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So You Think You're An African-American

The truth about the categorization of race and ethnic background

By Latousha YoungPublished 4 years ago 4 min read
What You Thought?

I walked into the main entrance of the post medical facility. A gentleman, a fellow soldier, bypassed me in the corridor and said, "keep that smile on your face. It's beautiful." That made me smile even harder. It was so natural to me to have a smile on my face that sometimes I forgot I was smiling. I was naturally a happy person. I didn't let anything get me down or ruin my joy. I was a strong, African-American, black woman.

I proceeded to the front desk of the medical clinic to check-in. I obtained my medical profile as requested by the office that was scheduled to treat me that day. Once I received my paperwork, I departed that section of the medical facility. As I walked down the hall, I took a quick glance down at the file that had been given to me. In big, bold, all caps, black print on the left hand margin extending vertically read the words "NEGRO".

The smile on my face suddenly disappeared. My eyebrow raised and a wrinkle appeared in my forehead. I thought to myself, "what the fuck is this?" My whole mood and body chemistry altered. Am I reading this wrong? Is this a joke? I think I might have had a tear form in the web of my eye. I was born in raised in the South. Racism and discrimination in the South was something that had leaked over from slavery, but I have never personally encountered it myself. Although I knew that it was real and that it existed.

I thought I was black, an African-American. At least that's what the world and our political leaders had led me to believe. That is what I had been taught in school and in my home. The year was 1998. Well after the era of slavery and Jim Crow. I thought that the term "Negro" was used during the times of slavery and during the Jim Crow Era to identify those of us who were born of slave descendants. I felt hurt, sad, and confused. I just didn't understand. I wanted to believe this wasn't real and that somehow my eyes were playing tricks on me. I was but 18 years of age at the time; still a baby.

I gave up scholarships both academic and athletic to join an organization that I thought was better. An organization that told me to be all that I can be. I thought I was supposed to be "somebody". In the eyes of the military, the Federal Government, I was just a Negro. I was told as a child that the military wasn't a place for a black man. I never understood why people felt that way, but I was presented with one of the many reasons why.

I continued walking down the corridor and into the next office. I handed the staff my paperwork. They gathered the documents from me and carried on with regular business as though they didn't see the bold, black print. I swallowed my thoughts and pretended that I didn't see it as well. I attended my check-up and I carried on with my business.

Negro was the race that us black folks were assigned to. A form of modernized slavery, a conjunction of the way things used to be. When I began this journey of writing, my partner asked me, "what has happened to you that you feel you need to write about?" The answer to that is that it's not so much as what has happened to me, but it is more about what I have encountered, witnessed, and overcome.

I was excited about joining the military. I wanted to be all that I could be and end the generational curse of poverty that I was born into. I thought the military was the place for me to do that while earning some cash to help and provide for myself and my family. I wanted a better life that what was presented with. I had dreams of becoming a Command Sergeant Major one day.

The point of this writing is to bring light to the things we take for granted every day. We pump our fist and scream "Black Power". You can do that all you wish, but in 1998, we were still Negroes. So the next time you're out and about and you pump your fist in the air and scream you are black or an African-American, ask yourself the question, " Am I?" Do you really know what the world thinks of you and categorizes you as?

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About the Creator

Latousha Young

My Bio is too big to fit into this tiny little box.

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