posted on Feb, 12 2006 @ 02:25 PM
Of all the [ethnic group]-American terms, African-American is the only one that is racially based, rather than based on the status of being an
immigrant or the child of immigrants, and where one's parents or oneself immigrated from. We call someone an Irish-American or an Italian-American
or a Chinese-American meaning they or their parents came from Ireland or Italy or China. But someone whose ancestors came from Ireland four or five
generations ago is not called an Irish-American. Yet a black person is called an African-American even though his or her ancestors probably lived in
America for more generations than is true for most white Americans. Seems to me a rather misleading term except when applied to immigrants from
Africa or their children.
Black Americans other than those immigrants aren't African-Americans, they are descendants of Africans who were forcibly dragged to these shores and
enslaved. Those Africans didn't immigrate, they were kidnapped. Their African culture was largely lost, their religion and language became that of
their captors, and they developed a subculture based not around being African but around being slaves. That subculture persisted, with some changes,
after emancipation, helped in its persistence by institutions and attitudes on the part of mainstream (i.e., White) law and culture that kept most of
them in a kind of serfdom for years thereafter.
This is not the kind of trauma that a people overcomes overnight. Nor is it the kind of experience that easily provides beneficial results.
Things like the term African-American, and Black History Month, are (fairly ineffective) ways that we try to cope with this horrible, ragged wound
stretched across centuries of our history as a nation. America was, in part, founded on a great crime. From that crime rose racism as it has existed
in this country, in the black/white sense, and also the stepchild known as Black culture. Black people, unlike any other Americans except perhaps
Native Americans, must, if they are to be successful in life, somehow rise above both racism and Black culture. And I think that may be where Freeman
is coming from, as a successful Black man. To be successful, he had to overcome not only White racism, but also the ingrained attitude of inferiority
that permeates Black society in this country.
About Nat Turner and John Brown. I think a history course that neglects Turner is pretty pathetic, but the fact remains the event wasn't as seminal
or important as Brown's raid. Granted Turner came a lot closer to success, but in Brown Southern slaveowners saw, not just a slave revolt, but a
White Northerner butting his head in and trying to provoke a slave revolt. This arguably stirred the resentments leading to secession, which led to
the Civil War. So indirectly, Brown's raid caused 600,000 casualties, massive destruction, and the 13th-15th Constitutional Amendments, and that
makes it more consequential than Turner's revolt.