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Beyond Oppositional Trickeration:

American Identity in the 21st Century
A Just-So Story

by William Benzon

White folks weren't always white. By this I don't mean only that, like everyone else, their ancestors were from the African continent. That is true, but we don't really know what that signifies color-wise.

The fact is, we don't know what colors the original humans were. All we know about them is what we can deduce from some bones, pot shards, flaked stone tools and weapons, remains of fires and other assorted bits and pieces of stuff. None of this speaks to the issue of color. They might have been mocha java, hazelnut, lion tawny, watermelon pink, eggplant purple, lilac lavender, tulip red or speckled striped blued and tattooed. Who knows. I'd like to think that, in fact, their color was like Satchel Paige's age:

What color would you be if you didn't know what color you was?

That's what color I am.

And this brings us back to the question of white folks and their color. There was a time when they were the same color as the rest of humanity, no color and all colors. They changed all that during their Renaissance, a word which, you may recall, means rebirth. They rebirthed themselves and came out Christian, European, and white.

This essay is about identity, about how Europeans created their collective identity, and how African America responded in kind. Needless to say it's about time for us to move beyond the pale and into the multi-hued savanna of new civilizations. It's time for some African-American leadership.

Standard Disclaimer: In this essay I follow a ubiquitous, if not universal, convention of talking about black and white, African-American and European-American, and so forth, as though these terms have simple and obvious meanings, as though they designate homogeneous and mutually impervious groups. I know better than that and so do you, so please, don't start dogging either one of us on that score until you get far enough into this piece to see where it's going.


Home & Identity
Oppositional Trickeration: Europe Invents Itself
Made in America
Freedom Over Me
What Can America Become?

Meanderings 2.04 -- April 1995

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