December 6th, 2012
06:12 PM ET

Your take on black in America

Editor's Note: In today’s United States, is being black determined by the color of your skin, by your family, by what society says, or something else? Soledad O’Brien reports “Who Is Black in America?” on CNN at 8 p.m. ET/PT this Sunday, December 15.

By Jamescia Thomas, Special to CNN

(CNN) - CNN invited iReporters to share their thoughts on being Black in America in 2012. Some said they had to work twice as hard to remain competitive. Others said a strong racial identity was vital and societal views on being black were too narrow to fit the entire race. Here are five perspectives from African-Americans on how they view the definition of black in 2012. What would you add?

Comfort in being a minority

Antwon Chavis grew up without much of a cultural identity, outside of the acknowledgement of his race. The 27-year-old medical student from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was one of the few black kids in his school. He remembers being called on often to make photos seem more diverse or to voice his opinion so that the minority perspective was heard.

He identified more with his white peers and remembers being rejected by his black peers. For a while, he realized he didn’t fit in with any race and thrived only after he acknowledged that was OK.

Chavis opted to go to historically black Meharry Medical College. He said he chose to go there because he found himself becoming too comfortable as the minority and needed to explore “black culture,” which he often avoided.

“If I could choose to sit at a table of black strangers, a table of white strangers, or a table of both black and white strangers, I would pick the white table all day, everyday,” Chavis said. “I was the duck that forgot it was a duck until it separated from the swans and saw its reflection.”

Now in his final year of medical school, Chavis said although he never grew up facing any hardships, being a black man in America is tough. He said he feels as though he is constantly fighting against the societal box for a black man.

“Being black in 2012 means different things to different people,” he said. “And to me, it means being who I am. And for once, who I am is just right.”

The underdog

Desire Grover said having a racial identity is not that important to her but finds that she cannot escape the practice of others trying to categorize her. She said that the classifiers of race and gender fuel what society imposes to measure the worth of a human being.

The journalist from Chester, Pennsylvania,  said the world cannot let her be just a human being because there is a hypothetical “race” that needs to be won.

“Our society has programmed us to compete with one another," she said. "And in the process of all this competition we size each other up. I think we use the race box as a way to cancel people out of access to certain resources and we are told we must do this because life's value is measured on how much power you have over resources and others.”

Grover identifies with the underdog, no matter what race, and welcomes the struggle that she faces as a black woman. Being the underdog is something that she says allows her never to take anything good for granted.

“As the underdog in society, when you do accomplish something of value, I believe you are able to experience a level of satisfaction and accomplishment that is lost on someone who is born into a family with networks leading to their profession or financial security," she said.

She hopes that one day, race will become extinct because the classifications limit human potential.

“We fear getting rid of these identifiers because it would mean acknowledging that we truly are all the same.”

The same as 40 years ago?

North Carolina A&T graduate Andrew Bullock considers himself successful. He has a great job, a loving family and drives a luxury car. But some people who are not black are surprised by his achievements, he said.

"Being a black man in America today means I have more opportunity to succeed than ever before while virtually facing the same opposition that has been present for decades,” Bullock said. “Even with the freedoms afforded us, we still face monstrous oppositions. There are still those who would like to see us remain subservient.”

His mother grew up during the Jim Crow era and told him about the blatant racism she faced. Today, he believes, racism exists in covert fashion and it's just as dangerous for black people.

“Racism is an idea which cannot die in a matter of a couple of decades." he said. "It has not gone away, but rather changed forms. It shows itself in the poor funding and care to schools in black neighborhoods, the disproportion of lead roles for blacks in blockbuster movies and cartoons, the unwillingness of state governments to address the high mortality rate of young black men due to violent crimes.”

Bullock said he expects the future for black people will continue to improve.

“I hope that we have such a high number of us shattering the negative stereotypes by becoming successful that we cause new positive stereotypes about our race to be created,” he said.

From Negro to colored to African-American

Being black means a legacy of triumph and brutality, said author and teacher Robyn McGee.

“Having a strong racial identity means loving your culture and heritage," she said. "It certainly does not mean hating other races. We should not let the media or any other outside forces define us.”

McGee grew up in Long Beach, California, where she still lives,  and was one of the few black students in her schools. She remembers being called Simba and other racial slurs.

