The Series: Exploring the New “Black”

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.

Carla T.


Exploring the New “Black”:  Name Calling

Exploring the New “Black”:  Texas Mom Talks Black and White

Exploring the New “Black”:   On Passing…the “Test”

Exploring the New “Black”:  Man versus Myth

Exploring the New “Black”:  Straight Talk from an African in America

Exploring the New “Black:  Haitian New Yorkers Give the Final Word

Related Link: 

Quick Take:  Asian Self-Identity…It’s Not Just Us

5 thoughts on “The Series: Exploring the New “Black”

  1. This series sounds intriguing. Did you hear about the conference taking place at CUNY in April entitled “Theorizing Blackness?”

    By the way, my reply to your email keeps on getting bounced back? Let me know if your server was down?

  2. As a New Yamaican:>), with my roots very deep in my Jamaican heritage, I definitely believe there is a difference between West Indian Americans and African Americans, there is also a difference between Nigerians, Ghanaians and Senegalese Americans and African Americans and that difference is simply “Culture”. The reason your West Indian American students did not sympathize with the Katrina survivors is because we are taught from birth that we rely on ourselves and NOT the government. One only has to look at the history of the different government of Independent Black countries to understand the reason behind the attitude. It is cultural, it is not skin color thing….Europeans, even though they now have the EU and one currency have cultural difference and argue about it all the time….The difference is that, there are remnants of mental slavery lying around and so every constructive criticism is seen as an attack by both W.I. A and A.A. As my fellow countryman said ;>) “emancipate yourself from mental slavery”….The world see all black people as similar but we are all different. I just returned from Ethiopia, where they don’t see themselves as Black….They don’t see themselves as White either, they just see themselves as perfect, someone there told me that there is a story told to children, that white men are underdone clay men and black men are overdone clay men but Ethiopians are perfectly baked clay men. Go figure that one out….

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