Yesterday, thanks to Saint Patrick, it was a rather quiet day at work. It should be called dull rather than quiet. In such days distributing links is a decent way to kill the hours. Michael sent me the Slate review on a new book: The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations, by Ira Berlin, which I found very interesting, so I will try to grab a copy as soon as I have a chance.
If you want to know which are the four great migrations, you can find them below as described in Google Books:
Four great migrations defined the history of black people in America: the violent removal of Africans to the east coast of North America known as the Middle Passage; the relocation of one million slaves to the interior of the antebellum South; the movement of more than six million blacks to the industrial cities of the north and west a century later; and since the late 1960s, the arrival of black immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and Europe. These epic migrations have made and remade African American life.
As part of the Slate piece went about Obama’s blackness, I wrote this to Michael, who is Hiberno-French (or Franco-Irish if that makes a difference) and that’s why there is a reference to Sarkozy in the end.
African-American is a social construction. It is not the same to be the mixed son of a white woman from Kansas and a graduate from Kenya, than the son of two African-Americans descendants of cotton pickers from Alabama. I favour the tag “Black” over “African-American” as the relation of the latter with Africa is almost non-existent and in the end they are discriminated against for their colour rather than for their heritage . In the end we are all African-something, we just lost our family memories about it.
Same thing in France…. Easier to become president for the descendant of a Hungarian émigré than for many strata of the French social structure.
I am not totally happy with the description of the two issues here. I still prefer “Black” over “African American”. Black seems to me a less hypocritical term, not so tainted by the invasion of the so-called politically correct language. Still the tag is not so baseless as Latin American: Latin Americans are further away from Latium than African Americans, but I wonder why others as Germanic Americans or Euro-Americans are not used. I would not say the Blacks in the United States of America are discriminated against for their colour only. It is also for their vernacular English, their accent, their class background and many other culture features that come together in the package. In the end there is a certain Southern culture and certain neighbourhood subcultures which are discriminated against.
But whatever is the core of the African America, Obama does not belong to it. He chose to be African American at some point in his life. In a Spanish speaking country he would have been a mulatto. In South Africa, a coloured. It is a peculiarity of the United States of America to consider black a person whenever the person is not totally white.
As for my home country, Spain, I think quite the same. The descendant of some élite immigrant will become president of the country before any Andalusian gypsy can even think about it.