Kujichagulia – Naming Ourselves

This is focused on the (relatively) new television show called, Black-ish (http://tvseriesfinale.com/tv-show/black-ish/) and the controversy regarding the title and content.

No, it’s not cancelled, that is the link that a shows cancelled and renewed shows. But, I’ve been looking at comments on fb about the title (mainly) of the show and for some reason it doesn’t offend me as it seems to have set some people off.

I can remember making comments about someone being “blackish” and whoever I was talking with would laugh along with me. I can, also, remember when my son, who had been in majority white schools all his education, then I snatched him out of it and put him in a majority minority (Asian, Black, Mexican) school. He went through culture shock even though he was quite clear he was Black/African-American. Maybe he only saw himself within that white context as such an identity because I know they had no doubts about what his heritage was.

Another of our sons who is mixed race ditched school one day here in San Diego some years ago. We took off from work and went around the neighborhood scared as hell that someone had abducted him. We came upon a white man working in his yard and asked him if he’d seen two boys (he ditched with a schoolmate) walking around. He responded, “oh, you mean that Black boy and his white friend?” It stopped me in my tracks and made me wonder if he knew that when people saw him, they didn’t see a blond, curly-haired, fair skinned boy, the white saw Black before they saw him.

The same with one of my daughters who went to a majority Black college after spending all of her primary and secondary schooling in majority white schools. That’s where Black girls called her “white girl” for the whole year she was there.

I guess what puzzles me, especially following Raven Simone’s comments about her color, is that even though we (some of us) celebrate Kwanzaa, which has Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) for the second day (it’s defined as, “To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves”) we only believe that if we follow the mainstream naming.

So, why can’t we name ourselves? Why can’t WE decide for ourselves what we want to be called? We didn’t all agree to call ourselves Negroes, or Afro-Americans, or Colored, or Black, or even African-American, or the “n” word. Why can Raven be “American” and nothing else? Have we subconsciously slipped into what we (as a people) have fought against all this time–naming ourselves?

When the Africans and Puerto Ricans and Jamaicans, and other islanders began to come here in large numbers, they didn’t want to be called African-American. Black Latinos didn’t want to be identified that way, nor any islanders who love their culture. But we don’t fight them. We turn our attention to an American-born Black(ish) woman who wants to name herself and rally against her as if she is unique in what she’s doing.

I understand that for many kids who are growing up with great wealth, like the rappers’ kids, or the entertainers’ kids, or the Black professionals’ kids, don’t grow up with the same values as some inner-city kid. Their parents are working hard to have them accepted as who they are without regard to their race, but then they have to fight their own people who want to make the determination about who they are.

If a kid is half white and half Black, can’t he or she determine where he or she wants to fit in? What he or she wants to be identified as? Does their blackness overcome all other genetic matter? That’s important to know because we have many mixed race kids in our family.

We don’t all share the same experience even though we may have lived all our lives in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  What I want to celebrate is that a group of Black folk have a new television show on prime time–PRIME TIME! They show the struggles that some Black people go through with identity. Not all Black people; some Black people. I think the kids on that show are absolutely marvelous actors as are the leads as they bumble through parenting dilemmas. Let them have their kudos for being successful in breaking through that barrier once again.