Recent comments made by Raven-Symoné may have been ignorant and self-depreciating, but were not, by any stretch of the imagination, uncommon. On national television she stated: “I’m an American, not an African American. I don’t know where my roots go (in Afrika). I don’t know how far back they go, and what country they go to. But I do know that I have roots in Louisiana.” As if this wasn’t insult enough to her ancestors, and all self-respecting Black people in this country, this African American actress, who is undeniably of African ancestry, goes on to say: “I’m an American, and that’s a colorless person. I have a lot of things running through my veins.” Increasingly we are seeing more and more politically undereducated and self-hating African Americans attempting to dis-identify from their Blackness.
However, this behavior is not without precedent. Historically, even esteemed scholars such as W.E.B. Dubois have, at one time or another, attempted to dis-identify from their Blackness, ridiculously claiming that they were the sum total of far too many different racial genotypes to affirmatively identity with their predominate Afrikanity. Although dis-identification has been a problem for Blacks since the end of slavery, we have seen a dramatic increase in this strategy since the election of President Obama and the birth of the alleged, and definitely hypocritical, “post-racial society.” How can a society that proclaims to be post-racial explain the record-breaking suspension and expulsion rate of kindergarten Black boys, or the highest incarceration rate in the world that disproportionately targets Black men and women.
The belief that anyone in this country will cease to identify you with your particular race just because you hate your membership within that particular group is ridiculous. All politics in America are race based. Every job and dollar spent is in neglect of, or support for, one racial group or the other. Raven-Symoné, and other Negro victims of White supremacy haven’t the slightest clue about the true significance of race in this country. However, their frequent comments, expressing their desires not to be Black, only adds to the argument on whether Blackness is still relevant in a society with a Black president, and millions of African Americans who prefer not to be identified with their most obvious physical and biological characteristic, their racial background. The question on whether Blackness is still relevant in a society based on White privilege is rather ridiculous in a country where White police officers kill at least two unarmed Black men a week, without probable cause, and aren’t even brought in for questioning. If you think America is post-racial then go ask the parents of Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown their opinion. Still further, visit anyone of America’s prisons where a plethora of Black men and women await life sentences for no other reason than not having enough money to hire a decent attorney.
The recent movement spurred by many Blacks to dis-identify from their race has inadvertently supported the rise in attention being paid to the political agendas of other minority groups, who don’t have a problem being who they are, most notably, gays and Latinos, both of whom are aggressively championing their causes on the local, state and national level. The American social order has definitely done its part to confuse the descendants of enslaved Afrikans by recently adding to the legal nomenclature additional racial categories, such as bi-racial and multi-racial, which gives 21st century Blacks a false belief in the so-called post-racial America. These new racial descriptors do nothing more but sow even more dissension within a group of people whose only solution lies in their identification and unification as a distinct racial group. The psychological consequences of calling oneself biracial and multiracial lie in the false sense of separateness it gives the victim from the rest of their African American in-group. Still further, it promotes an attitude of less Black and more White, which spells disaster for internal racial harmony amongst African Americans still suffering the vestiges of Post-Traumatic Slavery Disease (PTSD) and light-skinned supremacy. Not to mention the fact that for hundreds of years White Americans paid to attention to the bi-racial parentage of neither its free or enslaved Afrikans, which begs the question as to why they claim to be so concerned about mixed parentage all of a sudden.
If running away from being Black is impossible, if one’s racial identity is biologically fixed at birth, then why do so many Blacks try anyway? The answers to this question are too numerous to be addressed here, but for the sake of discussion, we will reduce it to two simple answers: self-hatred and political deception. Let it not be lost on you that Blacks are the only people in the United States who are actively trying to be what they are not. African Americans are the only active proponents of integration and a color-blind identity, and both are the logical consequences of a people not wanting to be unashamedly who they really are. In her conversation with Oprah, a confused Raven-Symoné stated: “I don’t label myself. I have darker skin. I have a nice interesting grade of hair…” These comments reveal her obvious hatred for self, and yet her simultaneous approval of Eurocentric standards of beauty, which is usually at the core of most Black persons’ reasoning for wanting to escape their Blackness in the first place: notably not being physically attractive according to White standards, and also not being socially desired by White people.
