Monday, October 23, 2006

I'm black and not African American

last night i went to a friend's house for dinner with my family and some other friends. i love this woman, she's german, and she can throw down when she cooks. whenever we go to her house for dinner, she always makes her favorite german dishes, and it's always SO good.

i think it's fabulous when my asian and german friends can just whip up dishes from their home country. and it got me thinking. what are dishes from my country? i guess it would help to know what country my ancestors are from. hmmm. i dont have a clue (thanks, slave massa...) i mean, if it weren't for slavery, WE would know so much more about ourselves- why i have this feature or that feature, the characteristics of my country in the continent of africa. but all that was stripped away from us.

and the foods. i don't even know a name of an African food. sure, i could google some on the internet, but that's not the point. it's just not the same as cooking it from the heart, remembering your grandma making it for you as a family dish while you're growing up. it's like being adopted and not knowing your parents history or anything about where you came from.

okay, so we have grease-soaked, cholesterol-raising soul-food, which is not the same thing. my family tries to eat healthy. i'm not into all that soul food, which is actually american soul food. but it's not even healthy. i love collard greens. but i'm into eating healthy. how come the soul food is so bad for us? that's not cool. i don't cook soul food, and where i live, i'd never serve it because most of my friends are health conscious as well. i mean, is there a healthy way to cook Mac and cheese? it's only real soul food with a ton of butter and cheese. no thanks.

i guess that's why i prefer to be called black, as opposed to african american. it never felt right for me to be called african-american. i mean, i know its the politically correct name and all that, for different reasons. black people want to feel that connection to where they originated. white people refer to us that way because they dont want to offend and they figure that's what we want.

but even though my ancestors are from africa, i dont feel any ties to africa. how could i? i've never even been there. my grandma's grandma had never been there. i've never known any family from there. the true africans, the ones who have moved here recently from africa - from what i understand, they dont even like us. they're not like black americans(in a good way), in that they havent experienced the black[american] experience. i dont know if they even relate to the materialistic, hip hop world in which we're associated with (hey...maybe i'm more african than i think?).

in my opinion, being black is like this:

african people
u.s. slavery history


black .

when i used to refer to myself as african-american, it just didnt feel right. maybe i didnt do it enough. it just felt like i was trying to be something i wasn't. i'm american through and through. unfortunately, i dont know enough about africa.


Dee said...

I'm black too. I guess the politically correct term would be Afro-Caribbean American, but please. Yea, black.

Anonymous said...

Here, here! I've always wondered... what if I move to Italy and then, after a couple years, move to Australia? Am I an African American Italian Ausie? And what if I had a child while in in Italy? What are they? Stop the madness!

Imani Mbabaliye said...

I felt sad reading your post. I feel the anger, and I feel that it is coming from a lack of knowledge. If your ancestors came from Africa, why wouldn't that make you African-American in the same way it would make a white American whose ancestors came from Italy or Ireland, Italian-American or Irish-American.

Next, your comment about Africans not liking African-Americans is very telling. As an African-American woman married to an African man for over 20 years, I can tell you of hundreds of similar couples and hundreds of African friends. Don't let your experience with a few Africans or what you read in the media make you think that Africans & African-Americans don't like each other. That statement is as false as saying white Americans and black Americans don't like each other.

As for fattening soul food, sure back in the day it used to be fattening, just like a lot of other ethnic foods. But these days (since we've learned more about nutrition) many black families have altered their soul food recipies. Do you read Essence magazine? They have tons of recipes on how to cook flavorful collards and kale without hamhocks or fatback. By the way, old-fashioned southern food is so fatty because our enslaved ancestors were given the fattiest portions of meat, and they had to adapt to survive. But as a whole African foods are very fresh and healthy. Even soul foods like collards, kale, and yams are very, very healthy foods (without the butter).

Educate yourself sister, before you disparage your own roots.

butter said...

Sorry that imani mbabaliye felt the need to condescend at you for being ignorant -- seems like that was kind of your point, that no you don't know, in a visceral connected way.

One day in Senegal, I had just finished buying a trinket from a street vendor, chatting with him in Wolof (dominant language there) and thus getting a sweet bargain. A young black American woman then came by (I was now sitting on the curb people-watching) and tried to connect with the guy by saying she was his "black sister". The dude LAUGHED at her, told her she was just a tourist, and doubled the price that he had first quoted to me - a white chick who spoke his language.

Dunno what the whole point or implications of that are, but it was awful sad.

Anonymous said...

Imani is so right. YOU need to educate yourself because you sound ignorant and you seem proud to be ignorant. I found your site and was happy because we share a lot of the same things. I am also "black" and married to a "white" man. We have one son and we are just out here (in the world) trying to make it.
Your blog speaks of being so shameful of being black. You mention things being "shiny" all the time. I'm not sure what that's about. You sound like you have too many issues with black people, black hair, black life, soul food, etc. I'm sorry for you and for your family. You can't possibly be teaching your children their heritage and what they should be proud of because you're so busy downing the black race.
I'm sure the white people who read your blog, love it because you are in agreement of what and how they see black people.
It's just sad. You're sad.

