In the U.S., for as long as race relations have been a topic of societal interest, the definition of being a Black person has remained the same. The one-drop rule, which came about in the 20th century, states that as long as you have a drop of black blood in your veins, then you are in fact black. The problem with this definition is that it has evolved into something that has become a standard for Black culture in the U.S. The one-drop rule is the reason colorism still exists in modern society. It’s the reason why, in America today, it is assumed that all Black people are the same, even though they are not. Black people are just as diverse as their European counterparts — they range from African, Caribbean, South American and American descent. Black people are not all the same, but the melanin in their skin is what ties them all together.
“I never realized that I was Haitian. I thought all Black people were like me; they ate rice and beans and spoke Creole,” junior Norah Garçon, a Haitian-American, said.
Being Black in America is an experience that is hard to put into words because you can’t make someone step into your shoes. A person can only explain what they see, in hopes that one day others will see it in the same way. Black Americans are not singularly African-Americans, which is something that has been brought into question over and over again in today’s society. In the fall of 2014, actress Raven-Symoné sent the Internet into overdrive when she said, during an Oprah Winfrey interview, “I’m an American, I’m not an African-American; I’m an American.” These words resonated with some people, and spurred anger in others. Her willingness to not self-identify when it came to her race was shocking because not only are so many people comfortable with race labels; they find race to be a beautiful thing. Why would anyone not want to attach themselves to the race that helped shape their physical attributes, to the race that made them who they are today? Culturally, being Black in America differs based on your familial origins and upbringing.
Black America is as diverse as the environments that the people who identify with it are born in. A group of people who were born and raised in America and are unsure of where their roots trace back to in Africa have created their own culture. Black American culture has contributed vast achievements to American culture — jazz, southern cuisine, hip-hop, changes in the hair industry and much more. Outsiders to this American Black culture, even those belonging to the same racial group, may feel out of place. Though the pigmentation of their skin is the same as those born and raised in America, Black people whose roots come from another country are not always well-received by their American peers.
After conversing with a group of girls on campus who come from different cultures but all identify as black, you can see that blackness goes deeper than the one-drop rule. Blackness and Black America are as complex as the different hues of Black people that you may come in contact with on a daily basis.
“Since I was born as an African in America, I’ve always felt like an outsider. Not only an outsider in White America, but in Black America, as well,” junior Bianca Anuforo said. “Generationally, the same people, Black Americans and Native Africans, have always seen each other as ‘different.'”
Junior Tiana Hudson-Jerman, a Jamaican-American student, remarked that her ethnicity hasn’t made that much of a difference for her. “Being black in America and coming from a Jamaican family really aren’t all that different for me,” she said. “The real difference may be how strict my parents are compared to my friends’ parents. I still have to deal with being stigmatized for being a stereotypical Black woman, for getting excited and energetic over the things that I care about though.”
Junior Kalea Hardson, a Black American, also weighed in on the matter. “Being Black in America has its up and downs. On the upside, you get to be a part of a community that is highly diverse and share similarities and differences with each other. On the downside, we are still unfortunately facing prejudices from our counterparts, ” she said.
“The thing that bothers me the most is filling out surveys. I hate having to bubble in African-American. It is not what I am.” – Junior Norah Garçon, Haitian-American, stated.
The main theme found in all of these quotes is that there’s an internal struggle between the different varieties of Black Americans. This makes it hard to write about what Black America is in its essence. At its core, Black America is a group of people who share a similar pigmentation. Black America is a group of people who share the same societal induced struggles. Black America is a group of people whose blackness extends beyond skin color, and is culturally deep.
For those who identify as being Black in America, they take on the burdens of the ancestors that stepped foot on American soil before them. Black Americans have to accept the melting pot of cultures that they are composed of, and face the deeper issues that plague American society today, like police brutality and inner city poverty. The different cultures that make up Black America paint a group of people who are steeped in wisdom and perspective, and that is what makes Black America so great. Though the one-drop rule has reduced all Black Americans down to African-Americans when it comes to filling out the U.S. Census every year, Black America is more than that. Black Americans take pride in their differences and continue to work toward changing how the rest of society will label them in the future.
words_ jamila wright. photo_ramona stewart.