[DEHAI] OPINION: An African in America: Fenan Solomon (DBO)

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From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (eritrea.lave@comhem.se)
Date: Thu May 14 2009 - 10:37:47 EDT

Diamond Back Online
Ethnicity: An African in America
Fenan Solomon

Issue date: 5/14/09 Section: Opinion
Recently, the African Students Association won the Student Government
Association's prize for student group of the year. Upon the victory,
Desta Anyiwo, the group's president, reflected on his African heritage
and American citizenship in an article in The Diamondback ("Connecting
to African roots," May 8).
"If you are a person of African descent and you're not connected to your
culture, it's kind of like you're an empty shell," he said. "You can't
go and hate the roots of a tree and love the tree. The roots are really
On one level, the statement resonated with me deeply. My parents left
Eritrea, a small country in northeast Africa, in the early 1980s, and I
was born in America a few years later. After further reflection, though,
the statement got me thinking.
Technically, all black people, also known as African Americans, are of
African descent, but most don't even know which country they come from
because more than a century has gone by since their ancestors'
emigration. Are they under this umbrella of people who have an empty
shell because they lack a direct relation to one African country?
This question would take a thoroughly written novel to accurately
answer, but with a limit of 500 words, I still think this matter is
worth reflecting on. African Americans are most certainly not empty, but
their roots go back to other African Americans. Their history is one
shaped by slavery, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement.
There are still a handful of African Americans who attempt to claim a
connection to their diminished African roots. The entire facade not only
comes off as inauthentic but also boggles my mind and probes the
question, "Why try?" It's almost as if the effort is just too little too
late. No amount of kufis or Kente cloths are going to make you African,
but if its placebo effect is successful, then paint the town red .
green, yellow and black.
Another aspect of the article that didn't quite sit well with me was its
constant reference to the African Diaspora and African Americans.
Clearly, the two are not the same. The term "African American" implies
black American and African Diaspora denotes African. The only thing
these phrases have in common is skin tone.
The lack of clarity has led first-generation people like me to drop the
"American" tag so strangers can better understand our ethnicity. Just
call me African.
Fenan Solomon is a junior journalism and pre-pharmacy major. She can be
reached at solomondbk@gmail.com.

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