African American Again
When I was a boy we were all Americans. Sure some of us were Negroes or coloreds, some were whites, some Indians, and the word mulatto was not unknown. We were not all equal then, and we are not all equal now. Discrimination now varies, depending on the context in which it occurs, even more than it did in the 50’s and 60’s. For instance if you are white you are often less equal in opportunity so you can pay for some offence you had no part in to people who did not receive the offence to begin with. So the only thing that changed was how discrimination is administered. But in the matter of nationality we are not any longer all Americans. We are now something or other Americans unless we happen to have ethnic ties to some place like Great Britain.
John Kerry tried to capitalize on this divisiveness by promoting his wife as African-American, a synonym for black that dates back to a 1988 movement started by black leaders including Jesse Jackson. A response from some, which dubbed Mrs. Kerry “a woman of pallor,” reminds me of the discrimination that was heaped upon mulattos by both blacks and whites alike when I was a boy. In spite of this I have to recognize the hypocrisy employed by Kerry to try to manipulate words so he could imply he was married to a “woman of colour.” He did do one thing that we should appreciate and that is he highlighted the need to get away from this foolishness of being something or other Americans and back to being Americans once again.
Mrs. Heinz-Kerry is an African-American in the sense a Polish immigrant is a Polish-American. This fact brings us to the folly that identifies generations of people in America as African-Americans or restricting use of the term to those who have more melanin in their skin than others. If language is to be used correctly it must be used uniformly with some rules. I am sure Jesse Jackson and his ilk are not concerned with grammar since they make their livings from promoting division and conflict between Americans. But they should be concerned with the way they contribute to stereotyping the terms they choose promote. In other words, they make themselves look dumb and this reflects badly on everyone who has a dark skin.
A new guy on the national political scene is Barack Obama. His father, who was a black Kenyan, was an African-American because he emigrated to the United States. Obama was born in the United States of a white mother and this would certainly make him what is called a mulatto, even though he looks fairly dark to me, but why should he be called an African-American since he did not come from Africa? People who need to identify themselves with some other place that they did not come from seem to me to be ashamed of being American and that is troubling.
Tim Russert, knowing that Obama’s father had abandoned him and his mother as a child, asked Barack Obama, the candidate, one of his famous dumb questions on Meet the Press. He asked him what it was like for someone who was part African-American being raised by white parents? Obama did not come from Africa his father did, and if his father had not abandoned the marriage he would have still been raised in a household where the husband and wife were unlike in appearance and ethnicity. This means that some elements of both black and white social circles would not have been responsive to the family group. Would Russert have ever asked about what that was like had the family remained unbroken? Who knows? Russert’s attempt at political correctness serves to emphasize the whole folly of this African-American thing.
People of color are never going to fully come into their heritage as Americans. That is, as long as improper language distinctives are employed to emphasize and separate them from the rest of this melting pot of nations there is always going to exist an us versus them mentality that is going to keep the majority on the outside looking in. I think that is what most of the so-called black leadership wants. It is how they enrich themselves at others expense. And, it is time they became unemployed.
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