She found a community of black students when she went onto San Jose State University.

"It was so wonderful to feel like I belonged," she said. "In fact, my family says I was somewhat militant during that time. I was studying black history in college, so I guess I was both angry and proud.”

She said the black experience was unique because they were brought to America as slaves. Oppression, she said, made black people resilient, forgiving and strong.
“We have been called colored, Negro, black, Afro-American, African-American and the n-word,” she said. “But no matter what term appears on a government form, we are still here in the great U.S.A shaping the history, culture and future of the place we call our home.”

No more excuses

Diversity consultant and motivational speaker Omekongo Dibinga, 36, grew up with a Congolese name and whole lot of ignorance. White people disrespected him, he felt, because he was black; blacks disrespected him for his African roots.

“I really tried to grow up and just be like everybody else. I just wanted to fit in," he said. "At every juncture though, I just kept being reminded of how different I was."

Later, he attended a prestigious school in Boston, one where he forged his strong black identity.

"I basically decided that if everyone is going to keep disrespecting me because of my black and African culture, I am going to embrace it 100%," he said.

Now in Washington, Dibinga helps inform and empower people on the issues of race and diversity.

“I didn't create racism and intolerance, but I can help end them," he said.

He said black people must develop a "no excuse" mentality.

“We can rise above any challenge put in front of us from poverty to racism," he said. “We even helped elect the first black president. What do we have to complain about? There is a lot of good going on for black people now."

How does it feel to be black in America in 2012? Share your views and personal experiences in the comments area below or post your own video on CNN iReport.

soundoff (783 Responses)
  1. Demi

    I tell you who black in America. If you have a pinch of black in you, you are considered black. Take a look in the mirror, if slavery came back in America and you would be a in-house slave or outside-slave, you're considered black. It would be other ethic backgrounds too. If you not white, you would be a slave, including all races.

    December 10, 2012 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. brown

    It is not the color of the black man's skin which keeps him down, it is the culture he has willingly adopted.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  3. Irishgirl72

    One thing though, don't t belittle your selves by referring to eachother as nig#***. That was a horrible term put upon you by the oppressor. Respect yourselves. Be proud of who you are.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  4. gaggedinusa

    Let's rob our kids away from the prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex and the student loan and housing banksters. Start educating ourselves and building our own houses. Forget them, they're the robbers.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mario Herrera

    the American society does not point at blacks for being blacks. They point fingers at criminals who are blacks, single mothers who happen to be black, gangsters who happen to be blacks, poverty which happens to have a majority of black population. There is a pattern in all these negativity in the society. That is blackness. Black does not make you likely to be part of these groups. Nobody talks and points fingers to those blacks who are in the right side of the society, and they care less about it. Anybody in the wrong side will feel inferior, resentful, hateful, etc. We all relate them to blacks because it happens that the majority of the people in the wrong side of society are blacks.

    December 9, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ckoch407

    Several more just disappeared. Seems like the only ones that didnt disappear are the sharp tongued controversial ones. That is a real shame.

    December 9, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mario Herrera

    who cares if you are black. Nobody specially cares if I'm latino. Why the black race has to have such special attention. Soledad only feeds the racist by separating blacks from the rest. Get over the black issue, be an American, a world citizen.

    December 9, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • gaggedinusa

      well said.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. Teno

    I would love to see African-American winning the Nobel Physics, Math, Science, and Medicine.

    December 9, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • gaggedinusa

      when we get a grip on our educational system seems like it could happen. mostly its a piece of crap now.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
    • perennial2

      There is no such country as Africa America.

      December 10, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. RR

    Can we move on please. I am tired of reading this same sad story. Get over it and stop whining. Make a good life for yourself, work hard and make friends with people that improve and color your world with kindness and fun. I will not feel sorry that you had a confusing life, there are worse things to deal with.

    December 9, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Irishgirl72

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident. All men are created equal." To all who have experienced hatred and bigotry, I say you are amazing. Be strong. Don't t let them get you down. To quote Peter tosh, pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again." There are many, many people out there like ne. Don't give up. Liv knows no boundaries or Colorado.

