For the information of those who may be unaware of certain historical facts, many of us have spent a large portion of our lives being catalogued as members of different groupings. In 1619, when the first Africans were brought to Virginia â€“ not as slaves but, as were many whites, indentured servants â€“ they were known as â€śblacksâ€ť or â€śnegars.â€ť Negar, which has its roots in the Latin word â€śnigerâ€ť (meaning black), is the progenitor of â€śnigger,â€ť most likely owing to the pronunciation of the word by Southern whites. This is attested to by the fact that many deep-South whites today pronounce Negro â€śNigra.â€ť
I personally have officially been classified as Colored, Negro, Afro-American and Black, along with some other designations I choose not to dignify by repeating. In 2005 (or thereabouts) IÂ officiallyÂ (albeitÂ unofficially) became â€śAfrican-Americanâ€ť â€“ and now, in 2012,Â unofficiallyÂ I amÂ officiallyÂ â€śBlackâ€ť again. Let the record show, black or Black, depending on context, can be pejorative or salutary; i.e., â€śBlack is beautifulâ€ť or â€śBlack Friday.â€ť For the record, I have been there, done that, and so if it is all the same to you (or even if it is not), yours truly prefers to be referred to, and known not as aÂ hyphenated AmericanÂ but simply as a USA-born American citizen from Texas.
Today, in their haste to impose political correctness, liberals have generated a problem for Blacks (or is that blacks?). How about this statement: â€śTheÂ African-AmericanÂ president of the UnitedÂ NegroÂ College Fund raises money for 38 historicallyÂ blackÂ colleges.â€ť Kinda covers the spectrum, wouldnâ€™t you say?
However, in a survey conducted by ABC and the Washington Post, 66 percent said they preferred the term Black, 22 percent preferred African-American, 10 percent liked both terms, and 2 percent had no opinion. In 2000, the Census Bureau for the first time allowed respondents to check a box that carried the heading â€śAfrican-Americanâ€ť next to the term â€śblackâ€ť (or is that Black?). In 2003, a poll by the same news organizations found that 48 percent of blacks preferred the term â€śAfrican-American,â€ť 35 percent favored â€śblackâ€ť and 17 percent liked both terms. OnlyÂ twoÂ terms? Werenâ€™t there three? Hard to keep up, huh?
Criticisms of this country to the contrary, people from all over the world strive and in many cases succeed in â€ścoming to America,â€ť and their arrival can cause some identity problems.
You answer this one: I have two friends, one white, one black (I meanÂ reallyÂ black, Africa-type black, not just â€śAmerican brownâ€ť like me). Blacks, you may have noticed, come in assorted colors. In fact, at one point in Americaâ€™s past, in accordance with the â€śone dropâ€ť rule (one drop of â€śblackâ€ť blood made you a Negro), we were given options on the U.S. Census: We could register on the census as Mulatto (half Negro), Quadroon (a quarter Negro), Octoroon (one-eighth Negro).
Back to the aforementioned friends, who both happen to have been born in Africa but are now American citizens.
You decide; which one is the African-American? The black African or the white African? Plus, is my African black friend by virtue of being â€śblackerâ€ť than me more African-American-Black (or is that black?) than I? How about this? If color is a key determinant for African-American membership, then African, Bahamian, Cuban, Haitian, Jamaican and all other Caribbean imports immediately qualify. (Drat, there goes my uniqueness â€¦ again.)
Next thing you know, theyâ€™ll all be looking for affirmative action, too. Well, maybe not. The facts seem to indicate that most of them appear to be better educated and earn higher wages than â€śAmerican-African-Americans.â€ť
Hey. How about that? I just solved our identity crises; simply hyphenate the hyphenated. African-African-American, Bahamian-African-American, Cuban-African-American; oops, forgot â€¦ Cubans, Hispanics, etc., all want their own â€śhyphens.â€ť By the way, whatever happened to the concept of America as a melting pot, with cultural divisions and characteristics lost in the process? They never worked anywhere else; why would they work in America?
I have an idea. How about we scrub the hyphens and get back to being just plain Americans?
My great-grandfather, Ben Kinchlow, was born a slave, the son of the white slave master and a half- white â€śhouse slave.â€ť To prevent his son being raised as a slave, â€śMassaâ€ť sent him, along with his mother, to Mexico, and he remained there as a free individual until age 13. He came back to the U.S., joined the Texas Rangers as a scout, tracked outlaws, became a citizen, married a freed black woman and fathered three sons. My own parents were the traditional male and female, legally wed, poll tax-paying couple in a small town in southwest Texas. They, my brother and I were born and raised in America. Altogether we are six generations of Americans, and except for geographical knowledge (and my visit there) we had nothing to do with Africa.
I am a veteran, a Constitution-loving, flag-waving, plain olâ€™ taxpaying American citizen. So, if you please, and if it is all the same to you, I will leave the esoteric labels to people like the wife of Sen. John Kerry (Teresa Heinz-Kerry) who is white but has referred to herself on occasion as an â€śAfrican-American,â€ť as she was born toÂ Portuguese parents in Mozambique. I wonder if she was attempting to qualify for government assistance to minorities? Naaahhh.
Correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding was that we marched and demonstrated and some died for equal rights and civil rights, notÂ special rights. What about â€śliberty and justice for ALLâ€ť? Have we attained perfection? No. Will we? Not likely. We have faults? Some. But after visiting five continents and spending several years seeing how much of the world lives, I only have one thing to say:
By the way, if anyone is so inclined, and has a longing for the motherland, I understand almost every country in Africa is still receiving immigrants â€¦ and America is granting exit visas.
Ben Kinchlow is a minister, broadcaster, author and businessman. He was the long-time co-host of CBN's "The 700 Club" television program and host of the international edition of the show, seen in more than 80 countries. He is the founder of Americans for Israel and the African American Political Awareness Coalition, and the author of several books.