Home > Uncategorized > A can of worms

A can of worms

Are you African American?

The question practically fell off my tongue when I started shooting the first interview. A simple enough question, I thought. The complexities of answers, depth of emotions and rawness of passions have surprised me and led me down interesting paths of questioning.

The term ‘African-American’ has gained mainstream adoption as the proper way to describe black Americans, if not blacks in America.  Now, the term is receiving some pushback: Is it based on race, ethnicity, looks, citizenship, geography, history, culture or some other criteria? Is a black Caribbean immigrant African-American? Is a Moroccan immigrant African American? Is an Indian African immigrant African American?

I remember asking one African immigrant who received her U.S. passport last year, “Are you African-American.” Her response: “Yes, since last year.”

Yes, we have opened a can of worms and the conversations so far demonstrate that the can badly needed opening. The goal of The Neo African Americans is to be one tool for opening this bursting can in a safe and respectful manner by allowing people to:

THINK through multiple lenses on these issues;

TALK about them in a safe, open and respectful manner (too often it is hush hush); and

TRANSFORM intra-racial and interracial relationships through a clearer understanding of issues and others.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Celesti
    March 17, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Unfortunately, some–not all, but some–of the pushback comes from neo-diasporan Blacks who look down on, and want to distance themselves from, American Heritage Blacks, even as they take advantage of opportunities made possible by the American Black Civil Rights Struggle. This is history redux–at some point in American history, Asians, Middle-Easterners, North Africans, etc. have all gone to court to be considered non-colored in order not to be treated like Blacks. They no longer have to do that because the Black Civil Rights Movement has made discrimination based on race (to the benefit of Black, Latino, and Asian immigrants), religion (to the benefit of Muslims, Catholics, Confuscians, Animists, Hindus, Jews, Parsees, etc.), creed (people of any belief, religious or not), national origin (immigrants of any race), and gender (women of all races). And, of course, the Immigration Act of 1965–without which we would not be having this conversation, was just one of the fruits of the Civil Rights movements.

    It is wonderful that African immigrants are, as a group, the most highly educated, but that has to be coupled with the reality that Black Americans who emmigrate to African countries are typically the among the most highly educated of those countries. That speaks, of course, to the fact that it is the educated among both groups tha have the wherewithall to move. A Black Ph.D. from sub-Saharan Africa is farther away from the average sub-Saharan African than a Black Ph.D. is from the average Black of American heritage.

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