America is experiencing an identity crisis. Establishing America’s identity was easy at first, you know, with the Founding Fathers and the Constitution and all? White, male, colonizers and slave holders. They set the standard. They were the standard. Actually, they still are the standard; it’s just that now other identities are vying for and asking from them equal acknowledgment and fair treatment.
One of the ways that this dynamic is being played out is through what often is referred to as the “browning of America.“ The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2044, no one racial group will be a majority of the country. America is at a demographic inflection point. The crosscurrents of demographic and cultural change are upending traditional voting patterns and straining the fabric of what it means to be American. Hence, the rising incidents motivated by and expressed via sentiments such as “Let’s take our country back!“ or “You will not replace us!“ and “Make America Great Again“ leading to Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The familiar pattern of these emotions is eerily in alignment with an early European concept known as the “great replacement theory” (GRT), a concept gaining recent attention resulting from the Buffalo, New York, mass shooting of a predominantly Black community where it was the foundation of the killer’s manifesto.
How does the country’s identity crisis in general affect our community specifically? It is often said that when white America catches a cold, Black America catches pneumonia. This adage is representative of the historical pattern that every few years, when America catches a nasty “cold,” it is always the most vulnerable who fair the worst by far, particularly when it comes to the Black community. As you know these “colds” are not necessarily pathological; they tend to manifest in different forms. Today we as a Black racial demographic are last place in every systemic quality of life area to include education, employment, health, wealth, political and judicial. The country will somehow survive this crisis of identity. When it does, will it change or improve our last place standing in the social and structural hierarchy?
Historically speaking, since the inception of our ancestors forcibly brought to this country, our community identity has always been in crisis. Culturally we originally identified tribally from the varying cultures on the continent of Africa. The European thought it psychologically effective for his exploitative needs of free physical labor to label us by color. At that time, it was negro (Spanish for Black), which after a few derivatives of that N-word we moved to colored, then Black (American for Black). Next, thanks to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, African American was introduced at a December news conference in Chicago, where 75 Black groups convened to discuss the “Black agenda.” He asserted the following:
“To be called African-Americans has cultural integrity, It puts us in our proper historical context. Every ethnic group in this country has a reference to some land base, some historical cultural base. African-Americans have hit that level of cultural maturity. There are Armenian-Americans and Jewish-Americans and Arab-Americans and Italian-Americans; and with a degree of accepted and reasonable pride, they connect their heritage to their mother country and where they are now.”
I propose the following theory about our community identity:
Our lack of collectivity, consistency and respect in our community for our identity has resulted in our valuing our other identities more, e.g. political, religious, and socioeconomic to name a few. In part two of this topic, I will offer what I believe to be supporting evidence to validate this theory. In the meantime, meditate on this exercise:
In order of importance to you, prioritize the following identities from one to three (high to low): a) Community (Black), b) Religious, and c) Political. Examine your individual actions and daily activities and evaluate which of these you value most. We’ll see you in part two.
George Middleton is a therapist and author promoting a series of works addressing race and mental health. For more information contact him at email@example.com.