I’m so over it. Way over it. I’m over that question: Are you black enough? It was asked of Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton during this year’s annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).
The same was asked of Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barak Obama who has fielded this question numerous times in numerous forms. He has more than tired of such an inquiry believing any further discussion of the matter is simply diversionary.
The real question is not whether someone is black enough but what does it mean to be “black” in America? What is a “black American” or an “African American? The ultimate questions being: What’s in a name?
According to the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture more Africans have emigrated to America as free men and women than were brought to these shores as slaves. And Caribbean populations are growing in cities like Atlanta and New York City.
Can they, should they be called “black” or “African American” or some other hyphenate, newly created or not?
Although we may be racially the same, we are ethnically diverse. A difficult concept to grasp for many in the dominant culture as well as blacks with Southern roots.
I’ve explored this subject before – “the new black Americans”– in a piece for AOL Black Voices which was inspired by a classroom discussion of the views people of Caribbean ancestry have of African Americans.
I discovered that the Caribbean students, many of Jamaican descent, hold the same negative stereotypes of African Americans as do many in the dominant culture. The discussion took place just days after Hurricane Katrina had devastated the Gulf. The victims of the disaster received no sympathy from this group who thought the survivors were unresourceful and foolish in their reliance on and expectation of government assistance. The black “American” students, who were clearly outnumbered, offered a rebuttal which was wrought with stereotypes of Caribbean people. The exchange came dangerously close to a boiling point.
As someone who is the product of a father of Caribbean descent and a mother whose roots run deep in the American South, I always knew there was tension between the groups but I had no idea the extent of the animosity.
Although I have explored the subject before, I believe that it’s time to revisit it. With the Obama candidacy, not-so-new questions and old conflicts have emerged. So, beginning in September, The Ride will feature a series of Q&As with people who will explore what it means to be “black” or “African American” and whether these monikers reflect outdated constructs that no longer apply to such an ethnically diverse people.
I invite you to join in on what I hope to be a lively and honest discussion. And from time to time I will add my own two cents.
Stay True. Stay Fabulous. And enjoy The Ride.