Following Trump’s pompous visit to the hurricane-ravaged island of Puerto Rico, Hot 97’s Ebro Darden took to the airwaves to discuss race, namely blackness and the black experience as it pertains to the United States.
“What we’re seeing in Puerto Rico and what we’re seeing with immigrants is exactly the thing that black people in this country have always been angry about,” began an impassioned Ebro on the latest edition of Ebro in the Morning (below). “It’s why we always say, ‘Yea, you black’, while some may be like, ‘Nah I’m not black’—but you’re going to find out that you’re black too.”
He then attempted to contextualize being black in America: “Because the black experience is based in an experience of not being allowed [to exist]. There’s also the fact that being black [in this country] means you don’t have an association with Africa culturally, so you can’t really say you’re African.”
Au contraire, black Americans can and do call themselves African, if only as a body politic because you can’t erase DNA. And the journey of reclaiming said DNA (or African-ness) is often as brilliant as it is traumatic. But to Ebro’s point, yes, children of the diaspora who are born in or migrate to the U.S. are inherently displaced, so we are forever negotiating the relationships we have with our motherlands.
He later added: “People be like, ‘I’m not black, I’m Dominican’ or ‘I’m not black, I’m from India’ or ‘I’m not black, I’m from Africa’ or ‘I’m not black, I’m Caribbean’.”
The aforementioned is a loaded statement, but does speak to the anti-black rhetoric that runs rampant throughout the Caribbean and Latino America. While Ebro is right in the sense that immigrants (read: families trying to assimilate to U.S. culture) often do disassociate themselves from blackness—sometimes, it’s a form of survival. Other times, it’s a gross product of deep-seated racism and historical trauma.
What Ebro’s comments also might do is strip others of their agency, of their own blackness. For instance, when a person from Africa or the Dominican Republic migrates to North American and says “I’m not black,” there’s a good chance they’ve already learned to equate “black” to “African American.” Ebro’s comments, however necessary in the grand scheme of things, leave little room for dialogue about the black experience outside the U.S. construct. And to have a bonafide and equally purposeful conversation about blackness in the Caribbean and beyond, is to know / experience / live in said nations.
What we can’t do is vilify Caribbean folk and other children of the diaspora for not calling themselves black, when the first thing taught to us via oppressive conditioning and cultural practice is that to be black is not only inferior, but perilous. It is why we are often encouraged to marry / procreate with someone who is white, “para mejorar la raza” or “better” (read: whiten) one’s lineage, hardly keeping in mind that in many instances, you will still be black.
In the same breath, unlearning and relearning is a two-way street, and we – products of the African-Caribbean diaspora – must due diligence in helping dismantle white supremacy, while reclaiming our untaught history.