African-Americans Should Be Americans

The labeling of people as African-American or Chinese-American promotes racism and inequality.

Emphasizing the supposed existence of any type of inequality actually cements continued inequality and discrimination. People of different races say they want to be equal (assuming they aren’t already), but constantly disprove it with their own actions, decreasing racial equality by labelling themselves Filipino- or African- or Sino-American.

A friend of mine recently had a conversation about nationality with a coworker. Brent was asked, “What are you?” He replied, “American.” “No”, she retorted, “I’m Filipino-American. What are you?” He didn’t know how to respond, and said, perplexed, “I’m just American.”

Being adopted, I’ve often wondered about my own ancestry, partially to be aware of potential genetic health problems, and to increase the sense of belonging attributed to being part of an “ethnic” group. For the same reasons, I don’t want to know. Knowing or not knowing doesn’t change my ethnic profile, but it could encourage me to utilize the crutch of labeling to “better” myself: “I’m Italian-American (or Greco-American or Klingon-American) and I feel oppressed. Please grant me my request because of my heritage.”

It’s an easy trap to fall into: a couple of years ago, I even researched the amount of Cherokee Indian in my wife’s blood in order to ascertain whether our son would be eligible to obtain governmental or educational financial benefits. The labeling is harmful to today’s society, encouraging (at the harshest extremes) gang violence, social segregation, and worse.

Too many people label their own selves and participate in racially segregated activities such as the celebration of African-American History Month, and the invention of Kwanzaa. In the names of race and ethnicity, shouldn’t we spend our dollars towards a message of equality, rather than supporting only Filipino dentists or shopping exclusively at the local Vietnamese market? Do the existence of racially prejudiced organizations such as Black Entertainment Television and National Hispanic University encourage equality or promote racism?

Self-labeling and self-segregation are both hypocritical when combined with the expressed desire to achieve or maintain equality. You can’t have both. Either you want Affirmative Action or it’s modern equivalent, or you want equality. Wouldn’t it be better at the societal level to collectively label ourselves as simply American, just as Brent did?

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