Since the beginning of human history most groups have valued their cultural-historical uniqueness, and most still do. When was the last time you found an Anglo-Saxon, European Jew, Asian, Arab, East Indian or Native American trying to be something other than themselves. These are very proud people who represent and identify with their collective racial experience wherever they go. Only because of self-hatred is the Afrikan trying to be what he or she is not. In the past, African Americans would deal with racism by confronting it dead on. However, in the Obama era, rather than fight against racial oppression, many Blacks have simply chosen to dis-identify from being Black altogether. The politics of racial invisibility and color-blindness is certainly a welcomed change of tactic by the United States government as it would help to expedite their agenda of wholesale mass incarceration and extermination of African American people.
The entire purpose of the Post-Racial America Campaign is to convince the foremost victims of White supremacy, American Blacks, that their skin color, or more accurately that their cultural-genetic uniqueness, is no longer considered a threat to European ambitions, in hopes that they forego their racial identity so that it can be conceptually amalgamated into the larger imaginary political construct of simply being an ‘American.’ This would be quite an anomaly since every other American’s identity in this country is afforded a cultural prefix that anchors them somewhere else in the world (i.e., Italian American, Chinese American, Arab American, etc.) For the American Negro to eliminate their cultural prefix would eliminate them from the map of human geography and would paradoxically justify America’s neglect of them as the only people in the country who have no clue as to where they come from, and just how they arrived in America. ‘Historical amnesia’ as a strategy, postulated by Raven-Symoné and other Blacks, seeks to forget one’s history and culture as a strategy for being accepted by American Whites will not work for one primary reason: self-respecting people who embrace their culture and history cannot respect another people who do not. That is to say historical amnesia would ironically increase the contempt that America has for the Black man or woman, and not lessen it, as it underscores racist antebellum beliefs about Blacks that have existed for centuries, chiefly that they are animals who have no history or culture.
For Blacks to fall for this dangerous ploy would give the government the chance to erase Black people, and their critically important issues, from public discussion altogether. This scenario has already played out as a consequence of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill that saw the inclusion of the words ‘minority’ and ‘gender’ as a replacement for ‘Negro’ and ‘Black’ as it related to the groups that would be protected within the scope of the soon to be new law, at that time. By allowing the public discussion to include all non-White peoples under a general descriptor of ‘minority,’ rather than continuing to assert they were fighting exclusively for the rights of Black people, Negro leaders gave consent to the stealing of rights and incentives away from their own Black communities in deference and preference to Asians, Mexicans and other groups. Still worse, none of these other racial groups did anything to advance the cause of Blacks during the civil rights struggle. In fact, upon arrival in America, many of these ethnicities fought for the right to identify as White people, and away from Black people. Trying to blend in with other groups, all of whom practice their own unique form of prejudice against the African American, is no solution to the Black man’s problem in America.
Simply stated, America wants the Black man and woman to abandon their racial identity in order that Black issues can be removed from the public agenda. This has been the primary purpose of biracial and multiracial campaigns: to get enough Black people to dis-identify from being Black in preference of some new socially-acceptable racial designee so as to render Black people and their issues irrelevant altogether. Any student of military history knows that a propaganda campaign against a particular group in public is always the precursor to a military campaign against them physically. Black people who hate being Black are playing right into the extermination agenda of the United States government that seeks to remove Black issues and Black people from the political landscape altogether. Now is not the time for African-Americans to hide behind an elusive and indescribable ‘American’ identity that has never, and will never, apply to them. Now is the time to stand up unapologetically and proclaim their uniqueness as a people, and the uniqueness of the Black plight in America.
Umar Johnson is a Doctor of Clinical Psychology and Certified School Psychologist. He is author of Psycho-Academic Holocaust: The Special Education and ADHD Wars Against Black Boys. As a special education expert and consultant he helps Black parents around the world advocate for their children. He is amidst a $2 million fundraising campaign to acquire the HBCU St. Paul’s College in Virginia to be purchased and re-opened as the Frederick Douglass & Marcus Garvey (FDMG) RBG International Leadership Academy for Black Boys. He is one of the most requested motivational speakers in the world and can be reached for interviews and events scheduling at or 215-989-9858.