Whoopi Goldberg Rejects Racist Label

Whoopi Goldberg Rejects Racist Label

ABC’s “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg has joined fellow “View” co-host Raven-Symoné   in rejecting the extremely racist term “African-American”.

“You know what uh uh! This is my country,” Goldberg said. “My mother, my grandmother, my great-grand folks, we busted ass to be here. I’m sorry. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American, I’m not a chick American, I’m an American!”

In October, 2014, Raven told Oprah Winfrey’ “I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African American; I’m an American.”

The time has come to eliminate this term “African-American” which perpetuates the old Southern racist concept that dark complexioned Americans are a separate race from light complexioned Americans.     Those using the term essentially rely on the racist concept of “part black all black” [the one drop rule] rather than looking at all of a person’s ancestors.

For example, journalists routinely label Asian ancestry golfer Tiger Woods “African-American” even though  he has an Asian mother and a father with Asian and North American ancestry as well as some ancestors from sub-Sahara Africa.     Raven-Symoné obviously has more skin complexion genes from ancestors outside of Africa than from sub-Saharan Africa ancestors.  A century ago someone with her complexion might  have decided to leave her family and pass for white.

Those who use the term “African-American” don’t seem to understand that Africa refers to a continent, not a group of people.  The Sahara Desert divides the continent into two genetically and culturally different populations.   North American slaves came from the area south of the Sahara.  In this post I will use “African” to designate persons from south of the Sahara.

Southern racism treated dark complexioned individuals as if their only ancestors came from Africa.    The term “Africa-American” perpetuates this false claim.   The fact is that African DNA began mixing with British DNA at Jamestown in the early 17th Century.  The first Africans arrived at Jamestown in1619 and were treated like the white indentured servants.   Indentured servants were temporary slaves who used their labor to pay off a debt.  In the North American colonies the  debt was likely the cost of travel to the colony.  Many of the Irish indentured servants, like the Africans, were  forced to move to North America.     For the Africans, the debt was the purchase price from the slave traders.   Many of those with African ancestry who were brought to North America came from the West Indies rather than directly from Africa.   Some of these may have had some European or western hemisphere ancestry.

Marriages across the color line began occurring even before African indentured servant  John Punch married a white woman, who was probably also an indentured servant,  in 1636.  Four years later Punch was sentenced by a judge to be the first permanent slave in the British North American colonies after he and two other indentured servants ran away.  Punch’s marriage deserves special attention because it is the earliest marriage to produce traceable descendants.  Nobel Prize winner Ralph Bunch is one of his black descendants.   One of his white descendants is Stanley Ann Dunham the mother of President Barack Obama.

In the early years of the Virginia colony people sometimes had to marry across the black, white and red color lines because the small population reduced the number of potential mates.    A similar situation existed in Spanish and French North American settlements.  The earliest connection between an African and North Americans occurred in Spanish Florida in 1526 when a slave escaped and was accepted by a North American village.    The practice of accepting escaped slaves would continue in the British colonies and later in the United States.

The process of British and African genetic integration accelerated briefly after the British government authorized permanent slavery.   The law said that a child’s status [slave or free] would be determined by the status of the mother.  A white child of a slave mother would become an indentured servant. A black child would become a permanent slave.  Slave owners knew that a child with a black parent and a white parent would be black so they forced their white female indentured servants to mate with their African male slaves.   White male indentured servants  had little choice but to mate with African female slaves.

Only about 500,000 Africans were imported to North America during the  nearly 200 years the slave trade was legal with most of them arriving before America won its independence.  The first U.S. census showed a population in 1790 of  3,172,000 whites and 757,000 blacks.    Thus it is likely that most descendants of slaves had multiple  ancestors living in North America before the Revolution.    The descendants of slaves could have a hundred  different ancestors who were living in North America before the American Revolution.  At seven generations back a person can have 128 different ancestors.

In slave societies it is common for males in the owner class to have sex with female members of the slave class especially unmarried females.  Unmarried female slaves may even encourage such attention to gain better treatment.   White male – black female relationships were common in New Orleans during the Spanish and French because men from these countries often arrived without wives.  The introduction of European DNA into the black population continued during the Jim Crow era when southern white men were able to rape black women without fear of punishment.

The introduction of African DNA into the white population was more indirect because those babies who received dark complexion genes would be born with dark complexions.  African DNA involving other than skin color genes entered the white  population when persons with African ancestry were born without  the dark complexion genes and passed for white.  Some descendants of the early unions between Africans and Europeans had “lost” enough dark complexion genes to pass for white by the American Revolution.   This process would continue.  By 1800 some slaves qualified as white such as Thomas Jefferson’s concubine Sally Hemings. No paintings of her are available, but she was described as white with long straight hair.

It seems likely that many who passed for white didn’t tell their children.   .President Warren G. Harding was aware he had recent  black ancestry but Ann Dunham apparently did not know she had African ancestry. If she had known she likely would have told her son Barack.  Some people believe as many as five other presidents could have African ancestors.

The dark skinned descendants of slaves should be allowed to claim all their ancestors, not just the ones who came from Africa.  Their ancestors came here and became a new people who are a blend of peoples from three, and in some cases four, continents.  They only have some genes in common with the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa.  The Americans who have some African ancestors made their own culture after they got here.    They helped make this country what it is and deserve to be recognized as full fledged Americans — not quasi Americans.

It’s time we Americans recognize that America is not the home of a black race and a white race, but instead is the home of a single race  whose ancestors were red and yellow, black and white.

The Impressions lamented in their song “This is My Country”  —
“Some people think we don’t have the right
To say its my country
Before they give in, they’d rather fuss and fight
Than say its my country”

It’s time we started encouraged the descendants of slaves to call America, rather than Africa their country.  If light skinned Americans whose ancestors all arrived after the Civil War can call themselves 100% Americans, why must dark skinned Americans whose ancestors may have arrived before the American Revolution be treated as part American and part something else.   Many slaves earned their freedom by helping to defeat the British during the Revolution.

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