Excuse the pseudo-intellectualism, but I believe (as Michel Foucault posits) identity is a shifting set of characteristics we adopt to suit our different circumstances.
Here in the United States I am comfortably Black, but in Guyana I’d like to think I am just Guyanese.
When I first came here in the 1980s, I was ready and willing to embrace the then (and still) popular identifying term African-American for people like me. After all, I wanted to feel as if I somehow belonged here in my new home.
But I soon realized the term African-Something, which was being used to include all of us blacks in the Diaspora, was under heavy resistance from many African Nationals (hot off the plane from England no doubt). They were protesting against us Blacks who couldn’t trace our ancestry right back to a specific branch on a specific tree in a village in Ghana. To them, we had no direct claims to Africa, and as such should not refer to ourselves as African anything.
Years later, I am still recoiling from the sting of that distancing. So, referring to myself as African-anything doesn’t sit right with me.
It’s the same sting my friend says she felt when she realized Indian Nationals did not accept her identity as just Indian, but called her (derisively) Guyanese-whose-forefather-may-have-come-from-India.
As a result, many of us Guyanese who met up in college here in the United States bonded based on our outsider status, and just referred to ourselves as Guyanese, or sometimes West Indian. That identification strengthened us and deepened our pride and love for Guyana.
Outside of that nourishing Guyanese community here in the United States however, I am a Black professional urban female immigrant. That identification satisfies all the fake, divisive, class, race, and social constructs America thrives on.
But oooohh say it ain’t so in Guyana!
I recently discovered that in many respectful circles in Guyana the term Afro-Guyanese is being used to properly identify Guyanese of African descent.
Afro-Guyanese? That distresses me so.<
I choose to wear my hair natural, but I certainly would not like to be identified by the style or texture of my hair. And (as tempting as it might be to conclude), my sentiments are not a reflection of a love/hate relationship with my ethnicity; it’s just that (as the song says) I am not my hair!
More importantly, why must Guyana borrow ancient, discarded terminology (Black Americans shunned that shit a long time ago) to categorize a segment of its population? And who amongst Guyanese of African descent is raising his or her hand in answer to that identity?
When I am in Guyana, I am just Guyanese. And if you really want to call me something else,
--by my first name if you know me
--Bishops’ gurl if you went to school with me
--Better Hope gyal if you grew up next to me, or if you used to drive your car through the pot-holed streets of that village to drop me home…afterwards ;-)
--knock-knees if you see me coming from a distance
--peacock if you used to run track with me
--daughtuh if you raised me
--mommy if I’m raising you
--teacher if I taught you
--by my last name if you taught me
--honey if you love me.
In Guyana I am not Black, nor Blackman, nor Afro, or any other fake socio-eco-political classification. I am just Guyanese!
Leave all that shit for America!