The subject of race, ethnicity, and nationality have been a part of the conscious debate for as long as I can remember being in the community. Its an important question – one that forces us as Blacks in America to decide who our allegiance belongs to (Are we African? African American? Black? What do we call ourselves??)
Its a very valid topic that should be explored thoroughly, but the problem with this debate is that the terms “race”, “nationality”, and “ethnicity” have all been taken to mean the same thing when, in reality, they dont.
Race Is Different From Ethnicity
Take a look at the images below. Each face represents people all of the same racial group, but all of different ethnicities.
The term ethnicity is defined as “the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition”, whereas the term race is understood as “each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics”. To get a full understanding of the difference, think of Rwanda’s Hutu and Tutsi.
If you remember from the article, the terms “Hutu” and “Tutsi” were NOT racial classifications, but signs of social distinction. A person could become a Tutsi or a Hutu based on their social and economic standing. Tutsis who lost their cattle sometimes would be considered Hutu, and Hutu who came up on some cattle would come to be considered Tutsi.
Other examples of race/ethnicity differentiation are the Ashanti and the Akan (peoples of Ghana: same race, different ethnicity), the Mulao and Xibe (peoples of China), and the Kurds and Ossetians (peoples of Iran).
The two points that one should take from this information are (1) race is different from ethnicity and (2) ethnicity can be changed, race cannot!
Ethnicity Is Different From Nationality
Nationality is simply the status of belonging to a particular nation. You can be of a specific race, ethnicity, and nationality all at once; these terms dont mean the same thing.
In the above examples, the Akan people of Ghana would still be considered “Akan”, even if they were in South Africa, or in Atlanta, Georgia. These peoples can be classified by their ethnic group, regardless of what country they decide to settle in.
To say that you are “African” is a grossly panoramic reduction of hundreds (if not thousands) of various ethnicities with all their various customs and cultures. That doesnt mean we should stop calling ourselves “African”, we should! Blacks in America dont have the luxury of knowing exactly where we came from individually. But we should realize that we are of our own ethnicity. We have a unique and specific culture right here in America that is very different from the customs and cultures of other African peoples.
Nationality, more specifically, defines to whom a particular citizen of a country should give his or her allegiance to. In the case of the United States, one gives his allegiance to the state, not the country as a whole, and thats a good thing: a state national has “rights” in contradistinction to “privileges” possessed by a US citizen. A state national owes his/her allegiance to his/her countrymen, i.e. fellow Delawareans, Coloradoans and NOT to a state government.
This is the critical difference between a state national and a US citizen. Because of this difference in nationality, a state national IS NOT subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and therefore is bound the State constitution of his/her state and the law of nations/international law. (See more here: How Do You Define Your Nationality) When the “Feds” override charges against a criminal that are levvied by the state, the Federal government is actually (unconstitutionally) challenging the sovereignty of that state. Of course, constitutional violations happen all the time – its just a matter of a court being open to hearing the arguments of a Constitutionalist to change this.
The Moors in America (More information on these noble warriors here: Noble Drew Ali and the Moorish Science Temple) are best known for furthering the cause of establishing a true Nationality for the Black race here in America. In the book “What Shall We Call Him?” by Heru Ranesi-El, the author writes:
We, being free-born Moorish American nationals, do hereby take responsibility for all 39 MILLION aboriginal Asiatics (so-called “African Americans”) within the borderes of Continental America that do not proclaim their proper nationality. We Moors of Continental Aemrica do realize that it is NOT the duty of the European Occupational government (United States), with centralized powers, albeit de facto (illegitimate), in Washington, D.C. to reveal the truth of the indigenous inheritance and birthrights of said 39 million Asiatics whose true nationality, DESPITE RELIGIOUS CUSTOMS, is Moorish American
Race Is Not Changeable, Racial Names Are
Actually, the first part of that statement isnt completly true. Race can change based on environmental factors, but only over a long, long period of time. But as far as you are concerned, you will remain whatever race that you are now and until you transition into something else.
While your race remains the same, what you call your race can change with the times. There was a time when Asians were called “Orientals”, there was a time when even Blacks referred to themselves as “Negroes”, and a time when whites were called “Occidentals”. Scientific names for each respective racial category are theAustraloid race, the Capoid race, the Caucasian race, the Mongoloid race and the Congoid race. Again, the names dont matter so much as the fact that your race is what it is. Dont get offended when you are called Black, as it is the commonly accepted racial category. Unless someone calls me by a name as an offensive epithet, then I dont give a damned – nor should we collectively concern ourselves with petty arguments.
So I hope I did a good job of settling this etymological minefield. If you are of the Moorish community and feel your beliefs have been misrepresented, or if you have a comment in general, hit the comment box. Responses guaranteed!