Along the cultural timeline of Black America are periods marked by a change in our moniker of preference. “Blacks” – “Negroes” – “Coloreds” – and at present the consensus is probably: “African-American”. This vacillation – or “schizophrenic” tendency is indicative of a sort of identity crisis in the black community – Or should I say African-American community?? See what I mean? And this is no insignificant dilemma you understand; as in “tomato vs. tomata”. It is not a “Puff Daddy” vs. “P. Diddy” vs. “just DIDDY now if you please” type of scenario. It is rather, a serious entree into a psychological conundrum that is rooted in a theft of our very roots as a culture.
When the enslavers of the past decided to embark upon the barbaric voyage that was the Atlantic slave-trade, they not only confiscated bodies they confiscated souls. When they decided to tear families apart for sheer personal economic exploitation – in the process they also engaged in an identity theft that to this very day has not been accounted for or restored. Upon their arrival to American shores slaves were treated as mere objects – as chattel – as property to be demeaned – devalued – and alas demoralized. They were not considered humans by their captors – they were livestock subject to the very depths of human depravity. And even after emancipation the cruelty continued – physically – mentally – and spiritually. Black folks were told in thought – word – and in deed – that they simply did not matter and the laws of the land affirmed as much (many still do to this day).
So it was that over time – as laws became less harsh – but not nearly perfected – black people began the difficult task of trying to reconstruct our identity as a people. We were attempting to find the humanity and dignity that had been pilfered when the first slave was pushed beneath the deck of a slave ship and ushered off to the New World. Who were we? How could we move forward in a land where we were hated? One way was to maybe change our racial description. The term “black man” or “black woman” almost sounded dirty or degrading because of the stigma and inferiority that had been attached to it by way of the appalling acts performed by members of the majority for centuries. This ignited a journey of self-exploration to try and restore not only our culture but our very self-esteem. A journey that the white folks who had inflicted the pain and suffering never had to even think to embark upon themselves. The word “white” was just fine.
The aforementioned journey led to what has by now become a seemingly never-ending quest to reclaim a stolen identity of a people who embodied, ipso facto, the dubious title of: “persona non grata”. Thus, we are (all Americans that is) still not all-together sure what to call Africans who were brought to this country against their will – but who nonetheless now call America our permanent home. And to be clear it is the barbaric and inhumane treatment – the stripping away of culture and demeaning of the black community then and now – that precipitated the stereotypes – precipitated the disregard for the sanctity of life – and precipitated the emasculation of our community…which has in its totality led to this dilemma or predicament if you will.
I personally hope that as a people (people of all races in America) we come back around to referring to black people as “black people” (a novel idea I know). And that we leave it there in perpetuity. While I certainly understand why the ambivalence was there to begin with (post slavery) – we need to reinvent the wheel so to speak in this instance – appreciate “black culture” in all its facets. Instilling fear and self-loathing within black people – while also associating the negative connotations that have been forged over centuries to black people was an intentional act. And so undoing all of that will have to be intentional as well. America will certainly have to do some soul-searching and the process will take time – no doubt. But, it will be worth it because our very soul is at stake as Americans and our collective identity morally speaking is as well. Looks like Black Americans are not the only ones searching for who we will finally choose to become at the end of the day.
Oreos to go: Whether black or white – or any other race – we should all feel as though we are comfortable in our own skin in America.
More than a blog. It’s a movement.
Though there is much more that could be said, I will have to stop for now. But hopefully you will continue the conversation in your living rooms, at your places of worship, and even with that person of another race you just met as you were walking down the street in your neighborhood.
And also I do have what I think is another interesting plate of cookies on a platter for next Monday (you can share via social media buttons below), when I hope you will join me again to talk some more oreos.