I AM...

I am whatever YOU think I am until YOU get to KNOW me. This is true for everyone else too, of course.. so don't make assumptions about anyone or pass judgment; ask questions. You might just make a new friend.


Thursday, November 17, 2011


There was a time
until the early 1960s when the terms to describe those of African decent, like
me -- African-American or Black or Afro-American -- were almost unheard of. I
remember a distinct conversation with a friend discussing descriptive terms for
ourselves in 1963 or ’64. The term “black” was just coming into vogue and he
didn't like it one bit. “Call me a Negro,” he said, “but don't call me

Now, the word “Negro” (publications
used a lower case “n”) has almost become a pejorative, so I was a little
surprised when my pastor, the Rev. Willie Reid, used it during Thursday's
revival. “Back when we were Negroes,” he said, and listed several things that
were different about black life in America back then. 

That got me to
thinking: Back when we were Negroes in the 1950s, “only 9 percent of black
families with children were headed by a single parent,” according to “The Black
Family: 40 Years of Lies” by Kay Hymowitz. “Black children had a 52 percent
chance of living with both their biological parents until age 17. In 1959,
“only 2 percent of black children were reared in households in which the mother
never married.” But now that we're African-Americans, according to Hymowitz,
those odds of living with both parents had “dwindled to a mere 6 percent” by
the mid-1980s. And check this, in Bibb County, more than 70 percent of the
births in the African-American community are to single mothers. 

Back when we
were Negroes and still fighting in many parts of the country for the right to
vote, we couldn't wait for the polls to open. We knew our friends, family and
acquaintances had died getting us the ballot. Dogs and fire hoses were used to
keep us away and still we came. But now that we're African-Americans, in a city
of 47,000 registered -- predominately black voters -- more than 30,000 didn't
show up at the polls July 19. 

Back when we
were Negroes, we had names like Joshua, Aaron, Paul, Esther, Melba, Cynthia
and Ida. Now that we are African Americans, our names are bastardized
versions of alcohol from Chivas to Tequila to C(S)hardonney. And chances the
names have an unusual spelling. 

Back when we
were Negroes, according to the Trust For America's Health's “F as in
Fat,” report, “only four states had diabetes rates above 6 percent. ... The
hypertension rates in 37 states about 20 years ago were more than 20 percent.”
Now that we're African-Americans, that report shows, “every state has a hypertension
rate of more than 20 percent, with nine more than 30 percent. Forty-three
states have diabetes rates of more than 7 percent, and 32 have rates above 8
percent. Adult obesity rates for blacks topped 40 percent in 15 states, 35
percent in 35 states and 30 percent in 42 states and Washington, DC 

Back when we
were Negroes, the one-room church was the community center that everyone used.
Now that we're African-Americans, our churches have lavish -- compared to
back-in-the-day churches -- community centers that usually sit empty because
the last thing the new church wants to do is invite the community in. 

Back when we
were Negroes, we didn't have to be convinced that education was the key that
opened the lock of success, but now that we're African-Americans, more than 50
percent of our children fail to graduate high school. In Bibb County last year,
the system had a dropout rate of 53.4 percent. 

Back when we
were Negroes, the last thing a young woman wanted to look like was a harlot and
a young man a thug, but now that we're African-Americans, many of our young
girls dress like hootchie mamas and our young boys imitate penitentiary custom
and wear their pants below the butt line.

If I could
reverse all of the above by trading the term “African-American” for “Negro,”
what do you think I’d do? 


I have long believed that part of our problem with resolving
race issues in America is our inability to accurately name what we are. Aside
from the occasional Johnny and Edgar Winter, there are no white people. Any
child with a box of crayons can tell you that white people are, in fact, beige.
The sickly ones are gray. Following this crayon logic, one can easily see that
there are really no black people. They are brown. Or perhaps raw umber. Or
maybe burnt sienna. Frankly, every time I hear someone comment on America's first
black president, I can't help thinking, "No, he's not. He's more like
caramel." Which is why I think we should all get in the habit of calling
each other what we really are. How can you racially slur a man by calling him
"beigey" or "umber?" The answer is you can't. Because
that's exactly what he is. The melanin doesn't lie. Buy a box of Crayolas and
see for yourself. We are all members of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People. Can I hear a kumbaya?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...