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Music legend Smokey Robinson says he wants to be called ‘American American,’ not African American

The American flag. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)
May 19, 2023

American singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson said during a recent interview that he wants to be known as “American American” rather than an “African American” because of black Americans’ role in fighting for the United States.

“I don’t want to be called African-American. I want to be called American American,” Robinson said during an interview with CNN’s Chris Wallace.

“I think that when they call black people who were born and raised for generations in this country — if you accept the handle of ‘African American,’ that says that you don’t accept being an American American,” he added.

Robinson also emphasized that black Americans have fought in the United States’ wars and are equal in every way to other Americans.

“You don’t accept being born in Chicago or New York or Detroit or wherever you were born — for generations your family has been there. You know? [They] built this country, too. Sweat and tears and all that, and fought in every war, okay? So, this is my country here,” Robinson continued.

“So, I don’t want to be called African American. I’m an American American. My people died and have done everything for this country,” he added.

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The words echo Robinson’s themes from a 2004 poem he released called “A Black American” that were popularized last year during Black History Month when animated by a teacher.

“I think that when you [use the term African-American], you’re disclaiming all the contributions that Black people have made to America. I consider myself to be a Black American, and I enjoy being called Black, and Black has been so negativized as a color down throughout history by those who wanted to negativize it,” Robinson wrote.

Robinson, 83, has served as a well-known American singer, songwriter and music industry leader for decades. He became popular for his role as a vocalist for the Motown group The Miracles until 1972 when he became vice president of Motown Records.

His long list of music industry accomplishments includes being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Robinson was also inducted into the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame in 1972.

Among his classic hits were “Get a Job” and “Shop Around.” Robinson also served as the producer or songwriter of dozens of Top 40 tracks during the 1960s and 1970s.