family that has given me my beautiful skin is from Tobago, and the other side of my family is of Amerindian and French decent, but you don’t see me running around calling myself a French-Caribbean or French-Trinidadian right? Do you see where I’m going with this? Raven should not be chastised because she refuses to be labeled as something she does not identify with. It is said that black people with celebrity status who prefer not to have identity labels (such as Pharrell Williams and Raven) are a disappointment to the black community who are consistently dehumanized. However, what people fail to realize is that she never said she was not black. She stated she was not African-America and that is HER truth. I even read, “The ability to distinguish between being black and African-American, as Symoné did, is a privilege that most people don’t have,” in one article about her. I don’t have her fame or money but I certainly have that privilege and so do all other black people.
“African-Americans” are too sensitive and very hypocritical. I observe the way most “African-Americans” treat Africans from Africa and I am appalled. You fight for their name, and when your brothers and sisters come to this country you treat them like dirt, make fun of them and create walls around them. Make up your mind. You cannot want to identify yourselves as Africans and refuse to accept the people who actually come from Africa or can distinctively trace their roots back there. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for blacks to be accepted into the American society as equals. Why fight to separate yourselves via a label? We are all Americans. America is a melting pot of peoples. Not wanting to be labeled as African-American is not a disrespect to the struggles black people have faced and continue to face daily here in the US. It is just one step in the right direction of not further separating ourselves from what blacks have been fighting for – to be treated as an American and have rights as any other American. And by the way, wearing a Dashiki and speaking profusely about Kemet also does not make you African. Just throwing that out there. Get it together people. We have more important things to be fighting for.