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Melody T. McCloud M.D.
Melody T. McCloud M.D.

Black American or African-American?

Don't rebel against the country in which you were born.

If you are a Black person born on American soil, are you an "African-American," or an American—a "Black American"? Herman Cain addressed this issue on today's Meet The Press. When he stated his position, I said "uh-oh, he sounds like me," or either he read some pages in my book.

In 2009, Barna Research conducted a study and of the Blacks who participated, 78 percent of them preferred to be called "Black," not "African-American." And in 2003, the great artist Smokey Robinson recited his poem about being Black. He loves being "Black." Smokey says don't call him anything else. I concur with Barna and Smokey (and, on this point, with Herman Cain).

Anyone who has read my words over the years may have noticed by now that I do not use the term "African-American." It is my position—and one shared my millions—that the term "African-American" is a misnomer when describing native-born Black Americans. If you were born in New York, fine; but New York is in America, not in Nigeria or Nairobi. If you were born in Kentucky, that's not in Kenya, and Boston isn't in Botswana. Ironically, Barack Obama—the first Black president of the United States—is, indeed, an "African-American," because he is a first-line descendant of an African father and an American mother.

I proudly tell people I am an American. A Black American. Did my ancient African ancestors come to America by force over 400 years ago? Absolutely. And it was an atrocious crime of mammoth proportions. But since then, all of my ancestors were born on American soil. They worked this soil. Their blood, sweat and tears watered this soil, and I was born on this soil. I do not want anyone cutting in half—or giving the impression thereof—my natural full-blooded rights to everything this great country has to offer. I am an American.. A Black American. Period.

Have Blacks had to fight hard to get access to those rights? Indeed we, as a people have. And our forefathers fought, bled and died in that effort. But I have those rights and I embrace them. I own them and I enjoy them—fully—with every inch of my rich, chocolate brown skin. I honor my African ancestors by claiming full rights to the land on which they bled and died—America.

I invite those American-born Blacks who might be so inclined to stop rebelling against your native land—the land in which you were born.

Look at others who come to this land from other nations. Many of these immigrants work hard to assimilate into that in which you were naturally born. They don American garb and take on American mannerisms as they work hard to capture the American dream. As a native-born American, I and others don't have to assimilate; this is how we dress in this land. And this is how we speak--we speak English here, not ebonics. Most men wear suits and ties to work and women, dresses, skirts or nice pantsuits. If you move to Africa, or India or some other country where another style garb is the norm, it is likely you will adopt the style and lifestyles of that country. But if you were born in America, you don't have to adopt, or assimilate to, the American way-of style, language, manners and public decorum. It is naturally yours. Embrace it. Love it. Succeed in it.

It is the 21st century; anything you want to be, do, see, or accomplish is possible. Sure, we have tough times right now; everybody does, regardless of race. But making excuses and looking back 400 years isn't going to advance your position today. Affirm yourself and take action to make it happen! I say it begins with education, good language skills and hard work. President Obama and others share this mindset, so it is not a political stance.

This is Part One of this discussion, which may be tweaked/edited later [quick post]. Part Two is coming very soon (today if time permits), [including what I recently wrote to the Cain campaign: He should not be so divisive in his "race" speech by calling Black Democrats on "the plantation," etc. Many Blacks believe in hard work and we adopt a "victors, not victims" mentality. But to castigate an entire group in such language is not helpful, but destructive.]

I have MANY friends who think like me, and also Black friends who think I'm too hard on Blacks because I don't keep claiming that slavery is the reason why the Black community is the way it is today. I say no more excuses. I grew up very poor. I knew I didn't want to stay that way. I said to myself what I would be (a physician, and a responsible human being), then I did what I had to do.

NOW...That said (listen up Mr. Herman Cain and Whites) one should think for one second that racism is dead. Whites need to own that they started the problem in this country centuries ago. (If you hit me, and I hit you back, am I initially racist, or responsive?) Whites need to call out the guilty parties in their race when they see it happening. Blacks need to stop claiming that it occurs for all issues affecting their lives.

Why is rich dark color so good in all other aspects of life—plants, art, food, etc.—but despised when it comes to skin color? I address this in my book, Living Well, Despite Catchin' Hell (a health, sex & happiness book geared to Black women, but good for all to read), There's also a "Tough Love" section for Blacks, Whites and all of society. Check it out; you don't have to be Black to read it.

In short, Whites need to own racism more (and admonish their own who exhibit it), and Blacks need to stop claiming it for all things.

Until Part Two is written, you might want to view the post "To Honor MLK...Stop the Internal Bleeding."A fitting post for such a day as this--the dedication of the MLK Memorial in Washington, DC.

To all...Be Healthy, Be Blessed... and make sure you are Living Well, with a foreword by Pauletta Washington, musician and wife of Academy Award winner, Denzel Washington, and endorsed by Dr. Jeff Gardere, HBCUs and others.

Copyright © 2011 Dr. Melody T. McCloud. All rights reserved. Any excerpts reproduced from this article should include a hyperlink to this-my original on Psychology Today, with author credit.

Last, feel free to comment. You can disagree, but not be disagreeable or disrespectful. Any comments that are deemed to be hate speech, inappropriate, etc., will be removed and reported.

About the Author
Melody T. McCloud M.D.

Melody T. McCloud, M.D., is an obstetrician-gynecologist and the author of First Do No Harm: How to Heal Your Relationships Using the Wisdom of Professional Caregivers.

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