Smokey Robinson Resents Being Called ‘African American,’ Here’s Why
Music legend Smokey Robinson says he resents the term “African American” and said in a recent interview that he would rather be known as a “black American” or “American American.” The former Miracles frontman told host Chris Wallace this week that he feels the term disclaims the contributions of black people to America and fails to do justice to the generations that helped build the country.
He shared his thoughts on an episode of Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace on CNN.
“You have said that you resent the idea of being called an African American, that you are a Black American,” Wallace said to Robinson. “Explain.”
“You know, Chris, I have been basically all over the world,” the 83-year-old musician said. “I’ve never been to Africa. At any time in my life. I’ve never been to Africa.”
“I think that when they call black people who were born and raised for generations in this country, if you accept the handle of African American that says that you don’t accept being an American American. You don’t accept being born in Chicago or New York or Detroit, or wherever you were born.”
— Natnael Berhane (@Natnaelenquirer) May 14, 2023
The Motown singer spoke affectionately of his country and said the term “African American” discredited black Americans’ contributions to American history.
“For generations, your family has been here, you know, built this country too. Sweat and tears and all that, you know, fought in every war. Okay. So, this is my country here.”
“I don’t want to be called African American. I’m an American American.” Robinson told Wallace. “My people died and done everything for this country.”
You know, there’s a line in the poem that I wrote about that. And it says all the wonderful Black Americans who served in the armed forces, and gave their lives in all the wars. They didn’t do that for Timbuktu or Cape Town or Kenya. They did that for Mississippi and Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, Texas and Virginia. So that’s why I feel like that.
Smokey Robinson said he doesn't want to be called an African American, he's an American. I get it, I'm an American not a European American. There are no North American South Americans or South American Africans or any other version of such… 🤔
— Rob, Colleen & Walter White Jumping Bear (@ChefBoyRV57) May 12, 2023
Last year, Robinson shared similar comments on The View, saying that he enjoys being referred to as “black” but thinks the term has become “negativized as a color” over time.
“I think that when you [use the term African-American], you’re disclaiming all the contributions that black people have made to America. I consider myself to be a black American, and I enjoy being called black, and black has been so negativized as a color down throughout history by those who wanted to negativize it. And so, it spilled over into the black community and to the black people. And even black people back in the day calling each other black was a sign for a fight.”
“Like Black was so negative,” the singer added.
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