“I’m Not African, I’m American”: The New Black Identity

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Herman Cain recently said the following on his nationality in an interview with Bloomberg:

I don’t use African-American, because I’m American, I’m black and I’m conservative. I don’t like people trying to label me. African-American is socially acceptable for some people, but I am not some people.

As much I hate to agree with Cain, he brings up a good point.

When it comes to identity, Blacks have a perplexing, yet unique positioning in America now more than ever. Most African Americans like myself, have no close ties, if at all, to their African lineage, which makes them somewhat unidentifiable with the “Mother country.”

All considering, it can be understood why the term “African American” could pose as a discontent for some. African Americans/Blacks/Negroes have no true sense of identity. If you’re African American, you’re more than likely far removed from the African continent and culture. If you use “Black” or “Negro” you’re reminded of the racial implications of slavery, brought on by the racists of that time. Only those from the Caribbean islands like Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados have a true sense of their identity and culture.

Because of these reasons, it becomes rather difficult to simply slap “African American,” “Black” or “Negro” as markers of identification.

While I wouldn’t go as far as saying these names are used to “label” us, as stated by Cain, they are socially conscious attempts to find an identity for a demographic that is culturally misplaced.

We realized just how much of an issue this was when the government found difficulty agreeing on an appropriate term for Blacks on the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau forms.

Cain continued his argument on racial identity proclaiming, “most of the ancestors that I can trace were born here in the United States of America. “I’m sure my ancestors go all the way back to Africa, but I feel more of an affinity for America than I do for Africa. I’m a Black man in America.

“I am an American. Black. Conservative.”

Cain couldn’t be more right. Identity is quite arbitrary, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with omitting “African” from our nationality. However in doing so, it seems as if we lose a piece of who we are—although it can be argued that, for most, loss of identity happened centuries ago.

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