Raven Symone, the cute little girl from “The Cosby Show” and the former teenage star in “That’s So Raven,” sent Oprah into freak-out mode during their interview a week ago over a statement Symone made regarding race and identity. Oprah warned Symone that she was about to start a fire on Twitter, and she was right. Symone became a major topic of ridicule in the media, mostly via Twitter, for saying that she identifies herself as American, rather than African-American.
“I don’t know where my roots go to. I don’t know how far back they go. … I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana,” said Symone. “I’m an American, and that’s a colorless person, because we’re all people.”
Angry tweets began to run rampant as people condemned her for running away from her blackness and being afraid to identify with reality.
This bogus backlash is a result of people misinterpreting her intentions, and proves the reality of race perpetuation and ornery over-identification with physical differences that is so common in our society.
Symone was not denying the fact that she has the skin color and hair-grade of a black woman. In fact, she acknowledged these personal attributes herself, but went on to say that she connects with all types of people and cultures. In other words, she meant that she is tired of labels that separate humans into categories, when we should just accept everyone for who and what they are.
A human being is a human being, and we should love all human beings regardless of what they look like. Symone doesn’t know her roots, other than that she was born and raised in America. She speaks American English and is a part of American culture, and so she simply considers herself an ingredient of the massive melting pot that is our nation. She accepts that America is meant to represent all colors and beliefs.
To not do this would, in a sense, further perpetuate racism in the same way that much of our society does. It turns Blacks, Asians and all other categorized races into people that aren’t as American as everyone else, as if they are a different breed of American, even if their family has been here for generations.
I can trace my ancestry back to several European nations but I don’t identify myself as European-American, and I don’t ever use the term Caucasian unless I am specifically asked on a formal document. I am American, and I, like Symone, simply want to see humans as humans. In the end, whether you believe in the idea that we are all descended from Adam and Eve or that we evolved over time from primates, the same blood runs through all of our veins.
Roxanne Jones wrote an article for CNN about Symone, filled with an air of sympathy and pity. She believes that Symone is merely going through a phase of trying to fit in.
According to Jones, Symone is “seemingly hoping that no one acknowledges her beautiful brown skin and the history written all over her face.”
She denounces her for “trying to be ‘colorless’ when there’s no way to look at someone without noticing appearance. And that includes color.”
But Symone isn’t afraid of her color. She doesn’t want to hide from the hues of her genetics. Rather, she wants those facts to stop being the calling card of her identity. She wants people to look at her and see a beautiful person, no matter the color. She wants to stop being the victim of connotation.
Her statement was a modern off-hand embodiment of the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. He wanted color to be of lesser importance, for those of white and black backgrounds to hold hands in an act of uplifting grace. He wanted skin to no longer embody character and propagate judgment.
Stop letting it create a divide, separating us from the truth that we are all brothers and sisters at the end of the day. Stop letting color be the barrier that even those who feel that they are the victims of racism preserve.
Hold on to culture, hold on to roots, but stop letting those things become the butter to this bread full of fissures. Black history is American history, and to separate those things is to separate the people.
Morgan Freeman once stated that an important step to letting racism dissolve is to stop talking about it.
“I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man,” he said.
He meant the same thing that Symone did, that we have to look past the color and understand that it is nothing but a pigment. What lies underneath and within is independent.
Once we can understand and openly embrace that fact as a culture and society, then and only then will King’s dream come true. Then and only then will we be able to truly sit side by side at the table of brotherhood.