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AfriGeneas World Research Forum

What Is An African American?

What is an African American?

Many of us have embarked upon the journey of researching our family history and discovered many surprises. African Americans are descended originally from the Continent and made our way to America via many other continents both east and west. For some of us those way stations in-between may have been Asia, Europe or Latin America. Our ancestors include a multiplicity of races and ethnicities. Recognizing the other roots of our identity - be they European, Latino or Asian - is fraught with controversy.

You have only to remember the outcry a few years back when biracial and multiracial individuals attempted to assert their right to list themselves as such on the United States census. Major organizations such as the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza worried about the erosion of Black political power should people be able to identify as other than African American. But what was and is the real nature of this opposition? To quote Susan Graham, Executive Director of Project Race, commenting on that controversy: “An overwhelming portion of this campaign of resistance has been fueled by black elitists and their discomfort with accepting their own multiracial heritage and by Latinos who don't admit their African roots. The basic underlying reason for this opposition stems from the fact that most black Americans have white ancestors and that is an uncomfortable thing to think about. Acknowledging multiracials means coming to grips with a heritage they may want to leave buried. If multiracials get the category [US census], then a basic belief of many in the black community will be shattered. Better to leave that white ancestors thing alone, than admit the truth.”

The road to our identity has been long, arduous, and sometimes deadly.
Our African self was stripped from us on arrival in this land, but we never really lost it and have triumphantly reclaimed it. Ultimately who we are can never be taken away. The many races and ethnicities that are a part of us do not make us less Black! Please remember that the ancestor of all man, according to the latest anthropological research (however controversial) still points to an African! This then – in theory – might make all men and women (in some sense) African or all of us multiracial depending on your viewpoint. I hope the World Research Forum will allow those who are reluctant to acknowledge their other roots to do so and to network with others of similar background. The unique difficulties in researching multiracial genealogies can be addressed and perhaps resources can be shared to assist those having trouble. Let there be a lot of listening and lending of helping hands and no judgment in this forum.

Alva Moore Stevenson

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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