Maybe it’s a holdover from the days when protecting territory was a matter of life and death. That sorta thing will bind folks together like nothing else can. Muslim, Desi, Jewish, Christian, African American, Black. On and on…
It’s not all bad though. Labels do serve a necessary function: Identification. And there is no nation on earth with as much cultural diversity as the U.S of A. It’s one of the things that makes this country great. The fusion of people’s and idea’s from every corner of the globe has led to a unique culture that has arguable become the most emulated in the world. But, contrary to the American brand we export out, melting pots can be a messy business. And the need for self identification bears some responsibility for that messiness.
Take Black folks in American for instance. Over the last hundred years, the name bestowed upon anyone who appeared to be of African decent changed from n*gger, to Negro, evolving to Colored, Black and finally African American. I remember when the debate over the emergence of the last label was raging.
It was the early 90’s and in high schools and college campuses, Sunday morning roundtables and evening news reporting across America, this new term had begun to gain ground. But I couldn’t help wondering; Why? You see, I couldn’t relate to the term. Sure I was technically “African” and “American” but the two together just didn’t jive with me. Besides that, I didn’t see a need to upset the status quo. “Black” had already come to represent a movement, a universal identity for everyone on the continent, the America’s and the Caribbean, Europe and elsewhere. In fact, by the late 70’s anyone who could be considered part of the African Diaspora was unequivocally BLACK.