It was more then just Raven Symone’s purple-green ombre hair that got everyone talking when she sat down with Oprah Winfrey last week on Oprah: Where Are They Now?
The now 28-year-old spoke about college, battling self-doubt and staying out of tabloids as a famous child star, but it was her statement about not wanting to be labeled that made headlines everywhere.
It all began when Winfrey mentioned Symone’s tweet from August 2013 when the Supreme Court ruled the ban of same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. At the time, she tweeted, “I can finally get married! Yay government! So proud of you.”
When Winfrey asked if that was her way of publicly coming out, she said, “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.”
She stated that she is proud to be who she is and what she is and that it was at the young age of 12 that she knew this. To which Winfrey asked if she had a word for it at the time because “when you’re younger, you don’t even have language for what it is.”
“I don’t need a categorizing statement for it,” Symone said. “I don’t want to be labeled as gay. I want to be labeled as a human who loves humans.”
She went on to say, “I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American, I’m not an African-American, I’m an American.”
Winfrey almost fell out of her chair at Symone’s surprising statement. As she tried to catch a grip on her seat, she said, “Oh, girl, don’t set up Twitter on fire. Oh, Lord. What did you just say?” And even jokingly added, “Stop the tape” to her crew members.
“I don’t know where my roots go to,” Symone explained. “I don’t even know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American and that’s a colorless person.”
Winfrey warned her that she’s going to get a lot of “flak” for saying she’s not African-American and Symone simply responded by putting her hands up and restating that she doesn’t label herself.
“I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian. I connect with Asian. I connect with Black. I connect with Indian. I connect with each culture,” said Symone.
Symone’s controversial statement lit up a firestorm on social media. Many African-Americans felt offended that Symone may not consider being African-American as something to be proud of even though her brown skin has history written all over it and that she is wrong to turn away from who she truly is. Others have said that they are proud of her for stating what she believes in and categorizing someone with a label only reduces their complexity as a person.
In an exclusive statement to theGrio.com, she responded to the outrage that sparked from critics by saying, “I never said I wasn’t black, I want to make that very clear. I said I’m not African-American. I never expected my personal beliefs and comments to spark such emotion in people. I think it is only positive when we can openly discuss race and being labeled in America.”
She posted this on her Twitter account to address the issue but noted that it is the final say about her misquoted claims.