By Danny McCarthy, Staff Writer
Raven-Symoné, Disney darling and “Cheetah Girls” star, had her first interview addressing her sexuality in Oprah’s “Where Are They Now” series earlier this week.
Oprah began the interview by reading one of Raven’s tweets from August 2013 that said: “I can finally get married! Yay government! So proud of you!” in response to the Supreme Court ruling the ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. Oprah then asked if that was Raven’s way of coming out of the closet as gay.
I can finally get married! Yay government! So proud of you
— Raven-Symonè (@MissRavenSymone) August 2, 2013
“That was my way of saying I’m proud of the country, but I will say that I’m in… an amazing, happy relationship with my partner, a woman,” Raven answered, before adding that her family taught her to keep her private life private.
But when Oprah pushed her on language and labeling, Raven stood her ground. “I don’t want to be labeled ‘gay.’ I want to be labeled ‘a human who loves humans.’ I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American; I’m not an African-American.”
Oprah responded — frankly — with shock, saying, “Don’t set Twitter on fire!” And Raven, also a little bashful, stood her ground. “I don’t know where my roots go to… I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from. But I do know my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American, and that’s a colorless person.”
While I found parts of Raven’s interview to be a little strange — her blasé attitude and Oprah’s stunned disbelief were interesting to watch — I think the sentiment is interesting. Raven refuses to adhere to our labeling society.
I was not very shocked by her refusing to identify as gay. For some people, LGBTQ serves as an adequate representation of their sexualities, but for others, sexuality is a spectrum. So Raven refusing to create a label for herself is not too out of the ordinary.
However, I was a little stunned to hear her rebuke the label “African-American,” but once I listened to her explanation, I understood her logic.
I am a fourth-generation American, descended from predominantly Irish, but also German and Austrian, immigrants. But I don’t label myself as “Irish-American” or “German-American” or “Irish-German-Austrian-hybrid American.” I am an “American.” I was proud of Raven for, perhaps a little indirectly, pointing out that racial imbalance. For the white majority, it is enough to identify as “American.” But for other American citizens — some of whom have been in America as long or longer than I have — they are consistently labeled “Asian-American,” “African-American,” “Indian-American,” etc.
Raven took a bold leap, but should it really be considered a leap? She grew up in America and was born to American parents, and yet we jump up in arms at the sound of her calling herself an “American,” and refusing to self-identify as “African-American?”
Raven stipulated the ideal of America, where we are all considered Americans — equally and without conditions. Her self-awareness and solidity are admirable, and I look forward to what she brings into social dialogue in the future.