Jul 26, 2010

"Are You African?"

This question was asked of me in passing yesterday and it got me thinking…

I went to a restaurant with my friends and one of the workers was very “enthralled by our beauty”- his words, not mine. He asked us, as we walked out the door, “are you guys African?” We all simultaneously turned around and responded a quick “No” and kept walking, but in those 3-5 steps, something my brain clicked. Suddenly I felt compelled to change my answer so I turned around and said “actually mister, yeah, we are!” He chuckled to himself, and we kept walking, but it got me thinking.

I was born here in America, Brooklyn “home of the greatest rappers” to be exact, but my parents hail from the gorgeous island of Grenada which I also call home (another damn issue because I’m tired of Grenadians calling me a damn Yankee! But... I digress).

Now in laying out my nationality(s), I never mention Africa because I was not born on the land, nor were my parents, but in truth MANY (if not all) of us are African. We never seem to even think about our inherent “Africanness” because of many reasons. For some of us, it’s a social issue, being labeled “African” comes with so many negative connotations that people are almost fearful of being considered African. For others, it’s a more nationalistic issue. We are taught nationalism (though I don’t think I ever picked up that concept very well) from a young age; the land you, or your parents, were born on is the one you claim, whole heartedly, in an almost psychotically fanatical way! I mean really “I’d die for my country!”... hell no, not me! I’m sorry there’s just not that much a land does for me that I’m trying to die for it. I mean, isn’t survival a basic instinct? But, once again, I digress.

Europeans, Asian, Pacific Islanders, Indians, Hispanics and many more can almost always trace back their roots to Africa. In fact, there have been multiple studies and tests that show some “white” (I hate that damn term) people are more African than some “black” (I hate that term also) people. So how come when we’re asked the question “Where are you from” Africa is never in the answer?

I know some people that will say “Well, I am ½ Chinese, ½ Indo-Asian, ½ Caribbean, and ½ Italian”… Uh... Okay. Now, I have several problems with this answer. The first is, either you are a rare specimen and there are two people in you, or your special self didn’t do so well in math. Four halves DOES NOT equal a whole… Oh boy, the school systems today... The second is, do you know WHY you are all those things? Chances are, someone in your family had a not-so-great night with someone, whom they called “massa”, at one point and I’d rather not claim that.

I’m proud to be human quite frankly. Whether I’m Grenadian, African, American, Polish, Italian, Hawaiian, or WHATEVER you want to call me. At the end of the day, I bleed red blood, I cry, and I feel just like every other person. I think that the idea of the question “What are you” is what really struck me in his initial question of “Are you African”. How do you answer the question “What are you?” Some people respond “I’m black” or some respond with a country. Obviously someone needs to set the standard way to actually answer that question. Until then, my response will be “I’m human” because THAT I am sure of... Or am i???


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