This week actress and singer Raven-Symone’s appearance with Oprah on the Oprah Winfrey Network got some buzz. Raven is best known for her roles on “The Cosby Show” and “That’s So Raven.” Raven stated that she’s “tired of being labeled” and considers herself “American,” not “African American.”
Oprah was clearly shocked and not supportive of this view point. She pressed Raven to explain herself and she continued with this: “I mean, I don’t know where my roots go to. I don’t know how far back they go…I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American. And that’s a colorless person. What I really mean by that is I’m an American. That’s what I really mean,” Raven replied. “I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian. I connect with Asian. I connect with black. I connect with Indian. I connect with each culture.”
Well isn’t that refreshing. I’ve always wondered about labels. Why are blacks African Americans? I don’t call myself Scandinavian American. My husband is not a German American. Not all blacks are from Africa. Not all Africans are black. All Americans are Americans.
Before I hopped too high up on my soap box I did a little research. I want to understand why the term African American is hung onto. According to Wikipedia, African Americans refers to citizens of the United States who have some ancestry to the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa. African Americans are the second largest ethnic and racial minority in the United States and most are of West and Central African descent and are descendants of slaves.
So maybe the term Irish Americans didn’t stick because those folks came here voluntarily and wanted to be Americans. They wanted to come here for a better life. So they added their unique flavor to the melting pot and became Americans. Those whose roots were planted here due to forced migration may not want to blend in.
Slavery was a terrible thing. It never should’ve happened. I’m sorry that it did. However, it seems to me that you now have to opportunity to grow up out of those roots into something strong and beautiful.
I applaud Raven for her stance. She was lit up on social media, criticized for not being black enough, along with a variety of other crude statements. She never said she wasn’t black or didn’t want to be black, she said she wants to not be labeled. She also doesn’t want to be called a gay American. Just American. Isn’t that enough? I was disappointed in Oprah’s reaction. Frankly, I don’t understand it. Is the label clung to out of pride or out of bitterness? Oprah seemed to mock the melting pot concept. Yet she came from a very rough childhood to become a self-made billionaire, largely because she lives in America where opportunities are vast and available.
In my opinion, this country could use a good stir. We don’t need to label people based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else. It serves no purpose in my mind. My hope would be that all who live in this country would be proud to do so. We would all blend our talents, visions, and abilities to make it a great country. We’d all speak English and pledge allegiance to same flag. We’d all be Americans.
Watch the interview on YouTube and share your thoughts.