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Why “Black” and not “African-American”?

Note: I’m off meditating in the woods until April 30th. This post was written beforehand and set to go live in my absence. Feel free to comment and discuss as you normally would. Just be aware that I can’t take part until I come home.

Last week in the Political Correctness post I mentioned that I have not fought for the use of the term African-American to describe myself or others of my ethnicity. Over the years I’ve been asked why this is and I’ve given various answers. Some of them flip, some of them surface, none that really gets into the meat of it. It is, after all, a long conversation.

Good thing I have a blog!

The main reason I prefer the term Black is, I admit, habit. When I was growing up that was the term in use. We’d moved on from the terms Negroes, Colored People, and even Afro-Americans. I also remember “People of Color”, though don’t know how long that lasted before. For the most part, the people in my family and on TV referred to those of African Descent as Black.

When the term African-American came into vogue I sometimes referred to myself that way, but not all of the time. It felt like a very formal term. One people used in term papers or on the news. Not something I would call myself. Though for a while I struggled to use it whenever I talked about Black people because I thought it was important to do so. African-American highlights the fact that most Black people in America today are the descendants of Africans. It’s where we came from, and it shows that we’re proud of that fact.

There was, of course, backlash against the term. Some would say, “I’m American, and that’s all.” Others would point out that no one ever called recent African immigrants African-Americans. And still more people would whip out that tired business about “If a white person is born in Africa and then moves here, why aren’t they African-American, too?” So much wankery.

I have no problem with the term African-American, per se. I wouldn’t object to someone referring to me as one. But I don’t use it for myself or (very often) for others. One reason is that I still feel it’s an overly formal term. Use it in academic papers or in news reports and even on Census forms. That is appropriate. However, we have to remember that the term African-American contains a key word: American.

A few years ago an editor put out a call for submissions to an anthology of horror stories written by Black authors. However, when he first posted the call, he used the term African-American authors. There was a bit of discussion amongst writers of color about how annoying this was. The editor wanted Black authors, but by using the term African-American without thought, he made it seem like authors from Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, and just about anywhere outside of America were not welcome. That wasn’t his intent, of course, but it was just another example in a long string of such behavior.

African-American excludes non-American Blacks. And though American Blacks have a lot in common because of our history in America, we aren’t the only people of the Diaspora who were oppressed, enslaved, or are the descendants of those who were. We have a lot in common with Black people all over the globe. Our issues are not always uniquely American.

This is also why I sometimes refer to myself as a Person of Color. It connects me to folks who may not be Black, but with whom I have a lot in common. Some of the issues I have are definitely Black Issues. Some are Issues Concerning People of Color.

It’s all about using language in a more precise way. And as these recent posts illustrate, I’m all about language at the moment. The words we use are powerful.

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134 comments to Why “Black” and not “African-American”?

  • Lori

    Hi Angry,

    I’m not so Angry, but I am a Black American and couldn’t agree with you more. I always feel weird calling myself an Af-American. I don’t identify with Africa in any real way. Historically of course, but our very special culture is truly an American experience.

    I’m a writer and I always fight with my copy editors to capitalize Black when describing our people (and therefore White as well) because we are a unique Black people and Black is not the description of the color of our skin but a definintion of our heritage. Black American means something. And quite frankly we look slighted on the printed page when we claim the Black label and it has to be lower-case. What does that say?

    So maybe I’m a little angry after all.

    Love your blog. Glad I found it.

  • ABW's Guest Blogger

    Lori,

    I lean toward black too, because it’s simply a more useful term than African-American. But it bothers me to capitalize the term. I can’t agree with you that it’s a definition of our heritage, because as you say — most of us here in America don’t really identify with Africa. And AFAICT many Africans don’t identify with us. I’ve met Africans who consider me *white* because I’m an American. I can’t get my head around that, but that’s because I *am* an American, and to me culture is closely linked with skin color. In the rest of the world, that isn’t the case. Culture elsewhere is about who your (current) people are, and what customs you were raised with. The latter definition makes far more intuitive sense to me.

    Capitalizing terms like “black” and “white” and “yellow” and “red” to me seems to validate the stupid-ass narrow American definition of culture-as-color. So I prefer to keep black (lowercase) as a descriptor, and use African-American when I want to be precise.