    December 9, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Irishgirl72

      Sorry. Stupid auto correct. Supposed to be "love" and " colors "

      December 9, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. McDuck WaffleHatSheepWoof

    Black people are black in america.

    December 9, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Amy

    Whites I leave you with this...get out more, talk to others outside your race, read articles that offer varying views and opinions, stop believing you are right all the time. You may even opt to take a black studies class or visit a historically black college. You all need to experience more cultures, ethnicities, etc. White privilege has you in a box. Guess what, the world is brown...you are the minority. It may do you good to learn a little something about what your descendents may go through. Sorry to scare you but in the not so distant future your family may look well, like me.

    December 9, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • goodguy6410

      Whites don't always think they are right. But, historically, whites have shown that they can build a better lifestyle, a better government, cure diseases and feed ourselves better than others. You may not like this, but from the Romans until now, this has been the case. It is others who need to learn about white people and emulate them. Just because blacks have chosen to reproduce at a faster rate, often without a strong family and absentee father, doesn't mean that whites can take a "lesson" from blacks. Quite to the contrary. At a recent viewing of the Lincoln movie, where the theme was how blacks were given freedom in the face of slavery and the Civil War, I saw only two older black people in the theater. Where were the young black people? Not here. That moment in time is our shared history...but young black people have better places to be than to learn more about it.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
      • Willie Duitt

        I will agree with you that Whites have accomplished more historically. That said, if two teams played the same game while one was given better and more effective tools, does that make them better at the game? No, it doesn't. Does it mean they cheated? Not unless they were responsible for distributing the tools. You can't FAIRLY compare Black and White accomplishments side-by-side if Whites had access to education for generations before Blacks did. That's simple fact. Not all of us steal, cheat, smoke, etc. Don't let the vocal minority dictate what you think you understand about us.

        December 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve Silva

      I don't need to get out and look. You need to go talk to the blacks that committ crimes, cheat, lie and so on. If I don't like you it's because u did something. Just because we don't hang out, does not mean I hate u, maube we have nothing in common. I'm tired of being blamed, clean your own house first.

      December 10, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  13. dywlf

    My silly silly woman, the vikings discovered america in the modern age.

    December 9, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dywlf

    Why does the government media complex spend so much time addressing and supporting 10% of the population? Because the jews own the government media complex and by sowing division they set themselves up real nice.

    December 9, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Amy

    More blacks in jail because whites on juries instead of a cross-section...damn ya'll naive. Of course prisons are browner in a racist country dummy. You believing everything Roscoe told you is proof. lol

    December 9, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ckoch407

      :SHOCKED FACE: Wow, I hope that is sarcasm. Seriously, you must be severely damaged if you really believe that.

      December 9, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
      • mar3232

        It was a structured plan to take the black men out of the community. They dont want blacks to get too strong or educated. It will never be equal. Minorities are taking a good portion of the good jobs in America but a lot of them aren't A.Americans.

        December 10, 2012 at 5:08 am | Report abuse |
    • TheMan

      Or maybe its because they chose to commit a crime...If a white person robbed a house, I promise you they would still go to jail just the same as a black person. Same with Latinos or anyone else. Don't blame society for punishing you when you chose to commit a crime.

      December 10, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  16. Amy

    Thank you....white privilege comment hit the nail.

    December 9, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Mocca

    It is not up white people to tell black people what is the appropriate period of time they should feel agrieved by "past injustices", whose effects still persist. The conditions (reflected in the level of education, wealth, etc) of our great grandparents manifest in today's generation. That is not to say there are no people who defy their background and rise to greatness – but those people are the exception. It will take a very long time before the effects racism completely disappear.

    December 9, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  18. les

    Is this all that CNN can talk about? This is so 1960s, so passe, so uninteresting. You would think that having a paritally blcak president would stop all this garbage, but no....keep picking at the scab of "race" so it never heals.

    December 9, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kelsey

      So we should all just look the other way when we see racism tearing human hearts apart ever day?
      Not really sure where you were goin with that comment..

      December 9, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
      • Ckoch407

        IMO there should be an open and objective discussion that is not so one sided. Racism goes both ways and that should be acknowledged. It's an emotional subject for many so a one sided conversation will never work.

