Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Colorblinded by the Semantics - Desire Grover's iReport

I know. This is opening a can of worms. But I can't help it. This is perplexing to me. And I want to hear from anyone who has an opinion. Sincerely.

I think we should be as colorblind as possible without ignoring culture and individuality, which are both important to all humans. And for reasons I won't go into for this particular post, because it would be eleventy pages long, I am a fan of affirmative action. I wasn't always a fan, but then I got an education and understood it better. I had previously believed the buzz about AA. It wasn't all factual. The facts are interesting. Sure, there is a downside. But the upside outweighed the downside when it was in effect. Statistics tell the truth. And often, for me, they bury theories and rumors in the process of revealing truth. Theories such as: women use abortions as birth control (statistics prove otherwise) or people COMMONLY have babies just to get more welfare support (again, facts show otherwise.) That doesn't mean there aren't occurrences of all of the above. There has to be at least one case where affirmative action did more harm than good for most involved. There has to be one case where a female human being used abortion as a means of birth control. There has to be at least one case where a human conceived and birthed a baby with intent to increase welfare benefits. But overall, these occurrences are so far and few between, that they may as well be non-existent. Thus, they are non-issues.


I have never personally liked the term "African American" for three reasons.

1. First, what was wrong with "black" or "colored?" I never regarded those words to be anything but simply descriptive, much like yellow, red, white, dark, pale, etc. I never understood or bought into this idea that we needed a new word for this one group of (important) people. Why create a problem when there isn't one? Why would anyone be offended by being referred to as "black" or "dark" if this were descriptively true, and that was the purpose and intent of using the terms? To describe. Now, let me quickly interject that there are in fact some words that were intended as description, but have developed other meanings over time. A perfect example is the term "mentally retarded." This was originally meant to describe a condition that was important to communicate. It was not meant to be derogatory. However.... That term has taken on a new life over the years, and it's now used in a derogatory fashion.

2. Secondly, how the hell do I know who came from Africa and who didn't? Honest to Pete. This is ludicrous. I would not like it if someone called me Polish American just in attempt to generalize and avoid using simplistic descriptive (and ACCURATE) terms such as "white" or "pale." I'm not any more Polish than many dark skinned people I know are African. And, even if someone does have some roots in Africa, long long ago, we all typically identify differently as time goes on. For example, my maternal great grandfather was 100% Spanish. My maternal grandfather, 50%. My mother, 25%. My great grandfather, as well as my grandfather, identified strongly with being Spanish. My grandfather might have even called himself Spanish American, if the term was recognized and he had the cause to identify so explicitly what his roots were about. My mother identified with the Spanish culture as far as to carry on one particular family heirloom dish: Spanish Rice. It's really a Paella. And, truly, Spanish people would never put red sauce on rice and consider it their own. I digress. My mother is simply American. I am simply American. A professor at a Michigan university explained to someone I know that the reason this African American term came about is because so many black people don't know where their original roots came from, but since Africa is so likely a part of it somewhere, they all adapted it. I say that's logical, and likely true, at least in part, but I'm still not buying it. Who would need or want to assume a nationality of origin if the true nation(s) of origin were not known? This does not follow logic at all. If you were born here, you are American. No matter whether your roots are Polish, Russian, Israeli, whatever.

3.Most importanly of all, why on earth did anyone start mixing nationality and race? For what purpose? The terms "black" and "colored" and "dark skinned" were in effort to describe RACE. Not nationality. Your race is black, white, yellow, red, or mixed. Period. Your nationality is a whole different story. German? Irish? African? Filipino? Obviously, most people with certain nationalities share the same race. But NOT ALL. Not every Filipino is part of the yellow race. Not every German is part of the white race. Not every African is part of the black race. Somehow, somewhere, someone decided to not like the descriptive term "black," which was used to describe race, and pushed to substitute a fabricated hybrid term for a nationality. Not every member of the black race has African roots, and not every human with African roots is a member of the black race. So we have an automatic oxymoron when we use "African" and "American" in a generalized term, and worse, we are using it to refer to a race rather than a nationality. This makes no sense. (While I'm at it, "Jewish" refers to a religion and a culture. Not a nationality, and not a race.)

And there we have it. I welcome all comments and opinions, no matter how much they align with mine or differ. All are welcome, come as you are, this is a place of peace.

Today, I ran across this video embedded below. Holy cats, people. She says she wanted to just be called "American," and I was ready for her to stop there. Great. You are American. So am I. Nice to know you, neighbor. But she goes on. Someone didn't let her be "just" American? Whom??? She doesn't say.

She does mention that when she want to college, they didn't let her "just" be American. Is she referring to the paperwork where you identify your race? And we now see choices for race that look like: caucasian(white)/pacific islander(yellow)/Native American(red) etc? And instead of "black," which for years was a perfectly respected term to describe race, you now only have this option to choose a hybrid term based on assumed nationality? So far, I get her. This is perplexing, and weird, that anyone did this. Race is race. Keep it simple. Except, of course, for the clear need to modify our generalized list whenever any new race is recognized, or, certainly, to account for many people who identify with more than one known race. I saw an interesting way this was handled on a recent job application under the optional and confidential EEOC survey. It asked what race the applicant identifies with, and then listed them, and then right below, asked for any other races the applicant also identifies with. I liked this because it was more specific than "mixed" or "multi." Someone who is half yellow and half black may not like the "mixed" button because in our country, "mixed" so often refers to half black half white. So I thought it was encouraging that people get to tell the whole story and identify specifically with race.

Anyway, point is, I was groovin with her for a minute. She couldn't just be black, and American, given her options, because some knucklehead along the way muddied the waters.

But she goes on. And come to find out, her POINT is that she PREFERS to be called an African American. She doesn't say what she prefers it against. Just that she prefers it. And she clearly is making reference to her race as the issue. Thus, it's an incomplete statement.

Then we go on to hear references of slurs, which don't seem to have any real purpose in this message, other than to identify them as wrong and insensitive, which we all know, and which is why we don't use those words in contemporary society. Much like we are slowly abolishing words like "retard" in favor of descriptive and functional words that do not carry a nasty or inappropriate connotation or undertone. We have to love and respect one another. That's a given, and doesn't seem to have much to do with this creation of the term "African American."

Then we move on to the mention of a "Proper Slur." There is no such thing, folks. A slur is by definition improper. Or we wouldn't call it a slur. Is she saying that the term African American is a slur? I'm open to that idea depending on her thought structure, but she never really explains it.

She wants us to know her dark skin was not a choice. She makes that statement very clear and pronounced.

Ms. Desire Grover, your dark skin is beautiful. And I would hope to see you on this iReport telling the world that even though "your dark skin wasn't chosen," you wouldn't change a thing, because you are beautiful as you are.

But, the message here is odd and confusing. Are you truly for or against the term "African American?" Who do you feel doesn't just consider you a human being, or simply an American? And why? You look and sound American to me. What's the deal?


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