Robert F Wagner Jr Institute For Arts & Technology

The rise of the African – American Phoenix (chapter 1)

Accepting the term African – African

I remember the day my 4th grade teacher slammed her relatively large textbook onto the brown, doodled up desk before her, “I cannot continue to feed you kids these repulsive lies,” her face scrunched in utter disgust.

She continued, “Christopher Columbus did not find America. The natives had already claimed the land before his very existence.”

If our school system can harbor such dishonesty, and mask it with such false recollection of Christopher Columbus, I can only imagine what other secrets are being kept in that molding cabinet of theirs.

That was the very day I began to challenge the idea of my race and what I choose to identify myself as.

I am an American. Born and raised in the quite industrial Long Island City, New York. My skin is fairly dark with a hint of caramel dips. My hair – a relative 4C texture at best and my parents who are refugees from the western side of Africa. To be precise, they have traveled from a small country named Liberia to seek of refuge from the Civil War. So that would in fact make me an African – American.

But what about the other inhabitants of this country? With the same complexion as mine? The ones forced to identify as African-American without any ties to the large continent. These questions have pondered my mind continuously, every single day. If they aren’t African-American then what are they?

Indigenous? Considering the history of the natives who are indefinitely the founding fathers of many races after, it would only make sense.

Black? Or maybe Brown?

In all honesty, the choice of self-identification shares a wide variation, yet when completing a job application our limitations are singularly presented given the mini – squared box beside the boldly written African American ethnicity choice.

What if there were no specific listing to what we decide to identify as? What if the ethnicity section of our job applications appeared as blank lines for us to express ourselves to our full extent?

I can only imagine.