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Category Archives: Cultural

A Misqualified Identity?

Black vs African-American

Image courtesy of Google Images.

The term ‘African-American’ is loosely used by black Americans to define themselves. It is often used in association with race as if it in itself is a race, when it it is not (i.e. black is the race while the above might be the Nationality). At the same token, taking away the political correctness of the term, can one ever truly have more than one nationality? One can only enjoy citizenship(s) of a country and be a national of only one. So ultimately, how correct is it – even politically – to be called an ‘African-American’? I realise this is a very contentious topic, however, so please excuse my enquiry in advance if you feel ‘attacked’ as I express my personal opinion. I do not intend to offend anybody, nor do I claim to be an authority on the subject. This blog post is a result of discussions amongst peers and therefore, and though the considerations brought forward are from an educated perspective, no intensive historical/sociological/other research was conducted (it is, after all, a blog, and not an academic paper). Ok, that’s the disclaimer taken care of. Moving on…

Being African means different things to different people. Some argue that it is about being born on African soil, others say it is being born to African parents, others say it is about having a knowledge of, a respect for, and actively participating in the traditional beliefs held by Africans, while others still say, it is merely about having geneological roots that trace one back to Africa. Considering all these factors, being dark-skinned/black is also associated with being African. Logically, this is because black people originate in Africa, just as being caucasian/white is associated with being European. The black or white terms each have their own historical associations to which every individual can choose to identify. Hence, mixed race people can either choose to be labelled black or white. But is being an African simply a matter of skin color? And if so, how does this affect all the other aspects expected of one who claims to be African?

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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Cultural

 

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“How Come You Don’t Speak Black?”

Asked as if it ‘Black’ were a language. The question got me thinking of answers; perhaps because of my primary and secondary socialisation, maybe the institutions I was educated at, possibly the countries I’ve visited, but then maybe also, the influences of the media, which in subtle ways informed the way I speak. Language plays a pivotal role in shaping us and defining our racial backgrounds, which is why people often ask me this. I am proudly black, but do not possess black names, neither do I sound black. Many a time, at job interviews, for example, having only spoken with someone, but now physically meeting them, they look positively taken-aback as if I was a fraud.

Then, because racial talk is almost taboo here, they’ll ask me twice or thrice if I am actually the name on my resume (as if I don’t know who I am). The media are relevant because for example, comedians, are often guilty of fertilizing  the seeds of racial profiling with, I must confess, absolutely hilarious skits about different races. As we passively watch and drink in, and remember, how American Comedian Katt Williams jokes using a prissy ‘proper’ accent when referring to how white people are helpful if one misdials a number late at night. He then switches to a black ‘Ebonics’ ( http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ebonics ) accent when referencing how a black individual would behave when high on Marijuana. If he did the same skit using ‘normal’ English and without changing his accent, it wouldn’t have the rib-clutchingly funny, rolling-on-floor-laughing effect it has. Follow the link and note the nuances therein. .

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Posted by on March 11, 2011 in Cultural

 

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