A Letter to Today’s Black Political Leaders

Dear Black Political Leaders of Today,

I think it goes without saying that the formation of the term African-American as the newest and most politically correct name for our culture is half-baked and bandwagon at best. But considering many things that make up “our” culture, I have a name that would be a well-thought out solution to this mispronunciation of who we are, but first let me lay out why I (and the black culture who would no sooner agree after being open-minded to my perspective) would adjust to something more fitting.

The term African-American was coined in the 1980s by a then “black” man named Jesse Jackson. Jackson, after muddling it over with many learned scholars who were also black, agreed and campaigned the term as the best possible reference to our ethnicity. He is quoted saying that…

“Just as we were called colored, but we are not that, and then Negro, but not that, to be called black is baseless… Black tells you about skin color and what side of town you live on. African American evokes discussion of the world.”

In response to the quote, I am in agreement that both terms, colored and black, lacked foundation; but to give us African-American is, for the most part, a lesser version of Negro, and Negro is the cultural derision of colored or black. All name listed have tracings and can be summarized individually for their own sakes. Colored and Black are English over-generalized versions of skin tone perceptions that only equate to the lack of colorful variety in one’s Crayola box. Negro is a worldwide (mostly Spanish-speaking) over-generalized version of skin tone perceptions that only equate to the lack of colorful variety in one’s Crayola box. African-American applies to people of Africa in America.

I am sorry, Black political leaders – my gene pool is so far removed from Africa that one of the oldest men in my family after devising a map of my heritage in minuscule print on  four pages of blueprint paper stumbled upon my African heritage on page three or four.

My lighter shade of black is misinterpreted as “mixed,” but I am a child of two black parents, who both had black parents, all of which were born and raised in America. Yet, the reason for the division of Americans still being an issue is considered on the basis that we are even removed from America because maltreatment and pure consideration to our circumstances, hence the need to add the prefix African. And to agree with many Africans that I have encountered on their perception of us, Blacks and Africans are as different as the Koreans to the Japanese, Mexicans to the Puerto Ricans, and Jews to Gentiles. Our similar features do not atone for our cultural diversities.

So going further, to show my disassociation with the term African-American, I have long appreciated Malcolm X’s appreciation for the term, ‘Afro-American’ and will no sooner campaign to move for that change when allotted the financial backing.

Afro-American does not give way to us being “Africans” since, as stated before, most (and me included) do not see ourselves as Africans. We cannot connect to the culture in most cases, let alone, speak any Bantu-based languages. There can always be the argument that other culture’s American descendants cannot speak their home languages, but are still named for their heritage. As true as that is, during slavery and many years of not seeing the roots of the tree, we have very few ties with Africa and from many experiences, they do not see eye to eye with us as well, either. There is no animosity between the two, because we are both seen as “black” in America before we open our mouths, but to each other Blacks were fashioned (against our will) to be the domesticated Husky and they the Siberian Wolf.

The new naming of our culture, Afro-American, can be justified, though. Afro-American can be broken down further for easy digestion. “Afro” is almost self-explanatory, but has a metaphorical quality to it that can also be explained.

At one point the afro was a symbol of being unapologetically black. It was almost impossible for white people to curl their locks enough to generate the unmatchable tight solidarity of the black culture’s afro. It was so tight and kinky that without external assistance from chemicals and other tools, it was almost impossible to get through with a weak plastic comb. The pick, most notably engraved with a black fist at the end, goes unnoticed as a sign of skin unification of being the tool needed because of its metal prongs to fight through the thick hair. Even then, you can’t pick through it with just one pull!

No other culture can match the styles that can be generated from this texture of hair. Each individual strand vines into the other to make a rope that could bind Samson. (Biblically speaking, since he only was bound when his locks were cut.) Afros are the natural production of Blacks when it comes to not culturing our hair. I am not attempting to make an overdone hair reference, but I want to drive the point that an afro is more than just a hairstyle for blacks and more than just its literal wording.

My fellow Afro-American political leaders, we live without a flag or a symbol of branding. I think this term can live off of its verbal implications. It can safely set itself as a reference point for the rest of the world as well. Of course, you don’t need an Afro to be Afro-American, but we must live with the knowledge that the Afro is a mirror to the best possible future for our culture. This should be our flag and symbol metaphorically. We fight daily with follicle maintenance and most of us add it to our weekly budgets. It requires that, and to you political leaders we require as citizens of America, too. This is not an anti-white slogan, but we need to push pro-Afro, though, even those Blacks whose hair is not as thick and curly. I want to go back to the fist raised at the end of most afro-picks, we have to also have to go back to the hollowed out symbol placed into most of the picks, too: peace.

Truly your Afro-American brother,

Lorenzo Jackson

Featured graphic courtesy of Roger Sayles.

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