Remember American actress Raven Symone whose declaration of not being African-American by heritage, but strictly ‘American’, caused a global social media storm in 2014? Well, someone else has joined Raven in her boat, so to speak.
The latest celebrity to declare that she is not African-American is…wait for it…Whoopi Goldberg. Yes, the Sister Act star – who also starred in The Color Purple, The Lion King, The N-word and many more – was on an episode of American TV program ‘The View’ recently, where she and Raven-Symone are both co-hosts, when she made the assertion.
She made the statement after another host made a joke about seeking refuge overseas in the event Donald Trump wins the presidency in the U.S.
“You know what?” Goldberg said. “Uh-uh! This is my country. My mother, my grandmother, my great-grand folks, we busted ass to be here. I’m sorry. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American, I’m not a chick American, I’m an American!”
Raven-Symone immediately agreed with her, citing that “I’m an American. I’ve been here too long to not just hold ‘American’”. What surprised viewers at home though, was the audience cheering. Nevertheless, Facebook and Twitter went ablaze, of course.
One comment on Facebook, by Audley Phillips, responded to the initial reactions citing, “The interesting thing is that other races are quite happy to acknowledge where they come from except black people. The true Americans are the Native Americans. We’re always trying to fit in and think that by conforming, it’ll make a difference. It won’t”.
Interestingly, Whoopi does go on to say in the clip that “I’m an American alongside of the native Americans. That’s the bottom line.”, to which reactions received since, have been mixed.
What Raven and Golberg say may sound similar but different when scrutinised. Raven’s detachment from the ‘African’ tag is based on what many have described as ‘offensive’ and ‘senseless’. On a segment titled “Are You Judged By Your Name?” the 30-year-old said she wouldn’t hire anyone with a “black” sounding name.
Twitter obviously reacted with top comments including, “How do you, a Black person w/ [with] an ethnic name, justify proudly endorsing discriminatory hiring practices on a nat’l [national] platform, @ravensymone?” @RonnieSnark wrote.
Whilst Jamil Smith tweeted, “That Raven-Symoné used “Watermelonisha” as an example of a “black name” shows you how deep the internalized [sic] racism and self-hatred goes”.
Whoopi bases the logic behind her statement on the fact that she was not born in Africa and her ancestors co-existed with the Native Americans.
So there is two-way argument here – Not African because I’m not from there and that I have been in America far too long to still have Africa next to my label.
The pair’s TV comments have sparked debate both off and online. “I’m black, but I don’t class myself as African because I was not born there. I’m Black British. Now if UKIP for example want to throw all black people out and send them to their country, then that’s senseless because I am from the UK, as are my parents. We don’t know anything or anyone in Africa. This is my country”, an anonymous commentator told TNT.
Raised repeatedly is the question of heritage vs race vs label. Do you class yourself as Black, or African, or Black-British or Black-African or African-British, or Afro-Caribbean? Are these more than just labels or are we becoming a people who find fulfilment in blind hair-splitting here?
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