My professors are typically never hard to follow along with, but for some reason, word choice has become one of my greatest triggers this semester.
Why is it that I pay over $20,000 for my education to sit in a classroom and have my teachers call me "black"? Or to go to a predominately white institution where classes on my culture and that of other people of color are only optional ELECTIVES! Why is it fair for us to spend years learning about American History but never learning about the American people themselves?
Who IS an American?
What makes you an American? What makes me an American? Too many questions have been raised about what makes a person an American, but the answer has always been so simple. It should not depend only on whether or not you were born here but also what you contribute to the cultivation and growth of the community when you arrive! Many people have ethnic roots that run deeper than those of Americans history. Though today we may be all be Americans, none of us have a history that starts or ends here. Let's be honest here, what really is American history? A compilation of events some bad, some good, that has brought us all here today. Additionally, there isn't a group of people in America who can say their way of doing something is any more American than another group of people's. Nobody can define what that is for us, we give it meaning and value.
Don't forget about US!
Now, I can sit here and talk about how we are all Americans and make it seem like we are all peace, love, and happiness OR I can also tell the truth. I am an African American woman who thinks that my experience is just as important as that of my Asian American, Native American or Mexican American peers, but this isn't the case for ALL Americans! Many Americans still believe that there's only ONE type of American...so that makes the rest of us "minorities." We can't JUST be Americans, we have to be Black, White, Indian (SO politically incorrect), Hispanic or "OTHER." Let's take a moment to think about how many people are left out of this broad labeling of individuals in our communities. Take a moment and think about why we all feel the need to limit ourselves to such restricting categories, why we restrict our minds to identifying with something so vague!
To my professor, I am NOT "black" and my people are not JUST "black" people. When you are referencing us in an educational environment, you need to educate people on WHO we are and WHERE we come from. We are African American people. Our history and our struggles are embodied in this and cannot be encompassed in a word so simple as "black." To other people of color and non-POC who feel left out or who are forced to neglect parts of their identity to fit into a race box, you are GREATER than a label and it can never embody the full glory of who you are, who your people are and the impact that you all hold in this country. Even if we are ALL American, none of us are JUST American...if you don't know who you are, look for your face in history starting TODAY!