How Do I Research My Guyanese Heritage? - *Dear Professor Gates:*
Sunday, February 3, 2013
[I should make it clear that in the past I have referred to myself as Black and even African-American because that is what everyone else saw me as. It is definitely much easier to just go along with the flow than to explain to people why I do not consider myself to be Black. It makes me sound like I have problems with self-hatred. *Now back to your regularly scheduled program*]
Before anyone begins to think that I am denying who I am or I am ashamed of my heritage I should make it clear that I was born in Haiti. Technically, I am not an African-American; the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is quick to let me know that little fact. And although I am of African ancestry I do not feel as if I am Black. When you think about it the term Black is no different than African-American; the latter is just more politically correct than the former. Both terms refer to the descendants of slaves who were emancipated (but not really) in the U.S.
Additionally, the label of Black and African-American were not created by us. We did not name ourselves. Groups of oppressed people tend to not have that option. We were labeled by the oppressors who were also conveniently able to refer to themselves as White. There is no need to believe me or think that I am some sort of conspiracy theorist. Just know that if tomorrow it was suddenly decided that Black people (or African-Americans) were to be re-labeled as “Green” then that is what we would become. Green people. The Green community. The sad part is that most Black people would go along with it.
It begs to question if I do not identify with Black or African-American, then what do I identify with? The only other logical choice would have to be Haitian or at the very least Caribbean. But once again these terms were chosen by someone else. Haiti was not always Haiti (and the Caribbean was not always the Caribbean). It was known by a different name to the natives of the island before they were massacred by colonizers along with their culture that most Haitians will never get to experience.
I find it difficult to believe that the descendants of Africans (or Black people...or African-Americans if you prefer) can rise from being second class citizens when they do not even choose how they identify themselves. The first step in self-empowerment is to know your history and who you are.
Is this making any sense or do I just have some serious personal issues to deal with?