Samuel L. Jackson is the blackest dude on earth. Nobody is blacker than this brother in Hollywood, Inglewood, or any other kind of wood you can think of. I have had the good fortune of socializing with him a few times and I can attest that he is just as black in person as he is on the big screen where he gets paid millions of dollars per film to say “mother fucker” like ONLY an authentic black man can. The man is an incredible actor but that part- the black as hell part- is the real deal. So now that I have told you what you already know about what Samuel L. Jackson is, I’m going to tell you what Samuel L. Jackson is NOT. He is NOT an African-American. As far as I know, blood was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. To my knowledge, his parents were born stateside too and have no publicly identifiable tribal affiliation that would validate any claim to be in any way “African.”So buckle up, folks, its going to be a ride.
Black Americans calling themselves “African-Americans” is one of the biggest cluster-fucks in the history of cluster-fucks. Billions of people around the world have bought into this utter nonsense with barely any pushback at all. I understand that there are only the loosest of rules on racial self-identification in America. Very little is etched in stone in the country where we once codified the unchained stupidity of the “one drop rule.” But by any logical rules you apply “African-American” just doesn’t fit Samuel L. Jackson or any of the rest of us citizens formerly known as Negroes. And if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit. (Rest In Peace, Johnnie.)
If your friend Shaemus Fitzpatrick O’Reilly tells you that he is Irish-American, you would be pretty safe in assuming that if he personally hails from Greater Chicago, then either his parents or grandparents migrated here from Ireland, the land of their birth. That assumption is almost certain to be wrong with your friend Jamal Robinson who calls himself an African-American. For starters, Jamal’s forefathers probably go back in this country so far that he has no record of the actual land of his origin. His documentation is already sketchy due to the legacy of slavery and only reflects his lineage on these shores. Accordingly, Jamal is as much an “African American” as The grandson of Alexander Hamilton was a “British American.” The geography and the culture are entirely disconnected in both cases.
To define our terms accurately, an African-American is somebody who either immigrated to America from the continent of Africa themselves and naturalized as an American or is the child or grandchild of someone who did- in the exact same way that our boy Shaemus Fitzpatrick O’Reilly’s people did from Ireland. So for example: had Barack Obama Sr. naturalized here, HE would be an African-American. His son, our kick-ass 44th President of the United States, could legitimately and authentically wear the label of African-American. I am from Detroit. My father and mother are from Canton and Columbus, Ohio. We don’t know jack shit about Africa other than whatever we have read or watched on PBS. Accordingly, we would be no more at home on the continent than our boy Shaemus Fitzgerald O’Reilly from the Chicago suburbs.
Besides being an errant description, black folks calling themselves African-Americans reflects an intellectual laziness and a group neurosis that time should have helped us heal by now. We can be excused for being fucked up psychologically for a few generations because of the cultural legacy of the plantation, but too many of us are sophisticated enough by now to know that we are likely carrying as much of the blood of the Dutch and Portugese slave-traders and slave-masters as the Africans they exploited. S0 how long are we going to keep bullshitting ourselves about who we are? Are we ever going to be real with ourselves? We might find it liberating to embrace our true identity and throw off the linguistic bondage of identifying ourselves only in terms of our victimhood.
The fact is that black Americans are, for the most part, the only authentic native Americans. The reason is simple: this is our native land and we have no other. Our people were created by an economic system that melded the flesh and blood and cultures of many nations right here on these shores. If we don’t exist anywhere else, how are we NOT native Americans? The people that we have taken to calling native Americans shouldn’t have a problem with this appropriation of their makeshift moniker because they actually have a defined tribal identity of their own creation- complete with a name, a culture and a history. They don’t need mainstream America to fuck up one faulty identifier with another: transitioning over the years from “Indians” to “Native Americans.” Besides the fact is that they migrated here from other lands themselves- simply beating white folks here doesn’t make you a native. Black people- the slaves that were born here and worked these lands and fueled a national economy to becoming a world superpower are the true native Americans. But I am a fair man and I do like to give people room to breathe while they come to grips with major change. So I just advocate black folks calling themselves Americans and calling it a day. That is what we are and all we are and I am dying to have somebody prove me wrong with hard evidence. I’ll wait but I won’t hold my breath because I’ve been at this for a while.
At this point, is there any true benefit to be had by sub-classifying ourselves anyway? That has been an article of faith in progressive politics forever but that point is very much in question when examining the current landscape. Has it done us any good in the last three decades? I would argue that there is as much benefit to dumping the formal sub-classification altogether and just being who we really are: the only true, original, authentic Americans that there are. We really are NOTHING ELSE but American. That is something to be proud of- our unmatched history of perseverance and endurance; our strength in the face of adversity; our courage in the face of terrorism and oppression; our brave defense of this nation even when it wouldn’t defend us; our unimaginable ascension through society in a ridiculously short span of time. I know it was hard on us back in the day to accept that the only land that we could really call our own is a land where we were used, abused and reviled. But that doesn’t stop it from being ours and because its ours we have to love it- even if it has seldom loved us back.
We don’t have to keep telling those tall tales about being “kings and queens” in Africa before the onset of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. If “we” were really kings and queens, how in the fuck did we all wind up in the bowels of slave ships? The truth is that the kings and queens of Africa conspired with the European oligarchs and slave traders to supply the Americas with cheap labor and used the vanquished foes from rival tribes and villages to do it. So our affection for Africa has been misplaced for decades anyway. I have no special hostility toward Africa or Africans, but we need to dig the fact that Africa is as culpable for the horrors of the middle passage and American slavery as Europe is- and black people today are made up of all of them. It’s real and the sooner we can accept it the sooner we can stop looking ridiculous on the world stage by calling ourselves a name that doesn’t even describe who we are. If I was a real African-American, I’d be pissed and tell guys like Jamal Robinson to go fuck himself. And this is entirely on us- we have been in charge of our name since the Civil Rights Movement so we own this self-inflicted mind-fuck. I hear tell that the Reverend Jesse Jackson himself came up with the name “African-American.” If that is true, then that is reason enough to reconsider the matter. All due respect to Reverend Jackson but he has not been a real thought leader in years. His last significant public utterances were him being caught on a hot mic expressing his desire to castrate Barack Obama during the ’08 campaign. So let’s not just re-up on advise that we got from Jesse back in the day.
It has been long enough. We can get real with ourselves and the world about who we are: Americans. And we must demand that the entire world regard us, acknowledge us and respect us as such. But that won’t happen until we do it first.
∞ Thanks again for checking in- Do your thing today and I’ll see you tomorrow π