Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Précis #3: Raven-Symone, we are black Americans

Roxanne Jones, 2010 recipient of Woman of the Year award from Women in Sports and Events and CEO of Push Marketing Group, in her opinion article “Raven-Symone, we are black Americans”, from CNN’s opinion section, asserts that Raven-Symone is denying her history by requesting not to be called black or African American; Jones actually declares that “rejecting your blackness is downright un-American” (Jones 4). 

Using pathos, anecdotes, and familial examples, Jones makes a strong argument for the acceptance of blackness. She appeals to Raven and those who may feel as she does by empathizing with her. Jones knows that “many… have been exactly where she is, struggling to fit in” and “be "colorless" when there's no way to look at someone without noticing appearance” (Jones 3). Jones herself reveals that she too has “struggled all [her] life with labels” but that she has come to see that “[b]eing black equals being American” (Jones 6, 4). Jones then shares a short anecdote about a time she visited Costa Rica and was called “La Negrita”, a name which at first angered her, but she later came to find out was “a term of endearment… meaning something closer to beautiful black woman” (Jones 7). In fact, she learned that there is a national holiday celebrated in the country called Día de la Negrita, a celebration that America is “a long way” away from holding (Jones 7, 8). She shares this story to exemplify the fact that it is understandable to want to deny ones blackness in America, as it often carries a more negative connotation here than in other countries. Finally, she speaks about her family. She discusses one of her ancestors who was “gallantly posed in his Civil War uniform” in a photo her aunt showed her, and her grandfather who was proud “to fight for his country, despite segregation” (Jones 10, 14). At the end of each of these stories, she declares: “That [person] was a black American” (ibid). In this way, she communicates that the history of America is the history of African-Americans. Jones skillfully uses each of these rhetorical devices to bolster her point that blackness and American-ness are inseparable.

Jones desires to communicate to both Raven and other black people struggling with their identity that to be African-American is to be American. The hyphen simply expresses the history of the Africans whom black people descend from; the Africans that built America. She uses sympathetic diction, declaring that “no matter how she tries to deny us, Raven is still ours, still black in the eyes of her community” because “we understand how the heavy burden of labels can crush your spirit” (Jones 5). This type of understanding language paints her as someone who has been there before and contributes to her sagacious tone. The author also employs powerful syntax in her use of simple sentence statements such as “My grandfather was a black American” (Jones 17). This simplicity reflects her belief that the issue of African-American versus American is simple; that the two terms denote one in the same person. This use of grammar underscores her sagacious tone. 

I agree with Jones. My ancestors built this country, and to deny my blackness would be to deny their enduring struggles and labors. To say that I am American will never mean that I am not black — anyone can see the "history written all over [my] face" (Jones 1). Raven-Symone will never be able to escape from her blackness despite any labels she chooses not to use. In truth, the concept of being "colorless" is a concept of erasure — erasure of the history of this country and the people that made it possible to for it stand today (Jones 2). To be black in America will always mean being American, and all black Americans should wear the term African-American with pride.

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