As I scribe my first entry, I want to thank Ken Wheaton for letting me into the Big Tent -- I didn't even have to pay a cover charge, although I did wait in line for a few weeks. Now that I'm in, I got the memo telling me a few things: Most readers don't look at the bio section (shame on you); I should be creative (sounds fun already); I should be original (write what you know in a special way); and get it in under 700 words (even digital ink has limits). Exhale. Since I didn't want to be swayed by reading the whole Tent that has come before me, I decided to jump in without looking -- so I don't think I've plagiarized anything. But if I have, let me know and I will send a word to Hillary letting her know I "Xerox." Funny she says that, because I was always taught that if it was mentioned twice by two people, it was worth repeating.
At any rate, there has been a lot of debate recently about a unique group of Americans. In some circles it is projected that they account for up to 5% of the population of America today. Yet they have no country of origin, they don't have "neighborhoods," they don't have a TV network that caters to them, they don't have a niche magazine, an ad agency or an organization to represent them. But over the last 30 days they have been talked about in both The Wall Street Journal and on Rush Limbaugh -- amongst other outlets -- and people's reaction was a chuckle, or a smirk with every mention.
I still remember growing up as a child in Connecticut, and no one at school would talk to me. I would come home and say "Mom and Dad, no one looks like me. I hate it!" My mother, who was a fourth-grade school teacher, would say to me, "One day Dougie, everyone in America will look like you" and I would say, "No they won't!" My Dad, who was a judge, would say to me, "Dougie, with that kind of attitude, I don't want you to speak to people unless they speak to you first!" With that in mind, and really no friends, I was imprisoned by the media and pop culture -- spending hours a day watching TV and reading magazines. I quickly realized that after hours of flipping through the channels, and turning through pages, no one in any of the ads or on the TV shows was speaking directly to me either. At that point, I was convinced no one looked like me! Nor would anyone.
My realization that I was truly alone came when I was applying for college. Penn State to be exact. I got a call from the university stating there was something inaccurate about my application. I was eager to fix it, as it was my first-choice school. The woman on the phone told me that I had made a mistake in the race/ethnicity section and it needed to be clarified. Intriguing.
"You have checked both the African American box, and the Caucasian box -- and you wrote in the word 'Halfrican' next to the 'Other' box. Although the question is optional, if you choose to fill it out, you can't be more than one race at the same time." She continued "What is a Halfrican?"
There it was -- my shining moment. Had I actually gotten someone to repeat my ethnicity back to me?! Ahh, the feeling. "A Halfrican," I explained, "is someone who is half black and half something else -- we are not one or the other exclusively. We are Halfrican Americans -- as in half African."
She followed up "Would you like me to add Halfrican to the system?"
I replied, "As a matter of fact, I would!"
At that moment, I began scouring the world to look for others like me -- and found out they were everywhere. Hollywood, sports stars and politicians. Tiger Woods. Barack Obama. Derek Jeter. Mariah Carey. Jordin Sparks. Halle Berry. But where is the targeted marketing? Where is the niche advertising? Where is our voice? Must we always pick a side -- must everything be Black or White? Does the unwritten rule that one drop of black blood makes you black still apply?
Halfrican-Americans, if you are out there, raise you your hands and let me know! Do you know a Halfrican? If so, reach out to them and let them know you understand. I would love to invite you -- and all Halfrican's -- to join the revolution as our market share grows. But you better get in now -- we may be taking the White House.