Raven Symoné disregards ethnicity labels, identifies herself as ‘American’

Central Arkansas Stephen F. Austin Football
Stephen F. Austin State University Director of Bands Dr. Fred Allen is dwarfed by a massive American flag as he directs the National Anthem on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, before an NCAA college football game in Nacogdoches, Texas. (AP Photo/The Daily Sentinel, Andrew D. Brosig)

Childhood actress Raven Symoné stated in a recent interview with Oprah that she is not “African-American,” but “American.”

Winfrey gave her a chance to clarify.

Symoné justifies her statement saying, “That’s what I really mean. I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian. I connect with Asian. I connect with Black. I connect with Indian. I connect with each culture.”

Hundreds of people commented on Symoné’s statement.

A few are as follows:

“Umm…Raven Symoné is Black. Period.”

“She clearly has identity issues.”

“Raven is still living in a Disney World.”

Let me state that I don’t 100 percent agree with what Symoné is saying, but I do think that the idea behind her argument is both relevant and holds weight to a certain extent.

I do believe as an Asian-American living in America that there is a lot of issues labeling a person’s race or ethnicity because most assume the two terms are synonymous.

They are not.

Most people here do not know the difference, which has led to minorities being placed under a general group despite their actual ethnicity, cultural upbringing and actual place of birth.

Let’s define the two. First, ethnicity is about a certain region’s culture, traditions, and learned behavior. It is assimilating to the area you are living in and what you absorb from the environment around you. It is globally learned behavior.

Race is your genetic makeup. It is your physical features; your skin color, eye and hair color, and predisposition to certain diseases constitute your race. You cannot change it.

In the interview, Symoné decided to defy all ethnic stereotypes in America by referring herself as only “American” rather than “African” or “African-American.”

She does not know what part of Africa she is from. She says her family’s roots lie in Louisiana. She grew up being a child star on TV, embracing American culture, specifically in good ol’ Hollywood.

Her claim is technically correct regarding her ethnicity.

However, I do have an issue with the way she tried to stray away from her race.

She chose to identify herself as a colorless person rather than someone who embraces all colors. She chose to embrace cultures, but not races.

She failed to acknowledge that yes, she is black, but her race nor ethnicity is not the only thing defining her as a human; instead, she highlights her darker skin (compared to whites) and her “nice, interesting grade of hair.”

As mentioned, you cannot change your race. It is, again, your genetic makeup. There is no changing it.

Symoné can talk about how Americanized she is, how accepting she has become of all cultures, and that we should all ethnically identify ourselves as “Americans,” but she failed in execution.

While I think her motive behind identifying herself as American only was a very small progressive step to acknowledging the problems with labeling minorities, her sketchy disregard of her own race as well as the acceptance of it irks me.

No matter what race you are, you can ethnically identify yourself to whatever culture you choose to affiliate yourself with.

But you cannot try to change your race.

Symoné should learn to accept that part before trying to convince people she is the universally symbol of equality.

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