my journey to be my best self

black people ≠ black people: i do not call myself african american. i call myself black

In travel, Uncategorized on August 4, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I am afraid I have to go home without the answers that I hoped for when I started asking about black people inLondon.  But I think I know enough. 

Last week I had drinks at CanaryWharf with Ian, a “black” man I sat next to on the plane from Geneva back toLondon.  And eventually the conversation went to black people (of course, but this time I’m pretty sure I didn’t start the conversation).  Ian said he didn’t understand why black Americans did not use their resources and go back toAfrica. 

Africa? I asked.  Like Marcus Garvey?  Here we go. 

I told him he has the luxury of knowing where he’s came from (Sierra Leone).  He still has a homeland, history, culture, religion and a language rooted in that place.  And I said I envy that (might not be the appropriate word) but I wish I had a connection -because of institutionalized slavery our history and culture is within the context of the history of America.

His response was I can go to Africa and I’d be welcomed.  Fine.  He didn’t understand what I just said.

I explained that while I am concerned about things that are happening in other countries I am most sensitive to issues related to black people (not in quotes).  For example, there are more black men in prison than in college.  He asked me what the percentage was. Percentage? More. I just said more in prison than college.  He said because I didn’t have a statistic it was just my opinion. My opinion! How could that be my opinion?  He told me Americans are just hung up on race.

Next he told me to genetically trace my roots.  He (falsly) cited a statistic that 80% of African American men can trace their roots straight to Africa, meaning they are not mixed with other races (he was trying challenge that I consider myself to be African Slave – White Master).  When I asked why he thought I looked the way I do he told me I belong to a tribe of people that look like me that were brought to America as slaves.  Now this was getting ridiculous.  He’s lucky I don’t have an iPad because I would have Googled his false facts.  But of course I did when I got home. After reading the article about people tracing their roots and 80% finding that they have direct links to Africa I sent it back to him and pointed out that this research was about British African-Caribbeans. 

The conversation grew louder and Ian interupted and said: everyone in here probably thinks were having a break up.  Well if we were dating we would be!

What I learned from this exchange:  I need to date a black man (not in quotes) or a white man that wouldn’t even begin to argue that he knows about being black inAmerica.

Note: I do not call myself African American.  I call myself black or African Slave – White Master.

  1. That is very interesting Lola because I have taught Taylor that she is black and not african american. understanding that she is of african decent that is not all she is. but when she is of age she can decide for herself whom she best identifies. I would hope that by the time she is an adult she won’t have to be select what the “forms say”.

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