Raven Symone, Labels, & Idealism

Raven Symone does not want to be referred to as “African American” or “gay”. When I first heard these statements, they did/didn’t surprise me one bit. One side of me thought it was denial. The other part of me realized that Raven Symone didn’t want to be boxed in. Still, her statements became somewhat polarizing for those that had an opinion.

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And they should be polarizing. Plenty of people are going to either think she is losing her sheltered, rich girl mind or actually trying to make some personal progress. Looking at the situation, both are probably correct. Raven Symone is actually thinking for herself and that’s a good thing. Whether or not people are going to agree, she is going to make her own decision on her own representation.

Personally, I agree and disagree with the stance that she is taking. Besides contradicting herself with the denial of labels followed by calling herself “American”, she has every reason to feel the way she feel. Then again, I would never take the stance that she has taken.

You already knew I was going to break this down for you.

Raven Symone Screws the Labels

Raven Symone has a great reason to not even abide by the labels because they may not “fit her”. This “lack of fitting” was best explained by in an article by For Harriet agreeing with Raven Symone’s position:

The term is outdated. Now, “African American” implies “sort of native” to this country, even though our ancestors built the whole damn thing from the ground up. Even though they were shipped in because those “founding” Europeans literally could not begin a new nation without their labor. “African American” is infused with its original meaning, which I believe recognizes the American black community as a group that is not a part of the foundation and function of this country; a sub-division of the American people. The descendants of the Europeans who started those first settlements on American soil and completely disturbed everyone in the process are not named after the continent that they left to come here. We do not call every Caucasian man and woman in this country “European-Americans.” We call them Americans. Or Caucasians. Or white people. [1]

Many have to understand that the label tends to give off a negative connotation. Plus, many people don’t truly understand their association with Africa [2]. So, the label of “African American” can be unfit for many Black people.

Seemingly, there are quite a few other people that would agree with her. People from Shemar Moore to Zoe Saldana don’t truly like conforming to racial labels [3]. Reasons from the lack of conceptual sense to the feeling limited causes this shift in thinking. Even Bill Cosby doesn’t care for the labels (for his own reasons as well) [4]. So, Raven Symone didn’t mention anything that hasn’t been said before.

Raven Symone in Denial?

The one thing that I do not want is Raven Symone denying her heritage. It is one thing to have no desire to be labeled. It is another to not understand what it actually means to be “African American”. I would never want Raven Symone to be clouded or jaded from the idea of being African American. Regardless of any labels, Raven Symone should (hopefully) love the fact that she is a black woman.

The above situation is why I don’t always agree with people going away from the label of “African American”. Our ancestors, for the most part, derived from Africa. Our culture may not be “African”. However, we are the cultural equivalent of “stranded survivors that adapted their past continental heritage into the present dominant culture”. That equivalency has allowed us to progress even without fully understanding the culture our ancestors came from.

More personally, I am always going to go along with “African American” as a label. No, I am not “directly from Africa”. However, by genealogy goes back to that beautiful continent. Additionally, “African American” serves as a reminder of what many have tried to deny me. It reminds me of the culture that was supposed to be diluted and the nation that used my ancestor’s blood, sweat, and tears just to deny our simple liberties.

Raven Symone in Closing

Raven Symone is her own woman living her life the way she sees fit. She is tired of the labels and that is fine. However, I hope that she does not deny herself of the heritage that is rich in history. Plenty of people feel that labels define and limit us. In the end, it is up to us to make sure we also use labels that destroy limits.