Am I African American or Black?

By C’Ayanam Nyomi Obiekwe

Yes; the infamous question that many, and even myself, are tired of.

I think that one thing that we can all agree on is that there is a plethora of backgrounds within the black community. Despite this, we share similar stories, which is why there is always a tweet that one can relate to on black Twitter. But there always seems to be a divide at some point between what term best describes US as a people.

Sooo… Am I African American or black?

Until I got to the University of Georgia, I never thought much about this question. I grew up in a predominantly black area for most of my life mixed with both Africans and black Americans. One of my favorite stories that my best friend’s mom loves to tell us how the first time I called their house, she noticed an African last name on their caller id. (That would be my mom’s.)

She then asked my best friend, “Is your friend African?” My friend replied, “I don’t know, but she listens to hip hop like us.”

We had to be about six or seven years old, but even she understood that there was a difference between being black and African American. I on the other hand, saw it as being black with a unique culture and some bomb food.

Again, am I African American or black?

Growing up, I never saw a difference between the terms ‘African American’ and ‘black’. After all, I check next to both of them whenever answering questions about my race. When someone looks at me, they’re not going to ask, “Are you African American or black?” In my case, they’ll automatically categorize me with anyone else sharing my skin tone.

Why must I identify with one over the other?

My understanding broadened once I came to UGA. Just within my friend group, conversations on who identified as which began to rise very often. I grew tired of the topic because I felt like those of my friends that were not African, just did not want to be tied back to their roots. I also didn’t want to have to choose between both cultures.

I realized that the two terms boil down to where one comes from. For some, African American is used to describe someone who can more recently trace their roots back to Africa, while black is used to describe those that feel more lost in their identity.

No, I am not saying that if you consider yourself black that you are lost, but more so the fact that your identity was stripped away from you years ago when the colonizers decided to rip families apart and settle them across the globe.

It is not that black Americans don’t want to be considered African, but more so alluding to how they can never truly relate to a culture that they could once claim.

Now, am I African American or black?

The answer is: African American, or more specifically, Nigerian American. However, I will still call myself black considering I grew up in this culture alongside my Nigerian roots. This is still my home just as much as it is the next person’s despite me being a first-generation American.

We as black people should not focus so much on what divides us, but rather what still unites us. There are issues facing ALL of us regardless of our background or what we choose to call ourselves.

The black diaspora is a loaded topic to discuss on its own. When one starts breaking it down, it seems to be a never ending discussion because there are so many backgrounds to different black people. I am African American, but that does not take away from my blackness. We’re more alike than you think, it just takes more understanding from both sides to grasp this concept.

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