I was watching the New Year's Eve New York Times Square Watch The Ball Drop shows on television last night as the various hosts were bantering back and forth to kill time and attempt to entertain us, when one of them mentioned that Raven Symoné said in an interview that she is not an African American, she is an American.
My first thought was, "thank you for standing up against the PC labels we've been suffering with for at least four decades." To be honest, that was my second thought. My first thought was, "Why was Dick Clark not immortal?" But I digress.
From the banter it seemed that her comment wasn't all that well received. Since I was watching entertainment and not news (as if you can tell the difference these days), I decided to go to the source before I commented further. Raven was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on one of her Where Are They Now? episodes. Here's a very brief excerpt of the comment from the interview:
So after listening to the interview and hearing the comment from the source, I stand by my original impression.
I recall a conversation with co-workers on this subject several years ago, particularly that this weirdly considered politically correct practice of labeling an American citizen "African American" based on skin color or supposition about ethnic heritage is primarily an Americanism. One of my co-workers pointed out a moment in history where an American journalist put her foot in it with a British citizen as a result of our silly practice. Now, I've done some research on this one and it's not clear whether the story is fact or urban legend. But fact or fiction, the point is well made.
I've heard people refer to themselves as, for example, Dutch/Irish. In those cases they are referring to their maternal and paternal heritage. It isn't motived by political correctness, which, to be honest, sounds like an oxymoron, but rather ethnic heritage or simply just a desire to be accurately and succinctly known. Apply the same formula to "African American" and it would mean that one parent is African (broad distinction given the number of African nations) and the other is...American?...whatever that means.
I could call myself a WASP-American, or a Euro-American. But, just like Raven Symoné, I think I'll just call myself an American and leave it at that. I'm also a human who loves (some) other humans. But, unlike Raven, I don't mind being labeled a lesbian, because the human I love most is my wife. :)