The Black American
By: Smokey Robinson

 

I love being Black. I love being called Black. I love being an American.

I love being a Black American, but as a Black man in this country I think itís a shame

That every few years we get a change of name.

Since those first ships arrived here from Africa that came across the sea

There were already Black men in this country who were free.

And as for those that came over here on those terrible boats,

They were called niggah and slave

And told what to do and how to behave.

And then master started trippiní and doing his midnight tippiní,

Down to the slave shacks where he forced he and Great-Great Grandma to be together,

And if Great-Great Grandpa protested, he got tarred and feathered.

And at the same time, the Black men in the country who were free,

Were mating with the tribes like the Apache and the Cherokee.

And as a result of all that, weíre a parade of every shade.

And as in this late day and age, you can be sure,

They ainít too many of us in this country whose bloodline is pure.

But, according to a geological, geographical, genealogy study published in Time Magazine,

The Black African people were the first on the scene,

So for what itís worth, the Black African people were the first on earth

And through migration, our characteristics started to change, and rearrange,

To adapt to whatever climate we migrated to.

And thatís how I became me, and you became you.

So, if we gonna go back, letís go all the way back,

And if Adam was Black and Eve was Black,

Then that kind of makes it a natural fact that everybody in America is an African American.

Everybody in Europe is an African European; everybody in the Orient is an African Asian

And so on and so on,

That is, if the origin of man is what weíre gonna go on.

And if one drop of Black blood makes you Black like they say,

Then everybodyís Black anyway.

So quit trying to change my identity.

Iím already who I was meant to be

Iím a Black American, born and raised.

And brother James Brown wrote a wonderful phrase,

"Say it loud, Iím Black and Iím proud! Say it loud, Iím Black and Iím proud!"

Cause Iím proud to be Black and I ainít never lived in Africa,

And Ďcause my Great-Great Granddaddy on my Daddyís side did, donít mean I want to go back.

Now I have nothing against Africa,

Itís where some of the most beautiful places and people in the world are found.

But Iíve been blessed to go a lot of places in this world,

And if you ask me where I choose to live, I pick America, hands down.

Now, by and by, we were called Negroes, and after while, that name has vanished.

Anyway, Negro is just how you say "black" in Spanish.

Then, we were called colored, but shit, everybodyís one color or another,

And I think itís a shame that we hold that against each other.

And it seems like we reverted back to a time when being called Black was an insult,

Even if it was another Black man who said it, a fight would result,

Cause weíve been so brainwashed that Black was wrong,

So that even the yellow niggahs and black niggahs couldnít get along.

But then, came the 1960s when we struggled and died to be called equal and Black,

And we walked with pride with our heads held high and our shoulders pushed back,

And Black was beautiful.

But, I guess that wasnít good enough,

Cause now here they come with some other stuff.

Who comes up with this shit anyway?

Was it one, or a group of niggahs sitting around one day?

Feeliní a little insecure again about being called Black

And decided that African American sounded a little more exotic.

Well, I think you were being a little more neurotic.

Itís that same mentality that got "Amos and Andy" put off the air,

Causeí they were embarrassed about the way the characterís spoke.

And as a result of that action, a lot of wonderful Black actors ended up broke.

When we were just laughiní and have fun about ourselves.

So I say, "fuck you if you canít take a joke."

You didnít see the "Beverly Hillbillyís" being protested by white folks.

And if you think, that cause you think that being called African American set all Black peopleís mind at easeÖ..

Since we affectionately call each other "niggah",

I affectionately say to you, "niggah Please".

How come I didnít get the chance to vote on who Iíd like to be?

Who gave you the right to make that decision for me?

I ainít under your rule or in your dominion

And I am entitled to my own opinion.

Now there are some African Americans here,

But they recently moved here from places like Kenya, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Zaire.

But, now the brother whoís family has lived in the country for generations,

Occupying space in all the locations

New York, Miami, L.A., Detroit, Chicago-

Even if heís wearing a dashiki and sporting an afro.

And, if you go to Africa in search of your race,

Youíll find out quick youíre not an African American,

Youíre just a Black American in Africa takiní up space.

Why you keep trying to attach yourself to a continent,

Where if you got the chance and you went,

Most people there would even claim you as one of them; as a pure bread daughter or son of them.

Your heritage is right here now, no matter what you call yourself or what you say

And a lot of people died to make it that way.

And if you think America is a leader on inequality and suffering and grieviní

How come there so many people cominí and so few leaviní?

Rather than all this Ďfind fault with Americaí fuck you promotiní,

If you want to change something, use your privilege, get to the polls!

Commence to votiní!

God knows weíve earned the right to be called American Americans and be free at last.

And rather than you moviní forward progress, you dwelling in the past.

Weíve struggled too long; weíve come too far.

Instead of focusing on who we were, letís be proud of who we are.

We are the only people whose name is always a trend.

When is this shit gonna end?

Look at all the different colors of our skin-

Black is not our color. Itís our core.

Itís what we been liviní and fightiní and dyiní for.

But if you choose to be called African American and thatís your preference

Then I Ďll give you that reference

But I know on this issue I donít stand alone on my own and if I do, then let me be me

And Iíd appreciate it if when you see me, youíd say, "there goes a man who says it loud Iím Black. Iím Black. Iím a Black American, and Iím proud

Cause I love being an American. And I love being Black. I love being called Black.

Yeah, I said it, and I donít take it back.

 


Smokey Robinson
Def Poets, 3rd Season
May 16, 2003