Please note for those of you who are literalistic: I mean some, not all, when referencing black or white Americans.
I have a confession to make: I rarely think about my race.
I’m not saying that I am color-blind. I don’t even know what sense to make of that word. What does it convey? That’s like saying: I don’t see men or women, everyone is the same gender. That’s just stupid.
I admire all sorts of things about different groups of people, be it their coloring or cultural or religious heritage. I also enjoy being brown skinned. I enjoy my complexion. I like who I am. I delight in it. It’s just that the race I am (in America) is not at the forefront of my thinking.
However, I like my own definition of self. Yes, for practical reasons, at this point in time, my race is black. Lord knows what tomorrow will bring: What black Americans or the US government will call the group next.
It doesn’t change who or what I am.
And no, I don’t see myself as African American. That’s a misnomer. I was born in Europe, shouldn’t I call myself European American?
I am an American. My cultural heritage is West Indian. I like saying black, because it’s a shorthand term: a political, social subset of Americans with a degree of African heritage, among others.
I have noticed that amongst some generational Americans taking note of your background upsets them. They act like it is an either or choice. Pick one and it’s offensive, pick the other and you are rejecting their social and cultural dictates.
They get upset with hyphenated Americans, or there are others who want people to emphasize the hyphen and fit within their group definition.
White Americans seem to dislike the hyphenation and emphasis on racial / ethnic background.
Black Americans seem to dislike black immigrants who don’t immediately accede to their definition of “black”. For example, a Jamaican, Nigerian, Hutu or Guyanese, etc. may see themselves as a West Indian or African, or whatever first, and not ascribe to being “black”.
Somehow that accurate self-definition is a rejection of them.
I’ve always looked at it this way: black Americans have to stop thinking that immigrants of any color owe them something. They do not. Unfortunately, no one cares if your ancestors fought in the Revolutionary or Civil War or any of the following wars.
They didn’t march and die alone in the Civil Rights movement: some whites and even some black immigrants were right alongside them.
When America decided to change, they felt they were changing it for the better of everyone, not just generational black Americans. Otherwise, the words used in Civil Rights legislation wouldn’t have been “minorities.”
Black Americans also have to stop telling immigrants, Africans and Caribbean peoples, how to define themselves. These people are coming from countries where everyone is more or less the same race.
Who are you to tell them what they are?
Those who complain are the same ones that resent the immigrant for his appearance and progress in this country. Hey, it is a struggle to come here, work, study and start fresh from scratch. It makes them grateful to be here.
They aren’t carrying the scars of past historical racial antagonism with white Americans. So don’t expect them to. They’re not here to do that.
Last, but not least, they come here for a multitude of reasons. If this magnificent country lets them in: they will take advantage of it.
In some cases, that may mean staying, and letting their kids become Americans. Or it may mean going back home to retire after working here a number of years.
Yet, it is not up to black Americans to define who is black in this country.
They have to learn to accept people who come here as they are, and stop demanding more from people who happen to have a degree of African ancestry in common.
At some point, every group assimilates.