I hesitate to even utter the word “America” when I know that some many other of my fellow peers who live in the United States go around calling themselves American or ‘murican without even acknowledging the greater Northern, Southern, and Central Americas. This post is inspired by a book that I picked up by accident at Left Bank Books in the Village one Sunday. The book on display was a copy of Americanah by one of my favorite feminists, activists, and writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. You may also recognize Chimamanda from Beyoncé’s song “***Flawless” where the track sampled a speech from Chimamanda’s TedxTalk entitled “We Should All Be Feminists”, which I highly recommend watching and listening to in full. It may be one of the most inspirational, thirty minutes of your life.
Chimamanda’s book, even the title alone, had me thinking. For one, I was completely taken by surprise when I stumbled upon a signed book of hers from this tiny shop. I was ready to gladly pay for her work, and the fact that she signed her name on the inside cover was just a bonus for me. The book Americanah had me thinking about both Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes. While Walt Whitman wrote the poem “I Hear America Singing” as white American poet, born in New York and died in New Jersey, Langston Hughes wrote “I, Too, Sing America”. Langston, in contrast, was a black American poet, born in Missouri and died in New York City.
Walt Whitman wrote during the 1800s. His poem about America talked about the layman American at the time. He wrote about the mechanic, the carpenter, the mason, the boatman, the shoemaker, the wood-cutter, the mother, the young wife, and the sewing or washing girl. This is what Walt Whitman pictured when he wrote about the United States.
Langston Hughes wrote his poem almost a century later. His poem about the United States was about what it was like to be a “darker brother” at this time. While Langston believed that he was meant to be shamed about who he was just because of his skin color, he stayed positive in his own way by drawing strength from his ability to laugh, eat well, and grow strong. Langston believed that one day, his naysayers would look at him and realize how beautiful he really was and be ashamed of how they treated him.
Decades later, we have inspirational women of color like Chimamanda. Women like Chimamanda are helping open up the contemporary dialogues we need to have about race, identity, and love. We still have a long way to go in the United States when it comes to battling social and economic inequality. I am not an economists and I only took three economics courses while in university, so I cannot give a properly educated opinion on how to solve our economic crises.
However, I will say that the changes that we can make socially can be made today—right here and right now. We need to continue to have conversations and open dialogue about what it means to be an American in the United States. First and foremost, we need to stop calling each other African-Americans, Asian-Americans, or any other hyphenated race. We are all American-Americans. The sooner we get past this, the sooner we can focus on the issues at hand. We need to understand what is separating and dividing us from all angles if we are to work together.
@AlphaFemSociety tweets by @BoBellerz