Who knew that Raven-Symoné’s “Where Are They Now” episode would open up such a large can of worms? But her’s did, indeed.
As we mentioned before, Oprah asked her about the now famous tweet about gay marriage, which many took to mean that she, herself, was gay.
And while she did confirm that she was in a relationship with a woman, Raven-Symoné says she doesn’t want to be labeled as gay. In fact, she doesn’t want to be labeled as African American either.
First, the tweet:
“That was my way of saying I’m proud of the country. But, I will say that I’m in an amazing, happy relationship with my partner. A woman. And on the other side, my mother and people in my family, they’ve taught me to keep my personal life to myself as much as possible. So I try my best to hold the fence where I can but I am proud to be who I am and what I am?”
Oprah: So when did you know who you were and what you were?
Raven: In that topic of dating and in love, I knew when I was like twelve. I was looking at everything.
Oprah: Boys and girls? Did you have a word for it?
Raven: I don’t need language. I don’t need a categorizing statement for it.
Oprah: So you don’t want to be labeled gay?
Raven: I don’t’ want to be labeled gay. I want to be labeled, a human who loves humans. I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American, I’m not an African American. I’m an American.
Oprah: Oh girl, don’t set up the Twitter on fire. What?! Oh, my Lord! What did you say?
Raven: I don’t know where my roots go to. I don’t know how far back they go. I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from. But I do know my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American and that’s a colorless person.
Oprah: I mean, you’re going to get a lot of flack for saying you’re not African American. You know that right?
Raven: I have darker skin, I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian, I connect with Asian, I connect with Black, I connect with Indian. I connect with each culture.
Oprah: You are a melting pot in one body.
Raven: Aren’t we all? Isn’t that what America’s supposed to be?
Oprah: That’s what it’s supposed to be, for sure.
Whew, child! She said a mouthful. And Oprah was right. She set Twitter on fire. The show aired yesterday and as I type this, “Raven Symone” is still trending.
We all have the right to define ourselves for ourselves and I certainly understand not wanting to label yourself as gay when you’re attracted to both sexes and believe love is love but the “not African American” part, is troubling to me. I understand that in this country, where you’re judged firstly and primarily by your color, the label can become heavy and problematic, even dangerous. But doesn’t the choice not to acknowledge it mean, that on some level, you’ve internalized the messages that it’s somehow inferior, or less American? Furthermore, “American” is a label too. (You need only leave this country to see the implications, positive and negative, that it carries.) So, it seems odd to only tell half of the story. You’re American but unless you’re Native American, there’s more to it. And I can’t help but notice that many other races and ethnicities take the time to celebrate those differences. Have you ever heard an Italian American, Mexican American or Chinese American deny their heritage, even if their ancestors have been in this country for centuries?
It just seems that Black people, across the diaspora, keep trying to run away from Africa. And that’s what I don’t understand. A lot of us aren’t able to point to a specific country, but there are tests that could answer that question if you really wanted to know. Honestly though, do you have to know a specific country to know there’s some Africa in you? There’s a reason why Raven, as a “colorless American,” noticed her darker skin and interesting grade of hair. One, because our country has conditioned us to notice and even demonize it, but also because it points to that undeniably African part of her ancestry, whether she wants to label it or not.
I’m not suggesting that Raven is ashamed of her African ancestry; she said she connects with Black culture, but I do wonder why she’s decided to omit it from her story.
What do you think about Raven-Symoné’s comments? Watch this portion of her “Where Are They Now?” interview with Oprah in the video below.