It's been almost two years since I pledged allegiance to the United States of America - that is to say, became an American citizen. Before that, I was a permanent resident of America and a citizen of the United Kingdom. Yet, I became a black American long before I acquired American citizenship. Unlike citizenship, black racial naturalization was always available to me, even as I tried to make myself unavailable for that particular Americanization process. Given the negative images of black Americans on 1970s British television and the intra-racial tensions between blacks in the U.K. and blacks in America, I was not eager, upon my arrival to the United States, to assert a black American identity. My parents had taught me "better" than that. But I became a black American anyway. Before I freely embraced that identity it was ascribed to me. This ascription is part of a broader social practice wherein all of us are made intelligible via racial categorization. My intelligibility was skin deep. More particularly, it was linked to the social construction of blackness, a social construction whose phenotypic reach I could not escape. Whether I liked it or not, my everyday social encounters were going to reflect standard racial scripts about black American life.
Devon W. Carbado,
(E)racing the Fourth Amendment,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol100/iss5/3