        December 9, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
      • Mario Herrera

        we won't stop speaking about blacks when they become as everyone else, less black criminals, less black poverty, less unemployed, less black single mothers, etc. etc. But more black scientists, more black professionals, more black CEOs, more black helping your community, etc. etc. And wait! before you accuse me of being racist, I'm not white, I'm latino, and not born in the US. To me blacks have all the opportunities, and even more than the rest to be great citizens. Is up to them to step it up and become the opposite of what they are as a minority

        December 9, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  19. BlackHeywood

    I thought Soledad identified herself as a Latina, because her mother is Cuban and her father is Australian. But if she identifies as a Black woman then that makes me admire her a bit more,being that many Black Latinos distant themselves from being Black at all expense ie Sammy Sosa.What I don't understand is why is she doing these specials on Blacks in America without going to the root of the problem and that's after centuries of legalize segregation and Jim Crow from 1867-1964, American Blacks were never given the tools or help to heal from the atrocities that we were forced to endure by the hands of our government.

    No one can deny that those atrocities that many ignore and other run away from discussing does play a negative role in many of the problems in some segments of the Black community. If you are taught negativity about yourself you pass that negativity to your children as others pass down family recipes to theirs.IMO discussing those issues would benefit not only American Blacks but America as a country. I'm tired of seeing the doll experiment without the full discussion of why some young Black children have such a low self-esteem at an early age.

    December 9, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • pedro suero

      just so you know , for future reference, cuban and austrailian are nationalities not races.

      December 12, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Ckoch407

    In todays world, anyone who blames Whites for their problems or feels like a victim of so called White privilege, etc, gives White people way too much credit, and is not capable of independence or independent thinking.

    Out of a population of 8 billion, Whites are the minority of the world.

    December 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shawn peters

      The greatest privilege with being white is ignoring white priviledge. It must be great being you–where you got that job because of merit, not (as all studies confirm) because of white privilege. Where you are given better loan terms based on race rather than credit scores. In fact, a white person with a criminal record and poor credit will be offered a job and better loan terms than a black man with good credit and no record. But yeah, I guess non-whites just can't think for themselves.

      December 9, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
      • Ckoch407

        I'm glad you know my employment history, credit history, criminal history, and life experiences better than I do. I have my own experiences that make your study a joke. I've seen discrimination, have been on the receiving end of discrimination, by all races. Discrimination is not monopolized by one group or the other. The biggest discriminator in the job and financial world is classism. Racist discrimination as I've experienced in my lifetime is mostly on a social level.

        December 9, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
      • HavanaGuy

        Your post is relevant and accurate – in 1953.

        December 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Nick Naranja

    I think that the children born in the past 20 years don't really see race so much. The problem is that race is often compounded with social factors. I have a diverse social group with sundry races represented. I don't have an American black represented in my social group. I have a Kenyan, a Jamaican, and a Haitian, but not an American black. For some reason, blacks from other countries don't seem to be as caught up in trying not to "act white". I don't get it, why are the black people who I have hung out with my whole life going to good schools, and getting good jobs always from other countries?

    December 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Amy

    10 point IQ? Aracist conducted this so called study and research has proven his data was skewed. Dont tell only the side that supports your racism. You throw some mess out that someone told you without doing your own research. Now who has the lower IQ?

    December 9, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • P

      There have been dozens of studies proving likewise results, that average out to about 18 points lower IQ among African Americans, than their White counterparts.

      December 9, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Amy

    So???Your point? Alot ofof dads arent around. Or do you only take notice when the person is black?

    December 9, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      No, but single mothers is a lot more prevalent among blacks and hispanics.

      December 9, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  24. DHas


    Soledad O'brein, Maybe you should come to my house and I could teach you about being black, white, native american, Irish, Greman, Middle eastern, Italian, russian, scotish, welsh, hispanic , deaf because all these traits are my family. My wife was even published by the washington post on this very subject not once but three times. Race is a state of mind, but our family look pass race. Martin Luther King said it best and our family lives by judge us by our character not by the color of our skin

    December 9, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shawn peters

      "race is a state of mind." interesting. I guess the Jews should have told the Nazis that race is all in the mind. That woukd have saved them. Also, how do you suggest we account for the fact that employers are half as likely to hire a black applicant with identical qualifications to a white person? Is unemployment also a state of mind?

