So I find it heart-wrenching that she did not realize the harsh realities of racism, prejudice, and hostility that are revealed through the struggles of being Black in this country. That she did not realize the traumas we face desperately trying to understand the cruel and negative world we live in and how much we take pride in our celebrities and the many African-Americans who become educated and successful.
I understand the difficulty the question poses for those, who like Symone, may be unclear about their exact ancestry. But before she denied her rich heritage entirely, she should have thought about what and who we are talking about when we use the term African-American.
In her defense, categorical labeling is a tool that humans use to resolve the impossible complexity of the environments we grapple to perceive. Labels are adaptive but also contribute to some of the deepest problems that we face as a nation and a people.
Labels shape more than our perception of color; they also change how we perceive and interact with other people. Symone’s concept of race, and being labeled, both a result of being born in a country built on racial injustice, contains a kernel of truth: for many people of color, race plays a significant role in our self-understanding, well-being and our way of being in the world.
We do not live in a post-racial or colorless society. My hope is that Symone and others like her will take a step back and understand how they helped shape the American narrative of Blacks in this country. My hope is that she will eventually understand that being Black or African-American is not just a label; it’s who we are.
Zack Burgess is an award winning journalist, who is the Director/Owner of OFF WOODWARD MEDIA, LLC, where he works as a Writer, Editor and Communications Specialist. Twitter: @zackburgess1