Each time a brown-skinned American celebrity denounces their African roots, headlines pop up all over the web and the dragging begins. In the '90s, OJ Simpson was “just OJ.” In 2014, Raven-Symoné claimed to be “just American.” Now in 2017, rapper Waka Flocka joins the pack as a “confused other.” His words, not mine.
The rapper unloads a lot, during his interview on Sway’s Universe. He admits to being uneducated about his ethnic background, but knows for certain his “folks is not from Africa.” This identity crisis ain’t new. I’ve seen it far too many times and the victims all have the same things in common.
1. They come from multiple generations born in the U.S.
2. They have brown skin with multi-ethnic features.
3. They are labeled African American.
4. They know too much and not enough at the same time.
Since they can’t pinpoint what country or tribe they might have descended from, they denounce their African heritage all together. These “confused others” often latch onto their nationality or race. Hence the, "I’m not African American, I’m just American and every other ethnicity, but African" trope. We see this when Waka Flocka recites his laundry list of ethnic backgrounds. “Red Foot, Black Toe, Cherokee, European and Italian and a little Dominican,” he says. Never mind that 73 percent of Dominicans are mixed with European and African.
Also, never mind that Africans were trading in the Western Hemisphere long before Europeans decided to conquer the world. Ancient Mende Scripts and African cotton found in Mexico and the Southern U.S. proves this history. Waka Flocka’s indigenous ancestors could have mixed with Africans before or during the slave trade. Yet, he claims without a doubt, “my folks is not from Africa.”
Then there are those, who are too woke to be black because race is a construct and the term black was created to suppress the African diaspora. They back themselves into a bewildering corner. These “confused others” navigate the identity channels as if race does not exist. Race did not exist before the 18th century, but it does exist today, even if only in America. One of the most powerful cultures in the world — black culture — comes from this race notion.
Black culture is the lifestyle created by the Africans brought to the continental United States. Fried chicken, collard greens, corn bread, blues, jazz, gospel, R&B, hip-hop, stepping, twerking, even Black Twitter sprout from the black culture vine. All the -ishas, -itas, -quans and -quins. All the braids, twists, beads and fros. These attributes come from a culture steeped in Africaness and blackness. They come from our rich African history married with our triumphant American victories. If “confused others” erase the connection between Africa, America and black identity, who will claim black culture? It’s bad enough our culture is already flagrantly appropriated and monetized without our benefit.
I could not care less about Waka Flocka’s self-identity. He has the right to identify with whatever makes him comfortable. But the blackness he rejects has given him the culture that he benefits from.