Where is Africa America?

by Adrian Gale
adrianogale@gmail.com

800px-americaafricasvgLet me first preface this note by saying that I have nothing against African Americans. But as a social scientist I just find the phenomenon of labeling, especially in the American context, to be very interesting. Let’s face it, everything in this country has a label! If you are not conservative or liberal, left wing or right wing, republican or democrat you are out of the loop. It seems that nothing can exist without a label, and if one does not subscribe to an existing label, one is re-labeled. Case in point, before I came to Morehouse College I was unaware of my “blackness”. I have always considered myself a Barbadian first; the fact that I was black was inconsequential. For this reason I never considered myself either in the majority or the minority. However, so called African Americans are constantly reminded of their minority status and my being clumped into this group, and therefore immediately being labeled as a minority is to say the least, upsetting.

But before I continue I think that it is only appropriate that I discuss this idea of labeling or at least my understanding of it as it applies to the so called African American community. So here we go. Labeling theory focuses on the linguistic tendency of majorities (namely Caucasians) to negatively label minorities (everyone else) or those seen as deviant from norms. The theory is concerned with how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them, and is associated with the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping. i.e. If the descendants of African slaves continue to see themselves and call themselves African Americans they are engaging in a self defeating behavior. I am not suggesting that they deny their African heritage but build on it. Easier said than done.

My suggestion is, in America, if one considered oneself as simply American then there would be no minorities or majorities. This I admit this is very idealistic, but maybe it could be a good discussion point.

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Our guest writer Adrian Gale hails from Inch Marlow, Christ Church, Barbados. Currently a senior at the historic Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, his immediate aspirations include pursuit of graduate studies in Developmental Psycholoy. Adrian enjoys taking long walks on the beach and listening to the vibes of Beres Hammond.

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6 responses to “Where is Africa America?

  • pledgeallegiance

    I identify with that concept of finding identity first in culture and ethnicity and then in race, i.e., being Barbadian before Black. Trini-Chinese friend of mine has great difficulty in being understood stateside – people just can’t figure out where to put her. This idea of being a minority doesn’t sit all that well with me either…went to a meeting of the ‘Minority Affairs Committee’ of my union…I arrived confused about supposedly belonging in such a category, and left confused about supposedly belonging in such a category…

  • joy

    EUREKA!!!! I always say this and when folks refer to “minority” I quickly cut them off and let them know I am none such!!!! I always hated this reference word and it just gives the idea of “less than” you’re “minor” I never use that word, forget the N word this is another one that needs to be put put firmly in the trash! Get the movement going!

  • Luke

    Dear Adrian,

    Your concept of labeling as a Linguistic tendency represents yourself as an avid user of Wikipedia, in particular the cut/paste function that most computers today have. Might I suggest that you are also, maybe nobly so, but inherently self deceptive. To indicate you were somehow unaware of your “blackness” in itself is counterintuitive when read in conjunction with the remainder of your article. If the basis of our social self identify is a product of judgment by others you would be seeming to indicate that you were unaware that other people thought, or at all, recognized you were black.

    The other flaw with your argument is the presumption that judgment in itself is fundamentally negative. You clearly used to function in a society where black people were the majority race, do you not think you were accepted more readily there with some people because of the “blackness” you claimed to totally unaware of? How many friends did you have that were classified as “minorities”?

    And my greatest problem with this silly little article is the hypocritical nature of yourself from which it stems. This self-righteous anti-racism tirade is nothing but the perpetuation of your natural predisposition of race-awareness. You use phrases like “self fulling prophecy” and other pseudo-psychological terminology, but were you a little more schooled you would understand that racism is at some level normal, natural, fundamental human behavior.