Alicia said...

Just because she said that soul food is often unhealthy doesn't mean she dislikes her culture. Stop exaggerating!

Anonymous said...

why do people hate so much on you? I felt the same way sister. I have a lot of cultural friends and I get so jealous I don't know my real name, (now I am married and I have his name and I love it, that problem solved) I am taking US HIST TO 1877. and I am learning so much in this class. Just reading and researching on my own has taught me so much. First off,
When slaves were brought to America, they weren't all black and the slaves were prisoners jailed for terrible offenses, some minor. Any ways the book is called

The enduring vision. A history of the American People. Volumne one: to 1877. concise 4th edition

anyways, all slaves brought to America came from West Africa between Senegambia and Angola.

Senegambia 19% (host the Wolofs and malinkes tribes)rain forest and grass lands

Windward Coast 11% (mandigoes)rain forest and grass lands

Gold Coast 16% (Ashantis and Yorubas)rain forest and grass lands

Niger Valley/Benin 27% (Hausas, Ibos)rain forest and grass lands

Congo Valley/ Angola 25% (Bantus and Ubangis, Zulus)rain forest grass lands and desert.

Madagascar and Mozambique 2% (Malagasies and Hovas)grass land.

I wrote the climate because I was thinking...if you have really really really thick and full hair I figure you must be from the desert area because its hot! and our hair is the texture it is to protect us from the sun.
(anybody with negative comments, learn first then tell me different. Ignorance is defeated only with knowledge not stupidity. so don't be rude. I want to learn.)

if your hair is nice and fine, I believe you would be from the rain forest. Look at discovery channel Africa and pay attention to the texture of the hair and their climates.

Some good African books to get you started,

Achebe Chinua "Things fall apart"

J.M. Coetzee "Life and times of Micheal K.

Amos Tutuola "The Palm wine drinkard"

Ken Saro-Wiwa "Sozaboy"

these aren't boring history books. Some are fictional but it gives you a taste of African culture and the smells of natural oils and insents and food. you would love it. I highly recommend it.

D said...

Re: "I'm sure the white people who read your blog, love it because you are in agreement of what and how they see black people"

anonymous, I can't take your post in any other way but that you think all white people are racists. First of all, it's not true (this white guy has implored that black girl to respect herself and her background in several threads), and second of all, because it's not true, you are making an untrue negative generalization, and so YOUR statement is by definition a racist statement. (It IS true about SOME white people, but you don't make that distinction.)

If you lump us all together and make negative statements about us as a group, we get offended. Gee, doesn't that sound familiar? When a person makes an always, never, all, or none statement, or implies it, they are almost always wrong, especially when it comes to race or the subject of any other ism. Whether we do or don't think or act as your generalization supposes is a separate matter... but your generalization reinforces it nonetheless by creating bad feelings in both the people who do and don't fit your stereotype. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Lumping together and making negative assumptions about a group of people is racism, regardless of whether the person making the observation is black, white, or somewhere in between.

The only thing you need to change to make your statement NOT a racist statement is to replace the first "the" with either "some", or "racist". Because some white people ARE racists - and they deserve to get called out on the carpet for it. But you forgetting to qualify that and crossing into reverse racism will NEVER be a good means to get racist (or clueless) white people to change or grow their beliefs.

With that said, if I qualify your statement a little bit to call a spade a spade, I agree with what you were trying to say. : ) And in a face to face conversation, I think I could say this in ten seconds instead of seven paragraphs, and I hope without sounding judgmental. I'm sure if I asked you in person, you'd say you didn't mean all white people are racists. And so it's more like an accident (little oops) rather than some overt and egregious intentional thing.

The statement is false if not qualified, but true if you're talking about people who actually meet the criteria... so because there's a portion of truth behind your statement, maybe my post seems like an overkill response... but I also think that addressing this kind of stuff openly and bluntly should help get EVERYBODY'S cards out on the table. To use a cliche, what's good for the goose, is good for the gander.

The way to "fix" and end racism is for EVERYBODY to respect EVERYBODY ELSE, here and now. The fix is a very NOW thing. Read this paragraph again... is there any other way to do it? If we're going to do this, we need to DO IT ALL THE WAY.

This in NO WAY excuses anything negative white racists have done in the past. Yes, over history, there has been a HUGE amount of mistreatment of minorities by white people. That definitely needs to be addressed and acknowledged, as a history thing.

BUT here and how, we all need to treat each other with respect. White to black. Black to white. White to white. Black to black. History NEVER justifies racism by anybody. Doing otherwise, even a little bit, feeds the cycle. That's an always and a never I'll stand by. : )

A said...

I as sad reading this. When I was a senior in High School I went to Ghana as part of my senior project and they couldn't believe that my family was of african descent because of how light I am.
Anyways, you should take a DNA ancestry test. My family is Ethiopian but I only know that because "we" where not taken to america from Ethiopia. That side of my family moved up to France. I took a DNA ancestry test, and It confirmed what I already knew.