Raven Symone made news on OWN when she told Oprah that she didn’t like being labeled. The labels she talked about were “gay” and “African American,” but she might have been talking about any label applied to any person.
She did say, “I’m proud to be who I am.” I think many reactions to her remarks overlook that part of the conversation.
The comments I’m seeing in my Twitter stream from people labeled African-American are very negative about what she said.
On her blog “Whose Shoes Are These Anyway?” Nordette Adams said,
I get it. I get it. These young people want to feel accepted in America and for who they are, which is more than their physical appearance or ancestral origins. This desire to be accepted for who we are does not go away as we age. I do hope, however, that with age a sociological and political maturity arises in people that let’s them see how short-sighted and insular that statement reveals them to be, not so much in terms of how they feel about themselves, but in whether they care about perpetuating the subjugation of African peoples, their descendants, and other oppressed groups.
I’m not African American, so why do I even care about this? I want to use my white voice to support Raven’s idealistic wisdom. Yes, she is young and the world is not what anyone wishes it were. Yes, half the country has been in hysterics for the last 6 years because the President is a black man. Yes, there is painful history involved. Yes, there is oppression and subjugation and change is needed.
In terms of looking at each other with labels over our eyes, I’m just saying this: labels create a them and us mentality that is destructive. We are, all of us, just people struggling to get through life the best we can. We are people. That should be enough. It isn’t a reality, but it should be. It isn’t a reality in Ferguson or anywhere else in the US, but it should be.
From my perspective, the fewer labels we apply to each other, the better the world will be. I know the real world isn’t the utopia I wish it was. We have a long way to go.
Situations like this one generated by Raven Symone give us a chance to talk and think and consider viewpoints. Read all of Nordette’s essay on this. She said, “So, herein lies the truth: To deny or try to bury your African heritage knowing you are of African descent is to co-sign white supremacist policies and doctrines that oppress people of African descent. This denial flows from internalized racism and magnifies self-hatred.”
I’m saying that somewhere between the oppression of white supremacy and true freedom, there has to be a better less label-bound place.
Is there a way to help Raven Symone move us in that direction, even just a little bit?