I love Raven-Symoné. I always have. As Olivia, she was my favourite character on The Cosby Show (until the adult me realized the legendary-ness of Mrs. Claire Huxtable), I shared middle and high school years with her as Raven Baxter on That’s So Raven, and I even have some of her discography on my iTunes. But all of those things aside, I have loved Raven-Symoné as an individual who has always held a strong head on her shoulders despite whatever madness may be going on around her in celebrity culture.
So when I found out she sat down with Oprah for a “Where Are They Now?” segment, I knew I’d be all about it.
In this recently aired special, Raven stirred the waters when she said, “I’m an American, not an African-American.” Now before I dive into this loaded statement, I want to make sure you all understand the context in which she says it. In this case, Raven was answering a question Oprah was posing to her in regards to her sexual identity—since August 2013 when she made a tweet saying she could marry whomever she loves with the support of the government, Raven’s sexuality has been a question people have been dying to have an answer to.
I want to share some of my story of where I come from. As I continue on the path to liberate myself from external factors and stand completely in my truth, I think it’s important for me to be willing to reflect on how my past has shaped the way I view and think of our world today.
I grew up on Long Island, a little island that’s home to the start of suburban America. It sits in the shadow of the biggest (and greatest) city in the country, New York, and yet, living there is nothing like living in the city. Almost everything about me can be traced back to my childhood on Long Island—and I love it!—but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t see it for what it is through adult eyes. Unfortunately, this makes me sadder than I would like.
Though Long Island is known as the suburbs, it’s home to more people than some states in America has alone! Comprised up by two counties, Nassau and Suffolk, LI is home to some 2.8 million people throughout 195 hamlets, 96 villages, and 2 cities—all of which have their own unique identities. As a child growing up in a mostly single mother household, I was afforded the opportunity of living and going to three different school districts there. I’m grateful for the moving around we had to do now because I consider these experiences to be some of the first that allowed me to see the world with larger eyes than people expected.