Conservatives, White Supremacists, foreign adversaries (using bots), and anyone Black or White who does not know or is uneducated about the intricate history of identity and the Black man/woman in America need not use social media to alert Americans of African descent (formerly Afro-Americans, Coloreds, Negroes) who is a “real” American Black. Is Louis Farrakhan not a “real” American Black because his mother was born in Saint Kitts and Nevis, and his father was born in Jamaica? Is Malcolm X not a “real” American Black because his mother is from Grenada? Is Civil Rights activist and World War II veteran Harry Belafonte not an American Black because his parents were born in Jamaica? Or should we not consider Sidney Poitier whose parents are from the Bahamas a “real” American Black? Shirley Chisolm is an American Black and her parents were born in the Caribbean. And for the record, according to my definition, Senator Kamala Harris is an American Black.
Most Black people in America are aware of their often multi-racial roots. There are many American Blacks who have African, European, Native American, and African diasporic roots. Some of our ancestors were enslaved; some were not. Informed Black people cast aside the residual Willie Lynch chains which inhabited their colonized minds, and do not accept definitions of “American Black” by those who contemptuously strive to divide the Black community.
In the 1600s and throughout the 1800s, depending upon the state, an American Black was one with African Ancestry. In the early 20th century, The Racial Integrity Act and laws patterned after it, defined one as Black if he had one drop of African blood. Those laws effectively created a system that categorized people by color, more so than by DNA. Therefore, many people of color, regardless of their ethnicity, have similar lived experiences.
Initially, American Blacks had roots in slavery in the U.S.; however, in the mid-twentieth century with the migration of laborers from the Caribbean and after the Civil Rights Act in 1964, an American Black became more than one with roots in American slavery. Many African Americans learned and understood, during the Black Power and Black Arts Movements, their connectedness to the African diaspora. They acquired knowledge of Mahatma Gandhi’s fight against colonization and the commonalities they had with oppressed people around the world. After exploring the untold stories in their history, they realized they had relatives who were placed in the Caribbean, Brazil, and other areas of the Middle Passage. This awakening led to an embrace of their Caribbean and South American brethren. The African American community redefined “Black” and the category became inclusive, not exclusive.
Currently, and since the Civil Rights era, an American Black is an African American or one with African ancestry who is born in or has migrated to America. This includes people from the African Diaspora who have become citizens of the United States and may or may not have assimilated into the culture of African Americans. African Americans are American Blacks, but they are distinguished by their culture and their roots in slavery and the Jim Crow era.
Senator Harris is an American Black with African diasporic roots. Her parents may not have been born in America, but her father gave her the “drop of African blood,” and her mother embraced African American culture and without negating her own heritage, engaged her daughters in the culture of African Americans. Born in America, Harris has the lived experience of an African American with multi-ethnic roots. She did not “hijack” Black history; she lived it.
When Senator Harris addressed Vice-President Biden and started speaking of the little colored girl who endured the indignities of busing, I knew she was referring to herself before she made it apparent. I was not surprised because I read her memoir (The Truths We Hold: An American Journey) and knew how she perceived herself. She is American. She is Black. Based upon her roots and her lived experience, she is a “real” American Black.
Michael Jackson said it does not matter if one is Black or White. However, in some circles of American society, it matters. There will always be those who engage in a narrative which is divisive. There will always be insecure bigots and racists who promote hatred and blame. I am patriotic, and I value our multi-ethnic Union.
There is a diverse group of intelligent Americans who want to lead our great country. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Secretary Julian Castro, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Vice-President Joe Biden, and yes - Senator Kamala Harris and many others. I am an American. I am Black. I am a woman, and I vote. I research the backgrounds of Presidential candidates and listen to the debates. As I have never discriminated against a Presidential candidate because he or she is White, I will never discriminate against Senator Harris (or any candidate) because she is Black. Despite her ethnicity, she is first and foremost an American.
Dr. Glenda R. Taylor is an author, critic, editor, poet, scholar, and cultural historian.