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When You Open Yourself
by Corinne Smelker 
02/10/06
Not For Sale
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My oldest son graduates this year, almost two years early, so we are in the process of applying at Colleges, looking at grants and scholarships. One grant we are applying for is an African-American one. Whilst I was filling out the application I thought how open that term really is.

The colour of my son’s skin is white – so why on earth do I think I can apply for an African American grant? Easy – he is African and American, born in one continent to African parents and raised in another and is now a naturalized citizen because my American husband adopted him.

When he recently applied for a State ID, he put ‘African-American’ on his submission form but the clerk refused to take it stating, correctly too, that that is his nationality, not his race – his race is Caucasian or White. If that is the case, then African Americans should be putting Black in that box, not African American.

I think the African American movement has shot itself in the foot by moving away from the term Black American. They have opened the door to people like my son – a door I am sure most African Americans don’t want open. But my son, based on their criteria has a legitimate right to apply for an African American grant.

I have already heard the argument, “But he is not African!” Define African. Define American. Isn’t the definition one who is born in that country, or one who is naturalized and becomes a citizen of that country? It has nothing to do with the colour of one’s skin and everything to do with the country of one’s birth. If had to do with the colour of one’s skin then the only ones in America who could truly call themselves American are the Native Americans. The rest of us are interlopers who came here voluntarily or were forced onto slave ships.

And yet I am berated for wanting to apply for African American grants. Legally and logistically I surely can, and these days, seeing my son is one of the ‘disadvantaged’ because he is a white, heterosexual, Christian, conservative, middle-class, middle-income male; I will afford him as many opportunities as I can find.

He might be the only white African American on campus this fall, but the colour of his skin doesn’t diminish for one moment his heritage. He is African and proud of it!


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Member Comments
Member Date
BAYO OMOYIOLA, JR 27 Mar 2009
You are a great author, ma`am. I am glad Barack Obama, Jr, a man with kenyan & african roots is now the president of USA. This I hope has silenced the racial enemies of you and your son
dub W 10 Feb 2006
Cori - technically, your son has more rights to be called African American than most of the other folks, after all - he was born in Africa. Now, as to the essay, I hope you share it with the higher education board of your state. I am not sure if SACs is the acreditting board in Texas; but if he is refused admission based on his African American statement, be sure and contact them. This is very interesting. Would mind if I shared this article with some folks?




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