So lets start with the video that caused the “outrage”
Raven Symone stated that she hates labels. She will not label herself gay. She will label herself American and not African American.
So before I kick in with why I kinda agree with her let’s tackle some arguments of fallacy
1. She’s a rich so now she disassociates herself. Strawman. It was an interview where she shared a point. Would it have made a difference if she was a poor celebrity? I think not.
2. She is denying that she is black. Err unlike Mr Pharell she did not define a New Black or say she was not black but rather that she was American and not African American.
3. Labels are there she cannot disassociate from them. Well err yes she can and she has. We can chose what labels we wish to align with or not. People always do.
On Being Gay
How many times have I been asked if I am straight? Err never.
Who cares if I am straight? (Actually I have been asked if I was gay a couple of times. another blog)
Yes I am married and in a monogamous relationships but what if I was bi, or polyamorous whose business is it other than mine and those who I am in a relationship with?
And there for me is what has been missing in this dialogue. Raven says, she does not need a categorisation for whom and what she loves. I get that. She prefixed that statement by saying that her parents always told her to protect he private life and whilst yes she is willing to share her journey with Oprah of what she is doing with her life it is very clear that her sexuality and how people label that is not up for discussion. I know of many people who are gay who wish not discuss that. Or being labelled that. Not out of fear, as is the case for many, but just because it is none of your got damn business what orientation they are.
On Being African American
It was amazing how someones personal opinion can kick off such a fire storm.
It’s funny no one kicks off on President Obama, a man of mixed heritage, who sees himself as African American. Perputating as it were the 1% drop rule that if you have a little portion of black in you then you are defined as African American. Why should someone in that position have to choose? And yet when a celebrity of Raven Symones stature makes a statement as she did people kick off on it, asking how who dare she not self define herself.
If you listen carefully she mentions that she has no understanding of her roots past Louisiana. I can bet your bottom dollar many of the self ascribed African Americans trying to tear her a new one could probably not identify where in Africa they are from themselves. I would even muster a bet that many still see Africa is a country (yes I went there)
Now in America slaves and their descendants from the Diaspora where first called Negroes and then it moved on to Nigger, Coloured, Black, African American. The title is ever changing and to be honest I can understand the frustration across generations of people who don’t know how to describe people of African descent in America. My cousin who was a teacher in New York got into a bit of stick when she mistakenly called dark skinned Puerto Ricans in her class African American. They took umbrage as they saw themselves as Hispanic. (Even though Hispanic is not a race)
Raven came back to say
“I never said I wasn’t black… I want to make that very clear. I said, I am not African-American. I never expected my personal beliefs and comments to spark such emotion in people. I think it is only positive when we can openly discuss race and being labeled in America.”
The issue was with the label African American. If we dig a bit deeper there is an honest conversation to be had about the label black. What does that even mean? For someone in England, Australia, Brazil, USA and the Caribbean they can all have very different meanings outside of the archaic definition of skin colour for an ethnicity or socially constructed race. Of course defining herself as a colourless person might have irked some people, but taken in context of her whole statement she does not want to be defined as other but as part of a melting pot that makes up America.
While we are it at, how come only two racial groups are ever described by colour? Hmmm No one ever refers to Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence or Robert De Niro as European American. So if she choses to, and along with many other people of colour, why should she want to be labelled as African American, especially when she does not know the connection
I am the child of immigrant Caribbean parents. I am fortunate enough to have traced my roots on both my paternal and maternal bloodline. To Ghana, Sierra Leon, Arawak Indians and Portugal. As a British citizen what if I choose not to be defined by a colour? What of my kids who are third generation are they just British or do they have to align to being labelled as Caribbean too. What of the Portuguese side of the family. Should I ignore those because of the African.
I totally get Raven.
She does not want to be labelled just because it makes it easy for others.
This does not mean that other people won’t use those labels, just that she doesn’t define herself that way. Not all labels. Just African American and Gay.
And I kinda agree with her. Actually I fully agree with her. She is a woman who has always charted her path and played by her own rules, kept her private life private and if others have a problem, its’ their problem not hers. And we shouldn’t be surprised.
That’s so Raven.