I May Not Get There with you……Reflections on Ethnicity, Identity and Nationality.
I have been under the weather lately and indulging my cable news habit waaaay to much. I have watched everything form MSNBC to FOXNEWS, I realize I gotta cut my news consumption and find a way to cope with my addiction while I live this pitiful burg. I feel like Reilly at the end of the first season of the Boondocks “is their anything worth watching on TV?” I have always taken social issues seriously and I am not around many people who feel that way I do on a regular basis. I am also not in a position to continue the kind of social or educational action that use to be my life’s blood.
As I have said many times before, I am of West Indian heritage so fighting is in my history. Granny Nancy and the Maroons terrorized the English colonials so much they gave them a piece of Jamaica. They still did not stop fighting. On the my other side, Julian Fedon, a mulatto plantation owner held the Island of Grenada against the British for four months, Fedon recalled the native Grenadians who leapt off a mountain top instead of face slavery at the hands of the English centuries before him. If you have wondered why West Indians are so damn prideful, now ya know.
Ignoring my news addiction will be hard. It is the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. CNN is going to spend the day and the month of July talking about the racial divide with a start at 1-4 and 8-12 today. I am listening to their documentary on Dr. King’s assassination as I write. I did not want to move to America as a child because he was killed years before my migration. II was taught that he was a hero. I also did not want to move because America killed Asian folks that looked like my classmates in Canada.
My connection to African America began listening to my father and his cohorts discuss the end of the dying revolution in America. By the time we moved to America I already had a connection to people of color. It has been shaken, it has always remained strong. By the time I left Canada I had read King, Wright, Baldwin, and Ellison thinking that African Americans my age would have also. It was hard to go from being a proud black Canadian who fighting kids who had just realized the my blackness was bad to my first day at school in the Bronx where I was threatened because I was acting too white! I ended the valedictorian of my 6th grade class and everyone loved me! By the time I got to high school I had it with both ideas, and was simply me. Unapologetically Black no mater what.! To know what that means you have to know me…. well.
It is hard as a person who has spent my life as a iconoclast, to be happy living in the “heartland” of America, where the most have incredibly ridiculous ideas about ethnicity. I use the word ethnicity because the word race does not apply. If people of African ancestry were black, they would be dead from an inability to absorb Vitamin D through their skin. People of African descent have European and Native ancestry, and DNA proves it. In my educated opinion, the only things that keep us together is our ancestors survival of the horrific Middle Passage, acknowledgment of our colonial and enslaved past and the continuation struggle to keep our American citizenship. The history and cultures arising from this histories are as multitudinous as they are similar. Geography, class and immigration history within and to America plays a great deal in what one sees their African American identity.
I became American because it was my parents wish, I stay American because they are buried here. I could have stayed English or Canadian for the rest of my life with no problem. I was lucky to continue grow up in the Bronx and after my intimal tiff. I never had a big issue about my identity, because I grew up around immigrants and African Americans who were making to jump into our middle class. The shock of living in Little Rock, Arkansas and Carbondale, Illinois has made me realize how those differences have made me feel alien, recalling the words to Oh, Canada, and watching way too much English TV.
The Midwest is a place of ignorance for me, I have been astounded at how people have tried to treat me both black and white based on the color of my skin and other superficial factors. I mean ignorance in Webster dictionary way – “uneducated in the fundamentals of a given art or branch of learning; lacking knowledge of a specific field.” The field is the history and feelings of all ethnic groups in America.
We have a man running for President did who is unashamedly black and can represent all others. He could take “transcendent” road and not be black, instead he took on African American ancestry like I did. For the first time the African American stuggle to free themselves of slavery is part of a campaign victory speech. The nausea I get when I hear that the slave owners who wrote the Constitution as supported freedom abated. He made me tearfully proud. But the so called conversation on race that he called for has still not happened and it is because we are ignorant, White talking heads on FOX NEWS , CNN and MSNBC couch their nonsense in the term “I am not racist but,,,, ” and then hear an equally dumbass remark coming from a black person. They are both ignorant and do not represent me. Like my soror Fannie Lou Hamer “I am sick of being sick and tired.” I cannot rev up the enthusiasm I just heard from my Sorors Senators Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Eleanor Holes Norton on CNN. If the facts and feelings of black and white are not truthfully exchanged, we will be doing the same dance weather or not Barack Obama wins or not.
We are in no way ready or a conversation on race, because it would include the vistages of Native America, the growing Hispanic/Latino America, the Immigrant African American population and Asian Americans including the folks who are a bit of them all. America must have room for all our stories. Accept that African Americans do not celebrate the 4th of July and Thanksgiving the way whites do. They are family gatherings nothing more, accept it. Accept that Asian Americans can be just as loud and obnoxious as any other American. That Native Americans do not consider the term “redskins’ a complement, accept that calling someone Latino who has spent their life as Hispanic may get you slapped. Just like I wanna slap someone who makes a uniformed derogatory remark about Caribbean folks. Will we ever stop so ignorant??? I choose the words Dr. King “I may not get there with you…..” and those of Arron McGuder “I am going to Canada(or England or Jamaica)”
About this entry
You’re currently reading “I May Not Get There with you……Reflections on Ethnicity, Identity and Nationality.,” an entry on Black is, Black Ain't
- April 4, 2008 / 9:56 am