      December 9, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Amy

    Blacks are more nurturing and that is why biracial people connect to the black side. Whites are notorious for rejecting anything or one they don't understand. This is why many remain ignorant to this day. They dont read about other cultures or ethnicities and don't care to. Don't get upset...the remarks in this thread prove my point.

    December 9, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Storm

      I see & understand your point......however....more "nutruing"......just HOW many Black young men or women grew up in homes WITHOUT their fathers living with their mothers?

      December 9, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
      • Storm

        Oh yes........our so called "BLACK" President is half Black....his mother is WHITE & he was raised by his White mother & White Grandparents as his Black father wasn't around.

        December 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
      • goodguy6410

        Excellent point. I see little nurturing in the black community except maybe by Grandma who is struggling to feed herself and grandkids while the parents are...where? Jail? On drugs? Out of the picture. When we think "at-risk" youth, do we normally think white kids (you know, from non-nurturing families) or black kids (you know, from nurturing parents)..?

        December 10, 2012 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      If these children are so well nurtured, why are so many ending up in prison?

      December 9, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Storm

    Today there are many mixed race (black & white) couples having children who are half black & half white....from what I've seen their children tend to connect to the black side of the family.

    December 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • McHa

      Storm- As a bi-racial woman, I was raised primarily around the white side of my family and was still embraced and loved by my black side of the family. My father, who was black, WAS around. So, before you continue to disrespect the black fathers that made a positive impact in their daughters lives, step back and take a look inside.

      December 9, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
      • Billy

        Who else is tired of this "disrespect" thing? I don't get it any more than I get the "hate on" grammar butchering. Oh, and by the way, as far as who is black, if you have one drop of black in you, you're black. Period.

        December 9, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
      • Many Drops

        Hey BILLY ONEDROP. That black stuff is dang potent fo sho yes siree mista! If I was used people I would be scared a dat black blood too!

        December 10, 2012 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
  27. Vic

    Eh, Pablo. You sound very ignorant. Just thought someone should tell you that.

    December 9, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Brutus

    She is of 'mixed' decent yet dicards anything to do with her heritage that is not black. How does that look to America?

    December 9, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Miquel

    The august New York Times recently explained that illegal immigration has no effect
    on unemployment because illegal immigrants compete only with “native-born workers
    without a high school diploma.”

    As noted by Vanderbilt law professor Carol Swain, author of “Debate Immigration,”
    that means black workers. Illegal immigration, she says, harms blacks “the most
    because they’re disproportionately low-skilled.”

    December 9, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Steve

    Well, Timmy, those of us white guys who have black wives disprove your theory, huh?

    December 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Not really Steve. Think about it.

      December 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pablo

      Steve, you know you are in minority. When a black man makes a lot of money, he looks for that one status symbol that proves he made it, a hot blue-eyed blonde. Tiger Woods married a woman and got caught with 18 more on the side, not one was black.

      December 9, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Gerald O'Hare

    The Jews had a similar problem when they started the modern state of Israel. Basically after a long and painful debate it was determined that you are a Jew only if you say you are a Jew. So using that same logic you are black if you call yourself black. There in accepting all the history and modern day challenges of being Black in America.

    December 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |


    December 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harland Sanderz

      Apparently, the Nobel Committees are operating with AA in mind, and are just handing them out anyway. How very apropos.

      December 9, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • perennial2

      There is no such country as Africa America.

      December 9, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Amy

    Aa havent earned it? Look up Garrett Morgan, Sarah Boone, Ronald McNair, Barack Obama...we have made contributions in all disciplines...not only sports and ent. you need to read more smh...there are really some slow whites in here.

    December 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Will

    It wasn't enough for them to have DESTROYED OUR CITIES (the immigrants who moved here during the 20th century WERE JUST AS POOR, PLUS HAD NO WELFARE, but could keep our cities CLEAN AND SAFE), it wasn't enough that they get FREE FOOD, HEALTH CARE, HOUSING, TUITION, DAY CARE, PREFERENTIAL JOB PLACEMENT, CELL PHONES, AND MORE, COURTESY OF THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER.

    December 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  35. dywlf

    I could care less what being black in amerika means.

    December 9, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
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