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First let me start off by saying that I am an American. I have dark skin and am of African ancestry but I was born in the U.S. When I refer to African American I don't mean an African person turned American. Last year I found out what the term African American really meant.

My parents moved fairly often when I was younger and so I ended up going to different schools every year from first to fourth grade. In second grade I attended a catholic school in suburbian Baltimore County. I had to speak and dress conservatively all the while developing emotionally and mentally in a friendly, religious environment. The student population was predominantly white but I don't remember all too well probably because at the time it didn't matter. Families weren't filthy rich but could afford housing in decent neighborhoods. Now that I think about it I was probably happier in that environment than I've ever been in any other.

Nevertheless, the following year I attended a public school in another part of Baltimore County. The school was predominantly black. There was one white kid there...his name was Joey. They spoke differently, they handled their arguments differently, they dressed differently...Every single, little thing about my new school was opposite from that of my old one. I got teased and bullied and couldn't figure out why. How was I suppose to know that doing your homework or participating in class was frowned upon and worthy of a beating? I was told that I wasn't black which baffled me because my skin was the same color as theirs if not darker. For fourth grade to eighth grade I went to another catholic school that was predominantly white. And then I went on to a public high school that was very diverse where I made white friends. It wasn't that I discriminated against the black students but simply that they never talked to me until that one day...

A group of about four or five black students followed me to the lunch room. They were talking to each other. Something about "acting white" and "she ain't black" and "don't you hate it when black people try and act white". Then I turn around and one of them looks me straight in the eye and says "Oreo". Days later I asked one of them what I was if not black. African American. That was a thorough mindfuck right there. I must've spent hours trying to figure out the difference between the two.

Well black refers to all people with dark skin because not all people with dark skin are African Americans..Maybe I'm not dark enough or African enough..

I put much too much effort into it. From what I gathered being "black" or "African American" is a state of mind.

Being or acting "black" means wearing F.U.B.U., speaking ebonics, and having "black" friends. And I'm guessing being "African American" or anything else means...not doing what "black" people do which I think includes not using the n-dash-dash-dash-dash-dash word.

There are supposedly several more differences between "blacks" and "African Americans" but I'm still confused about it all. The lot of us at my old high school were born in America which, I thought, made us just plain Americans.

Chuck is African-American, in the literal sense of the word. He was born in Tanzania. His parents were born in Tanzania. Their parents were born in Tanzania. That pattern went all the way back to the British colonization of Tanzania.

Chuck is white. He was part of that 1% of Tanzania's population that lived in opulence. The 1% of the country that some people like to forget about, and some people like to pretend is the whole country.

When he was 6, his family moved to New York. They've lived there since, and Chuck became an American citizen.

Chuck is African. He is proud of his Tanzanian background, he returns home whenever he can - and Tanzania still is his home.

Chuck is American. He's lived in New York for most of his life. He speaks English without much of a discernable accent to my Torontonian ear.

Chuck is African American but not black.

I am African-American. However in the loosest sense of the word as I am not an American citizen. I was born in Nigeria, coming to this country when I was three years old. Although my family came to this country near penniless, through my father's hard work, our standard of living was constantly being elevated. As such, he wanted us to live in the best neighborhoods, and attend the best schools, at least within economical reason.

During this time, my family moved around a bit, as my father was reluctant to settle. Although the schools I attended were racially diverse, they still remained predominantly caucasian. I learned to see past and through skin color at a very early age, I'd say around six or seven, when I discovered that skin color was based on the concentration of melanin in the skin.

Sadly, other people don't see it as such. They see their skin color as a cultural identification, keeping the racial barriers and misconceptions that still exist even harder to overcome.

I have a very diverse group of friends, however, they are of predominantly Palestinian and of Arab origin. We all share the same view, although it remains unspoken. We all date interracially without a second thought, just people with people. However, my anger does arise when people display their ignorance. I have been called "white," before and it completely befuddles me.

Because of the way my voice sounds, that I speak in a manner that is "proper," or my clothes aren't of an urban style, I am not truly "black." That I don't represent a culture that is foreign to me because of where I have lived, and my own personal experiences, I am somehow betraying a chemical in my skin, or some identity that should be integral in my mannerisms and character.

This kind of ignorance that is prevalant in our society is very heartbreaking. If we are to move forward, as a culture, society and civilization, we need to reaffirm the scientific principle which so many forget. WE ARE ALL HUMANS. Homo Sapien, although most behave as though they belong to the extinct Homo Erectus. Skin color is an adaptation. An adaptation that made the people of Africa and of similar latitudes more resilient to skin cancer, and those who ancestrally hail from more northerly regions able to produce more vitamin D. To base your entire self, and make judgments based on this is a sort of ignorance that should have never existed, and should not exist in our scientifically driven world.

I am African American, but I am not black, my skin is not the color of obsidian. It is a shade of brown. And I don't appreciate being labeled by a color. I am beyond definition by color. We are all beyond this sort of categorization.

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