Tags: African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, black, Black and Proud, Black Power, current-events, Hispanics, James Brown, Negroes, Prejudice, Race in America, slavery, Stokely Carmichael, white
Many Americans do not like to talk about race in America because of what they know or what they do not know about it. If most people rely on what they were taught in school for their understanding and knowledge of race then they would be in trouble trying to holding a reasonable conversation with someone who is knowledgeable. For example, when someone says he or she is black or white, what exactly is he or she saying? These words have one consistent meaning beyond all others—they represent colors. If either of these words are used my people to identify themselves, the words are useless unless they are associated with American history and American slavery. Let’s be specific regarding this matter.
When Africans came or were brought to America they arrived using their personal identity which carried with it an example of their culture, history and geography. Those Africans that were brought to America were captured Africans who were later made slaves. The first order of business required to enslave a people is to re-create them without a history or past identity; in essence, they must be stripped of any positive value or self worth. The easiest way to accomplish this act is to take away their names and give them new ones using their enslaver’s language. Next, separate them from any kinsmen so they cannot continue to use their native language. Finally, make them see themselves as worthless, despicable, ignorant, and hopeless non-human beings.
One thing history does not readily tell us is that while the slave masters stripped away all elements of their slaves’ identity, the masters retained some important information that would help in asking a better price for the slaves at auction. For example, the slave masters knew the geographical area of Africa the slaves resided in as well as their skills and talents; many were farmers, fishermen, artists, builders etc… This information helped the slave master get a better price for the slaves with experience and knowledge that could help enrich their owners.
In any event, the African captives were made to be slaves and given the name slaves, blacks, Negroes and a variety of other names. The objective was to create the slaves’ new beginning in an environment where they were powerless to do anything for themselves, and dependant on the master for everything. In addition, the slaves were forced to view each other as the master viewed them, at least on the surface. So, the words black and white were employed to serve a number of purposes—white to represent power, privilege, and normalcy, and black to represent the opposite, inferiority, powerlessness, animal-like being. In addition, these two words were interwoven with the false concept of races—multiple biological races. Each so-called race learned to view themselves through their biased concepts. Africans were not called blacks just to deprive them of their identity and culture but also to serve as a contrast to whites.
These two words, black and white, if they are not referencing their respective colors must be associated with something else. The one thing American society has been conditioned to think of when one of these words is used is the other word. Therefore, when some people say that they are black, they are also inferring that they support the concept of multiple biological races and that the so-called white race is superior to the others. Unfortunately, a similar experience is not encountered by people who say they are white. They do not think of themselves as members of a race; they see themselves as just normal people. The only two races recognized in America until after the Civil War was black and white.
Before the Civil War African Americans were not in a position to change what they were called because they never had enough social power to effect a change until the late 1960s and the 1970s. Unfortunately, when an opportunity did arise for African Americans to change what they had been called since being brought to America, they missed the opportunity. In effect, during the Cultural Revolution the young African American civil rights activists opted to change the word black from a negative concept to a positive one. Examples of the process changing the value of the identity word from negative to positive can be seen in songs like “Say it Loud! I’m black and I’m Proud!” by James Brown, or phrases like “Black Power” by Stokely Carmichael. Although this change made a significant difference in the way African Americans looked at themselves, however, because the word black is the same word used by the slave masters for Africans Americans, the change only affected African Americans. European Americans (whites) did not have to change anything. For European Americans, blacks are still blacks, often with the same sentiment.
One additional problem with using color words as part of an identity is that one word does not fit all, if it is to be inclusive; that is, what does it mean to be a member of a white or black race? Are all the people in each race the same color? If not, what makes the difference in the race? If the color is not the main element, then what is? All people with black complexions are not black by identity nor are all people with light (white) skins white by identity. Therefore, the use of each word, black and white, for identity purposes is inaccurate and useless. Again, if these words are used as identity, they must be associated with something other than color.