    Minority/Majority classification is something that operates on a national level, but it is undeniable that racial groups segregate into their own communities and, hence the creation of predominantly “black” and “white” neighborhoods, towns, cities etc. However, your social realm is completely within your control, and from your article I can deduce that within your immediate social sphere you associate primarily with blacks. I personally don’t think there is anything racist to that, until you start saying “that’s why it’s so”. If “it’s so” then that’s because you have made it so.

    I bet all the white people didn’t round you up and stick you with black friends; you were just more comfortable with them. The racism was your own, not an anti-white, but a pro-black racial decision which you made to satisfy your own insecurities. I have operated in countries both as a majority and minority race and my leadership skills have never been diminished, nor my friendships, or my ability to get on with people of all creeds and colors. Conversely, I have friends who could not do the same, and universally, the problem was an unwillingness on their part to come out of their shell.

    Billionaires are in the minority, true humanitarians are in the minority. Racial tensions exist in multi-faceted communities but in America it can hardly be said to be national epidemic. For goodness’ sake you just elected a black president in a predominantly white country. Your article is only offensive because it specifically labels the “white” as the majorities and groups everyone else together in this “minority” class, essentially with a “Poor Me” tone.

    Dare I say it sounds like a truly Bajan way of thinking, and might I suggest you take your time off the rock to develop a more international view and don’t limit yourself by your own “labeling”. You yourself are the victim of this destructive self-fulfilling prophecy and the worst part is, either you are in absolute denial or just so clouded by your “pompousetting” (as we bajans say) self-righteousness, that you simply can’t see it.

    And the worst part is, as you look around, you are only spurring on others like “Joy” who share your same racial opinion. Maybe you two should have a drink.

    -Luke

  • bajediva

    Luke, thanks for giving another side of the coin. In the same token though, I do have to say that in any forum, if there is disagreement to be voiced, it is welcome, but the personal attacks intertwined with your comments are unnecessary, and detract somewhat from the valid perspective which you are attempting to introduce. Looking beyond that, however, there are one or two things I’ll say quickly.

    I can’t speak for Adrian, but having identified with some of the sentiments he expressed, I wanted to make a few comments on your response. For one thing, a person’s experience is his/her experience – neither right nor wrong. I for one can say that I never engaged with the concept of my ‘Blackness’ in the way that I have since spending time in the US, and this is how I interpreted Adrian’s statement that he was “unaware of his ‘Blackness'”. I think that’s perfectly natural and expected. Of course he knew the colour of his skin, as did I. No one can deny though, that a change in experience, especially one as drastic as relocating to live/study/work in another country and culture, will undoubtedly bring about new interactions with various aspects of oneself, of which race and ethnicity are only 2 dimensions.

    The rejection of the concept of ‘minority’ as espoused in American race relations is not a personal judgment of mine of the negativity of being labeled Black. I personally believe there are great things about being Black. But if I’m honest, I know that there exists in this country an institutionalized racism (not to say that it is entirely absent in Barbados, the West Indies, or anywhere else) which sends messages of negativity and inferiority associated directly with being Black. This negativity is undeniably one of the connotations of racial nomenclature, including the term ‘minority’.

    You point categories in society which may be considered minorities within the population. Apples and oranges, in my opinion. These groups are not overtly labeled, with a consequent systematization of expected behaviors and modes of operation which are constantly reinforced through institutionalization, the media, and other forces of ideological perpetuation. I do believe that the presence of these elements in racial labeling has produced a negative net result.

    I don’t know who you’re going to decide I should take a drink with, Luke, but I’d like to think that this is a forum within which we can each say our piece respectfully, and expect it to be received in like manner.

    -BajeDiva.

  • Joy

    Wow! Hawt! lol still don’t like the word minority don’t use it to refer to ANYONE white or black. I’ve no problems with anyone nor do I pick any particular social groups to be around or hang with. We’re all citizens and beings of the Universe, if you want the real minorities its basically everyone who isn’t Chinese anyway, since they make up the most of us on this planet – ’nuff said. Peace out.

  • Kafo

    i’m loving this
    this is true

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