The Donna Summer Tribute Site

Ebony 

September 2008

Sisterspeak

 

Let's embrace our heritage of many cultures

Celebrate how diverse Black people are

by Donna Summer

 

Many people who call themselves Black in the United States aren't fully Black at all.  One would do better to consider them multiethnic.

Being of multicultural heritage myself, I found it extremely difficult as a child to be true to myself. If I expressed or alluded to my true heritage, it was frowned upon by Blacks and Whites as if it were not true. I have always found this disheartening and offensive. It appears that if a White person is Irish, Dutch and French, they are allowed to say what they are; but if  a Black person is Irish, Black and Dutch, they are NOT allowed to say what they are, to share the multiethnicity of their heritage. Any inference to another race is looked upon as as an attempted escape from their Blackness. This ,too, I find offensive. In a country where we have fought to be WHAT we are, Black, White, green, yellow, whatever; in a country where racial impurity is a way of life, it is imperative for us as Black people to recognize and embrace our diversities and to incorporate them into our common culture.

As a young girl, I obviously looked Black. I was the darkest of all my siblings, but I grew up feeling like a person, not a color. The concept of color was thrust upon me as I grew older. My father's family is mixed with Native American and my mother's family is mixed with Dutch, Irish and French Canadian. I grew up in a time when there were mixed couples, but not as many as today. The face of Blacks has changed because of interracial marriage and other societal changes.

My husband is Italian; my children are mixed. My children see themselves as Black. They do not deny their Blackness. But people don't always feel free to talk about who they are. When they were growing up, people would ask my children, "What are you?" When they were called Black as little kids, they didn't understand that. They didn't see themselves as colors. They were simply people, not crayon colors.

As I personally continue to search through the complexities of cultural combinations, I am discovering a lot about other people, as well as myself. I am proud to be Black, EXTREMELY proud to be Black.  I am a Black woman. A Sister. But I am proud to be the other things that I am as well. So as we continue to fight for our liberty, let us free ourselves from the bondage of the racist past that we come from, and let us be free to be who we REALLY are.

The richest environments I have ever been in have been the most culturally diverse. My own cultural influences are vast. I have been around the world and have seen a multitude of ethnic fusions. One of the many great things about America is that every day we have incredible opportunities to learn and to grow. For example, every time we go out to eat, we have choices - Indian curry, Chinese, sushi, lox and bagels, rice and beans, spaghetti, bratwurst, and thankfully, fried chicken.  If only we could sample and taste things beyond our scope, surely we would find new and exciting possibilities to explore and appreciate.

The point I'm trying to get at is this: Just love people. Embrace what is good in them, and try to influence the things that you think are negative by showing them another way. Be brave enough to socialize with someone who is not in your immediate cultural clique. The world is changing. We are part of everything. Remember that God is colorblind, and now even science has begun to validate that we are truly all one in the family of man. It's time to be free, to be totally free. Let's move on.

Donna Summer is a Grammy Award-winning, chart-topping vocalist and songwriter. Her new CD is titled Crayons.

 

 © 2008 Ebony Magazine
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