As America continues to become more diversified the used of the term race will of necessity give way to the use of ethnic groups and ethnicity. Ethnic identity is necessary in America because of the population diversity and the problems caused by the use of the words black race and white race. The U.S. Census already experienced problems with the 2010 census when people of ethnic groups were given the option of selecting white as their racial identity. Rather than loosing cultural and geographical history by using and ethnic identity, these elements of identity are enhanced by it. No one is forced to identify him or herself by using the common ethnic terms like African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and European American etc.., but the use of the words black race and white race will soon serve no useful purpose with regards to personal identity. The history of the African/African American presence in American did not end when the word black was given a different connotation. Race defined by color will decline as diversity increases.
Tags: African American hair, African Americans, athletes, ethnicity, European Americans, female athletes, Gabby Douglas, gymnasts, hair, health, mental health, Olympics, sports
America watched in amazement as Gabby Douglas displayed her Olympic Gold talent and skills to win the title of the best female gymnast in the world. At the age of sixteen she has achieved something that is reserved for the most exceptional athletes on the planet—an Olympic Gold medal. All who watched her performances knew they were witnessing greatness. While most people were happy to see the young American female earn her medal, some individuals thought that Gabby’s hair was more important in the accomplishment she had just experienced. Those individuals who tweeted comments about Gabby’s hair were ignorant, insensitive, and asinine.
Athletes are dedicated and driven individuals who focus on perfecting their skills while developing their talents. Unless their physical appearance relative to fashion is a necessary aspect of their training, they concentrate on more important things. Depending on the sport or activity, the athletes’ hair fashion is not of primary concern, unless it gets in the way of the performance. Otherwise, most of the athletes’ concern is on perfecting their skills. With respect to Gabby’s hair style, we can assume that she wore it in a manner that allowed her to complete her programs with the least bit of distractions. Those people who made comments about Gabby’s hair were ignorant of the fact that gymnasts like Gabby, as well as other athletes, come into contact with water and perspiration on a daily basis. Most women know what moisture on the hair does to it as far as fashion goes that why many prefer to keep it short and manageable. If those people writing comments about Gabby’s hair knew what her training regimen was they probably would not have made those comments. But to some people, ignorance is bliss.
Regardless of the ignorance of some people regarding athletes and their hair, the comments were not in keeping with good taste or manners; in fact, they showed a gross insensitivity. The world had just witnessed a spectacular performance by a sixteen-year-old female gymnast and for some people, in praising her accomplishment they negate the praise by complaining about her hair style. We know that athletes are conditioned to manage their emotions so not to interfere with their performance, but unnecessary and insensitive comments about a beautiful young lady’s hair shows a total lack of class. What makes the hair comments even more insensitive is the lack of thought that could have a negative impact on a young female’s self image. If the hair comments were made to address the hair specifically, that is one concern that could be handled; however, if the hair comments were made with respect to Gabby’s over-all appearance, then they were totally despicable. Most young people at or around the age of sixteen are experiencing an identity change, and any little element of self-doubt can have a great impact on how they see themselves. Fortunate, Gabby knows that she is both beautiful and talented.
At a time when we Americans should be celebrating the accomplishment of Gabby Douglas for representing her country so well, we should also be mindful of the fact that negative comments about her should have no place in our hearts and mouths. We should be thankful for the devotion and sacrifice of this remarkable young lady in wanting to give America and the world her best efforts. So, for some people to praise her on one hand and criticize her hair on the other is just plain asinine. A consequence experienced by people who make asinine comments is that the criticism they seek to place on others actually falls on them. They are seen as suffering from a character defect that prevents them from giving credit where it is due. One has to wonder what goes through the minds of people who cannot simply give credit and praise without including personal digs or what could be interpreted as insults. Gabby as well as the other Olympic athletes deserves our appreciation and support for their efforts in representing us and our country.
Chances are when we get a look at Gabby once the Olympic Games are over, and she is making the media rounds for her well-deserved honor, we will see a beautiful young lady whose personal appearance suits her environment. We are proud of Gabby for the challenges and triumphs she experienced in the face of many obstacles. Most of the people watching her perform probably paid little if any attention to her hair style, which is as it should have been. The only thing she should have heard from the people was “Go Gabby! You Go Girl!” And she did.