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Black Is Beautiful, Then and Now

September 10, 2004

Re "Why I'm Black, Not African American," by John McWhorter, Commentary, Sept. 8: Right on, Brother John! What gave Jesse Jackson the right to "rename" us? Let alone be ordained as our spiritual leader? I too never refer to myself as an "African American." I am an American, born and raised in Southern California. My deceased Negro father was born in Baltimore, and mother, who is white, was born in France. That does not make me a French citizen, though I love to visit that country.

Hyphenation of any kind, (Asian American, Mexican American, etc.) only divides us. It does not unite us. We are all descendants of somewhere other than America, with the exception of the Native Americans, and we see how well they were treated for being the only unhyphenated race in this great land of freedom.

Valerie Scott

Santa Monica

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McWhorter's point on the evolution in naming black American identity is a valid one. We blacks that are many generations removed from Africa are unique. Our presence involuntary, our very bodies a commodity. We are also richly infused with other ethnic identities that connect us to America's deepest roots. For myself, I also claim an increasingly rare geographic identity -- that of the native Angeleno!

Regan DuCasse

North Hollywood

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I got a chuckle reading McWhorter's article. Back in 1955 when my parents and I arrived, as legal immigrants to this country, my mother spoke no English. When referring to the then "colored" Americans -- colored implies man-made, therefore not natural in her native tongue -- she translated from the Greek mavros to black.

She was told, "No, no, Esther, no good. Colored, not black." To which my mother, with her three words of English, replied, "why black" ... she paused to search her limited vocabulary and triumphantly announced, "Black is beautiful." I am writing this as a testimonial to my mother's staunch and unrivaled logic.

Rebecca B.

Levy-Gottesfeld

Encino

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