Exploring one’s own African-American heritage

Kevin Hall, Assistant Photo Editor

Every year like clock work, February comes around, and depending on the year America sets aside 28 days to celebrate the contributions made by African Americans throughout history.

But my question is, why are those accomplishments separate from what other great Americans have contributed? The people that are normally celebrated during this month are usually born right here in America, so where does Africa come into play? 

As a young man I always questioned, how am I “African American”?

Considering the fact in my entire 21 years of living I’ve never set foot on African soil, I found it a bit insulting to Africa to even consider myself any part African. But of course people would argue, “well that’s where your roots lie, that’s where your ancestors are from.”

But who’s to say that is the truth? Who’s to say the lineage that I am born from didn’t start right here in the United States of America?  As a child I was always intrigued by how we identified people here in America.

Many people would argue that there is a major race issue in American society, but I would go on the contrary and argue that beyond a race issue, America has an identification issue.

For example the terms “black” and “white” in regards to race has always caused a tad bit of confusion for me. According to one of several definitions located in Webster’s dictionary, the word black means, “without any moral quality; evil; wicked or gloomy; pessimistic; dismal.”

I view this definition as very accurate in connotation to the color meaning, but when it comes to describing myself with the term I see no correlation. I’ve always viewed myself as a person and never a color.

Call me literal, but even brown would be a closer color reference when it comes to the complexion of my skin. I feel as though we’ve become too comfortable acknowledging each other for our minor differences in race, culture, and ethnicity that we forget that we all share a common ground as being people first.

We are all human beings of a constantly progressing and growing society and though we have major differences among us, our one essential similarity is that we are all here making an attempt to figure out our purpose in life.

This single similar trait is what makes no history, African American, European, Hispanic or any other for that matter more important or relevant than the next group of people.

Every race in some form or fashion has played a key role in developing the foundation of the America in which we live in today, and it is up to us as the new generation to create or repeat history.

No individual should be delegated a specific time to celebrate who he or she is or what he or she has contributed to society. Each day you wake should be an opportunity for you to make history, and not let it be black or white history but world history.

Do not constrict yourself to indulge in the beauty of self-love and appreciation occasionally, indulge as much as possible, and only then will we be able to appreciate what it is to celebrate not how far each individual race has come but how far we’ve all come together as a people.

Kevin Hall is a senior journalism major and can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].