We attach labels to describe our heritage. You say, “I’m black, Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Asian, etc.” These are very strong attachments. Some of us literally wear our skins as our most important, or only definitive label.
We dare to argue our worthiness in pursuit of some after-life reward by declaring our membership in a broad tent religion: Christian, Muslin, Unitarian, Jewish, just spiritual, etc.
Or, we’re quick to tell how we don’t believe in anything after this life. Atheism has grown into a well-organized belief system.
We tell others our financial status by proudly stating our zip code, by driving a certain vehicle, and/or wearing a certain designer line of shoes, clothing, jewelry, or handbag.
We join exclusive clubs to give validity to our status, e.g. Country clubs, fraternal organizations; secret societies; members’ only groups.
We wear our politics on our sleeve; sometimes we wave it on flags, and attend public demonstrations, conferences, forums, et al, to garner support for our positions. We’re eager to pronounce it wrong if we encounter opposing views. We write blogs, letters to the new editors, and post our thoughts on Instagram and Twitter.
On Facebook, we’re not content to just be; we invite the world, not only to endorse us, but to ‘like’ and join us and our particular declarations: racial classification, nationality, brand loyalty, political correctness, creed, gender preference, etc.
What is this behavior?
It proves, again, that we humans have not evolved too far past of our basic tribal instincts: we’re constantly looking for our kind. It’s comforting. Indeed, there is safety in numbers; no person is an Island.
The internet keeps us closer to one another. We are instantly connected, one to another, and we have shrunken the world to the distance between our fingers and the computer keyboard.
In fact, the world has become so small that this interconnectedness has made me a bit uncomfortable; there are no more boundaries, or at best, the lines have been blurred.
The most blurred lines in the U.S.A. are along race. We talk incessantly about race. The new normal is an obsession over being mixed race, or, as in the recent case of Rachel Donzeal (others), being a race- by- affinity. i.e., “I feel white/black/fill in the blank.”
The near majority of folk in the USA are of mixed race. The Census has already predicted and projected that the ‘browning of America’, fully underway, will be completed by 2050 when the majority U.S. population will be non-whites. Per the Brookings Institute in a 2014 article, demographer William Frey reported that in another three years the majority of Americans under the age of eighteen will be ‘minority.’ In fact, the 2010 census counted more than 53% of the 3100 Counties in the U.S. had declining white populations.
Seemingly everyone has adopted a hyphenated nationality: African-American, Italian-American, Jewish-American; Irish, German, English-American, etc.
But travel outside of this country, and those hyphens mean little, or nothing. Folk in other countries see all of us as Americans because to them, we are culturally, linguistically, socio-economically, and, strangely, religiously, all the same: just Americans.
Our very body language shouts out who we are: we expect to be served. Expectations and exceptions are, our American birthright. Isn’t it?
After all, it is written into the preamble to our Constitution that we have the right to ………the pursuit of (our) happiness.
If you’re a black person who has travelled to Africa, thinking that you are an African-American, you understand.
Yes, to Africans, we, too, are just Americans!
So back home here in America…..
We are fighting a battle within ourselves and amongst ourselves to be correctly defined: to have the right race mix; to belong to the right groups: religious, political, socio-economic, etc.
We struggle on a daily basis to find the place where we best belong- to get into the American version of heaven.
You ask, “What/how am I supposed to be?”
Today I am trying to live as a questioning, humanitarian, human, be-ing.
Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at email@example.com