So today in one of my classes the students were reading about "African" Americans in a narrative in one of their English books. One of the students, of course, looked at me and asked, "Teacher, are you African American?" I reluctantly responded yes. It was not worth the time and energy nor would this little 9 year old Korean girl understand why I do not identify myself as being an African American. So I decided to just give her the simple answer so we could finish our lesson.
The term "African" American seems to me to be a desperate method to be politically correct when it is used to define ALL Blacks! Now there are people that can be defined as "African" American. Barack Obama is an "African American". He was born to a Kenyan father and a White American mother. The District's Bup is an "African American". She is a first generation Ghanaian woman who was born in America. These are some definitions of people whom I believe are "African American".
I consider myself a Black American because my family's culture and what we identify with is being an American that happens to be Black. I do not know exactly where my family comes from. Now I can assume that I come from Africa but I do not necessarily know from what part. I have asked my 89 year old grandfather (my oldest known living family member) about the history of our family and he knows nothing past Georgia and Florida plantations. When talking to my grandmother about our family lineage she pulled out a picture of her grandmother that was a 6'2 Native American woman. So I am not "African" American. I am a Black American because no matter where my people may have come from when people look at me they see a Black woman who is an American.
I remember my freshman year in college when everyone was introducing themselves at the house meeting in my dorm. (I lived in a special interest dorm that was for minority students.) Everyone was introducing themselves and repping where they were from.
"I am Guyanese and I'm from Brooklyn."
"I am Haitian and I am from the Bronx."
"I am Nigerian and I am from Maryland."
"I am Dominican and I am from Queens"
(In case you haven't guessed I went to school in upstate NY)
"I am Black and I am from Pittsburgh." - Guess who???
At first I felt awkward not knowing my exact nationality. Where I was from, you were Black or you were White. That's it! There was an occasional Latino and of course a plethora of Asians. But if you were Black, you were Black and that was it! Then I thought to myself I do know my nationality. I am a Black American. I have a culture. I have an identity. I have a struggle. I have a purpose as a Black American woman. I do not need to define myself any more than this because that in itself holds great meaning.
I do consider it to be quite a gift to know exactly where your roots can be traced back to. I am still trying to get more clarity on my family lineage. However, in my attempts to discover this I have been led to many different possibilities. Therefore, I do not like being forced into the category of African American because that is not who I am. I am a Black American.