Off The Wall: Nobody Says It Better Than Smokey Robinson

“Last week, in your comments about the NFL, you made several references to “black people.” As a woman of color, I’ll remind you that the correct term is “African-American,” as I’m sure you know. You do good work with your foundation, but if you want to be heard by everyone, maybe you should speak more respectfully.”

Carla Jamison

Hi Carla

If a black person tells me that they would like to be referred to as an “African-American,” I’m happy to address them as such. Doing otherwise would be rude. Likewise, if a white person asks me to call them “Irish-American,” or “Polish-American,” I’ll try to accommodate them as well. However – if someone attempts to enlighten me on the preferences of all black people or all white people, my antenna go up. Why? Because I’m not convinced a person’s true identity has anything to do with the color of their skin, the content of the DNA, or the country of their ancestors.

As a fan of biography, I’m curious to know more about my own history, as well as the history of others. But as a fan of The United States, I place no relevance whatsoever on the amount of German blood coursing through my veins, or the amount of African blood coursing through yours. I’m interested in what you believe, Clara, but I don’t consider your ethnicity when evaluating the merits of your arguments. In other words, your heritage is interesting, but knowing where you came from has nothing to do with where you’ll wind up, or what kind of person you really are.

I could write a few thousand words on the evils of the hyphen, and its role in identity-politics. But I doubt I could say it better than Smokey Robinson did in a Def Poetry Jam seven years ago. If I were King of the World, this would be required viewing in every single high-school – starting tomorrow. The language is salty, but the sentiment is precisely what America needs to hear – no matter where you’re from…

Have a great weekend.

Mike’s Facebook Page