I rarely rarely ever agree with any Michael McWhorter says, but even a broke clock is right twice a day. Or so the saying goes. So when I was forwarded these excerpts from a post written by Mr. McWhorter on The New Republic Blogs, I was very ready to disagree and burn in effigy the font he used to write such malarkey. The thing is, in some ways I agree with his general premise.
Oh yeah, I forgot, here’s the premise (I know you all don’t like reading two posts in order to read one so here are the pertinent parts):
The figures from the American Community Survey just in are more than crunched numbers. They suggest that this might be a good year for a certain term now familiar in American parlance to be, if not consigned to history, reassigned.
Namely, as of now, almost 1 in 10 black people are foreign-born. About 1 in 30 are from Africa. Which means that they are–you see where I’m going–African American in the true sense. Certainly a truer sense–true as in making sense–than Tracy Morgan, Donna Brazile, Jesse Jackson, or Mo’Nique.
Interesting assertion, though quite frankly, anybody who wants to draft Mo’Nique in the next race draft is more than welcome as far as I’m concerned.
It’d be one thing if it were a hundred years ago and lots of black people still had parents who had been born into slavery and grandparents who actually “spoke African,” as it was sometimes put. But this is a very different time.
A possible objection, I imagine, is that native-born blacks are African in a “different” way than actual African immigrants–but this would be a feint rather than an argument: clearly, the proper formulation, if we are to put it on the table, is that native-born blacks are African to a much lesser extent than African immigrants. In truth, a black man from Jacksonville has more in common with a white one from Tucson than he does with a man three years out of Senegal.
And I would argue that native-born blacks are so vastly less “African” than actual Africans that calling ourselves “African American” is not only illogical but almost disrespectful to African immigrants. Here are people who were born in Africa, speak African languages, eat African food, dance in African ways, remember African stories, and will spiritually always be a part of Africa–and we stand up and insist that we, too, are “African” because Jesse Jackson said so?
It’s an interesting question, no? There is some truth there. While many of us refer to ourselves as African-American, the fact is, most of us are no more African at this point than that “Irish” kid in Boston who’s parents came over on some random ship in the 1700s. Sure we’re all of descent, but given that there really ARE actual African-Americans (children of first generation African immigrants born here) who seemingly still readily identify as African, how African American am I?
Truth be told, I pretty much just call myself Black anyway and I think I’ve heard more white people say African-American than I’ve heard Black folks say it. But it is a word that is commonly donned upon our community without much objection.
Consider this: a white man from down South and a Black man from down South more than likely share a lot of the same customs, eating habits, and religious practices. The only thing separating most of us is social justice and race. But American? Sure, we’re all as American as it gets. One of my best friends went to Kenya when we were in college and upon his return he said he’s no longer considering himself an African-American, just an American, because he couldn’t be more different than the folks he met in Kenya. While I found that synopsis a bit shortsighted at the time, I do understand what he meant.
I have African friends who’ve alluded to being fearful of American Blacks (we’ve talked about this before on VSB).
Of course, it’s not really Black folks holding onto the African-American thing as handily as it is white people making sure to let us know that we’re not “American” American so perhaps McWhorter’s words are directed at the wrong audience.
But I ask you, thinking people of VSB, does it still make sense for American-born Black folks to be considering themselves as African-Americans?
Hell, does it even matter?
What say you?
P has spoken.
-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka TANGLE JIG P aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL, HE A 3 (PENDING 4)