I Broke My Hyphen A Long Time Ago!

Please, allow me to break yours too.

 

     My great grandparents and all of my relatives in the USA since before the Revolutionary War ended were all born slaves. By blood that they and the slaughtered Native American / First Peoples shed I am an American. 

~My family is American!

     My grandmother, Mrs. Allene Thornton was born in 1910 and was old when I was young. She taught me poetry and prose.

     She also taught me the largely unwritten history of The United States and what it felt like to see her brother lynched, hung by angry White Americans who were offended that my distant uncle would not tap dance on command.

~My family is American!

     My father served in Viet Nam and several other unnamed, and illegal activities that The United Stated forced him by way of an immoral and unethical draft. He spilled the blood of other disenfranchised, marginalized, poor people on behalf of The United States.

~My family is American!

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Americans like me died for the flag.

     In the 240 years that the United States has existed; everyone in my familial living memory has died in, died for, killed for, paid taxes to, and been murdered in The United States.

~My family is American!

     I will not be denied my place, unabridged, in Americas founding and history.

All of my African-American friends were actually born in Africa.

~Watt, Patriot.

15 comments

  1. Curt

    Dear Sir, I get your perspective and your point was made loud and clear. I especially enjoyed the profound ending. Although I completely get your overall point, would you not agree that you possessed ‘relatives’ way before slavery? There’s a huge distinction, as you know, between ‘relatives’ and ‘family’. It is my position that because my distant relatives are from the continent of Africa, that that makes me, at least from origin, as an African living in America…for now. Our lineage didn’t start with slavery…our lineage started from the Genius of the Original People. We have family! and…We have relatives! Great piece.

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    • YusefWateef

      No, our lineage didn’t start with slavery, but it was the first chapter of our lives in America. I don’t mean that it should be glorified or used as a reason to not to see the distant bond I have with Africa, but at this point, it’s functionally as distant as any other people that have lived in Africa for several generations or more. Besides, I see it being used to drive a wedge between Black Americans and everyone else.

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  2. Brian

    This one is hard for me.
    I completely agree with this. Although, as a people we need to put labels on everything. And we have no idea where some of our social conditioning comes from.
    I.e. When I was dating my wife. We lived originally in Utah. She grew up Catholic, but she was conditioned to be Mormon. It’s just what was around us in every facet of life. It’s not usually that blatant in the culture. As to know what and where our thoughts and ideas are coming from. I battle with many of these ideas that pop into my head throughout the week.
    With my kids, they will be black or mixed. At least as society in America sees them. Not just Americans, anywhere inside of America. For some reason that only exists when you travel.
    Anyways, I could go on for awhile about this.
    I wish it was a simple fix, but this one runs deep.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous

    Hi Watt, really enjoyed the insight on your family, stories, and the message on the complexity of our identities and nationalist loyalties. RT

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  4. Yvette

    Hi Watt! I enjoyed your article. I actually use Black more than African-American. Because I have several African friends, some of whom I’ve dated, I’m more conscious of the term African-American. After working as a contractor for the federal government, I began to see myself more as an American, perhaps because of the way I was contributing to the safety of our country. I knew what I was doing was important and felt more connected to the country. Now that I live overseas, I feel it even more. In Japan, I’m not Black, I’m not African-American, I’m American (although to some I might be African, but that’s another story). I think that’s the problem a lot of Black people have — some don’t feel or sense any real connection to the U.S. because the most consistent message we’ve received has been “you’re nothing.” This was the attitude during slavery and has been maintained ever since, despite our contributions to the building of this country (or perhaps because of it). The message on the Statue of Liberty’s tablet was not written for us. We were not welcomed here with open arms. Facing that attitude, why should we consider ourselves Americans? The reasons to see ourselves as Americans are there, but are hard for many to see.

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  8. Romal

    Yusef, thanks for posting your article and why you assert your American identity. I don’t think it’s anyone place to define another person’s view of self. So I respect yours. You are indeed an American. I am an American. It is my place of birth but not my place of cultural origin. That’s the part of my story that I wrestle with and I think some others do as well. It’s not a denial of the often harsh reality that we are American but an awareness, that as you point out, through enslavement we were intentionally stripped of cultural identity and viewed as a commodity rather than people worthy or dignity. All of which still plays out today. Making a connection with the Continent of Africa and the African Diaspora in general is in some way an means of owning the reality that cultural identity and country of birth are different. America is made up of people from different cultural identities. I am American but that is not my cultural identity. Nor is saying I am Black. Black is not a cultural but a social construct with political and economic implications. To say that I am African American is simply to say I am aware that my lineage did not start here and even though I may not know where on the Continent or even in the Diaspora my people come from, I know it was not here and I choose not to forget that nor act as if it doesn’t matter. You’re right, like you, my African friends who live in America are perhaps more African than I am but does that take a way my right to have some semblance of cultural awareness and the right to acknowledge that the story of my people did not start here? (Rhetorical) I carry their story, their struggle, their resilience and their achievements in my DNA and perhaps saying I am African American is a way of honoring my story in a way that reaches back generations prior to enslavement. My story didn’t start here and so I travel to Africa and other parts of the Diaspora to connect with and learn the history of those stories as part of my own. We are a global community and live in a global context. Just as Asians born in America don’t give up their cultural identity because they were born here, nor do people of Indian decent, German, Italian, etc. so why should I just call myself Black or simply an American? For me, doing so throws away a lot of history as if it doesn’t matter and that’s exactly what others want us to do, act like it no longer matters. Like your family, I served in the Army, my father was a Marine, and my grandfather was in the the Navy. We fought for this country and still have to fight for respect, equity and equality while living it but our cultural identity is always at risk of being erased to simply accept the label of a color, Black. American yes but assimilating to the point that I embrace the lose or assumed irrelevance of cultural identity, NEVER.

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