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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 2/21/19

What "African American" Means to Me: A Metamorphosis of Terms

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Message Rohn Kenyatta
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Another Black History Month has come and almost, mercifully, gone. The allure of me feeling compelled to explain my statement I must forego, as it is not the purpose of this writing. However, 2019 has been a most extraordinary Black History Month festooned and beribboned with white politicians in black face, Klan regalia and people devoting hours discussing if it is "ever appropriate to wear black face". The politician that is in black face, or the Klan pajamas, apologized for this youthful indiscretion. It was later revealed that it wasn't him in the photograph he apologized for being in. It was all about "paying tribute" to African-American Michael Jackson and the Moonwalk.

I love a good tap-dance.

The white Moonwalker has an African-American Lieutenant Governor. The Moonwalker refused to leave office; he is a trained physician and is going to use his white superiority and racism as a learning experience to heal others. Meanwhile, the African-American Lieutenant Governor faces lynching. While all of this is going on, an African-American entertainer is attacked and subjected to a mock lynching. In fact, it is possible he may have lynched himself, so to speak. Police have interrogated two possible accomplices in the inferred ruse, both described as Nigerian "brothers". This confuses me, because I thought Nigeria was in Africa and the Nigerian brothers were also American. Yet, somehow the Nigerian brothers were not described as African-American, but the African-American entertainer ("brother") from Santa Rosa, California was described as such. These things are mind-bending for intellect as meager as my own.

It is true that man has walked on the moon, and that Moonwalker was white. It is not lost upon me that white men have a proclivity to walk on surfaces that no other person has. I recall another white man who walked on water.

The President of the United States gave a breathtaking State-of-The-Union Address during Black History Month. A rather unusual occurrence, and testament to this extraordinary month and this extraordinary time to be an African-American. In fact, the President made glowing reference to African-Americans in his speech. I anxiously anticipated his reference to African-Americans having the lowest unemployment rate since the Emancipation Proclamation under his regime. The President rightfully reminds us that "no one has ever seen anything like it before", and I wholeheartedly concur with the President.

Black History Month could not be worth its proverbial salt without innumerable references to Martin Luther King, Jr. It just so happens that there is a national holiday in his honor during the month. United States Senator Kamala Harris made history on the MLK holiday by announcing her candidacy to run for the presidency of the United States; one of only two African-American women to ever do so. Nonetheless, Kamala's historical announcement was marred by debate involving two other African-Americans as to whether or not she was, indeed, an "African-American" because her father was from Jamaica and her mother "Indian"... as in India. The Senator was soon joined by U.S. Senator Corey Booker in announcing his candidacy to run for the presidency. Senator Booker is an African-American, too. Two-thirds of the African-Americans in the United States Senate running for the presidency of the greatest nation on earth. Undeniable progress.

When I was born, in the '60s, my birth certificate has "Negro" where the designation for "Race" is. Ironically, for my parents, on that same document they are designated as "Colored". My children, born in the '90s, all have "Black" in this designation. Ironically, the youngest (who has a white mother, German descent, blonde and blue) also has "Black" in this designation. In the 1970s, as a young child officer attending Southern California Military Academy, I was told by both society and my parents that I was "black" (my personal preference). Then, shortly thereafter, I recall being referred to as an "Afro-American". I found this perplexing because I was trying to figure out exactly when it was I became a hairstyle. My intrigue is steadfast to this very day.

Now, it appears, those of my ilk are African-American. I have no idea as to when or how this happened, who makes these decisions or if it some nefarious cabal. Perhaps there was a general election, a vote of some kind. I received neither ballot nor notification of this change in branding; no other African-American that I know did either. So, in the five decades that I have walked this earth, in the United States of America, I have unofficially been consistently one thing and officially at least five things.

Ergo, given the facts as I have outlined them here, it has finally dawned on me what African-American means. Simply exchange the word n-word for every time you see the words African-American and you, too, will become enlightened (no pun intended).

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Rohn Kenyatta is a contributing columnist for Black Agenda Report, the Los Angeles Sentinel as well as other media outlets international and domestic.

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