Earlier this week in an interview with Oprah, Raven Symone set the internet aflame when she declared that she wasn’t African American, but American, and spoke of how she was tired of being labeled and being defined by her race and sexuality.
Predictably, the social justice bloggers and tweeters didn’t miss a beat in invalidating everything she’d said as “new black self hate” or something along those lines, and while personally, I find the hipster, free love “the only race is the human race” ideology to be infantile and void of substance, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Raven’s rejection of the term “African American.”
She went on to explain herself:
“I don’t know where my roots go to. I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know I have roots in Louisiana. I’m an American, and that’s a colorless person.”
My family has been in the United States for at least 9 generations, and probably longer. I can only speak for myself, but I dislike the term ‘African American’ not because I’m trying to distance myself from my race, but because I don’t think my race makes me any less of an American. Why should I claim a culture an ocean away, that I have no connection to besides an involuntary boat ride that probably took place two or three centuries ago? Why aren’t white Americans referred to as European-Americans, and why should my deep rooted American identity be invalidated on account of my melanin? Calling myself and African-American makes just about as much sense as white people with a great great great great great grandfather that was vaguely tan and had super high cheek bones calling themselves Native American.
While Raven is without a doubt a person of color, she is absolutely right in her claim that an American is a colorless person. There is no American complexion, hair color, or hair type. In a round about, poorly worded hipster way, Raven Symone was right. This country is just as much hers as anyone else’s.