  • ABW's Guest Blogger

    I’m an idiot. What I meant to get across here:

    “…most of us here in America don’t really identify with Africa.”

    Was that most of us don’t really identify with every other black person on the planet, including those from Africa. We’re too bound to the culture we’ve been reared in, so we have no more insight into the mind of someone from a black African ethnic group, or an Australian Aboriginal or anyone else “black”, than a white person would.

    Sorry, no coffee yet.

  • In Britain, we’ve historically used Afro-Caribbean, or just Black. Afro-Caribbean has been somewhat phased out and replaced with African-Caribbean. I find this term fine. Whilst it is vague in terms of actual national origin, it’s pretty much inclusive, and takes note of the fact that a huge chunk of British Blacks are in fact immigrants from the Caribbean, rather than fresh out of Africa.

    Certain ethnic monitoring surveys may ask for the specifics of one’s national origin or exact skin colour, given that a lot of African immigrants are Arab, or indeed white, but I do generally like the term ‘African-Caribbean’. No reference to being solely British, no exclusion of non-citizen residents, and making explicit the fact that Caribbean immigrants do ultimately descend from Africa, irrespective of birthplace.

    “African American” has always troubled me a little, mostly for the reasons that you state here.

    All said and done, I use “Black”, personally.

  • When the change was introduced, I worked in a large office where the managers were white and the secretaries were Black (mostly and mostly, not 100% either way). Anyhow, the managers started saying African American and the secretaries never stopped saying Black, and that was good enough for me.

    Since then I’ve noticed that middle class African Americans and liberal whites are more likely to prefer “African American,” and since the Black middle class in this country is relatively small, the term will continue to lack resonance.

  • piggy-backin off jd2718′s comment re class & term (& others), i heard it said once that colored people became AA & negroes (negro means black) became black. that makes sense to me. personally i choose to refer to myself as black for several reasons; one it is a term we chose – ‘say it loud, i’m black & i’m proud’. you could say it or not, in doing so you chose. AA is a term that was chosen for us. two, black is solidarity with all africa & the diaspora, just as poc (another term i’m comfortable using to refer to myself) is solidarity w/ all non-whites. & lastly, AA sounds to me like fence sitting @ best & schizophrenic @ worst.

  • “AA sounds to me like fence sitting @ best & schizophrenic @ worst.”

    LOL b. medusa …

    I could say I’m Irish-British-Scottish-Welsh-French Creole-American, or I could just say I’m white and everyone gets it.

    But everyone has a right to what to call themselves.

    I find the concept of ‘solidarity with non-whites’ interesting. As a white person, I don’t choose my identity to show solidarity with anyone. (which might be why whites are so messed up)

    Do I betray my African heritage by calling myself white? Do I betray my (much larger percentage) European heritage if I call myself Black? I don’t see it that cut and dried. Even though 50 years ago I’d be called Black, I know little of Black history and less of the culture. I was given my identity by my parents and I haven’t found reason to change that.

    I do recall teaching small children in Sunday school back when I did that who were confused, thinking their little brown hands were actually black. They always looked at me strangely when I told them that color was brown.

    In light of our culture, that uses the real color black as a synonym for evil, I’ve always wondered why the Black community embraces the name. It’s always nice to see different perspectives on a subject.

  • Sorry that was so long, ack.

  • I do recall teaching small children in Sunday school back when I did that who were confused, thinking their little brown hands were actually black. They always looked at me strangely when I told them that color was brown.

    It wasn’t until you brought this up that I remembered showing my mom my hands and asking her what color they were. When she told me they were brown I said, “But I thought I was black.” She said something to the effect of “Your skin is brown but *you’re* black.”

    I can’t remember how she eventually made me understand, or even if she did. Maybe she just distracted me with a cookie…

  • “Your skin is brown but *you’re* black.”

    How did that make you feel at the time?

  • I love the term African-American. And the fact that the term makes so many folks uncomfortable.

    African-Caribbean love the term.

    We are different, the term black assumes we are the same. No different than the term white.

    It is my self-identity. I have a friends that states in America she is white, in Brazil she is black. Who is defining who? Tiger Woods?

  • On those African immigrants…..

    It does crack me up when people make the argument that we shouldn’t call Black Americans, African Americans because we then won’t have a term for African immigrants.

    A big part of the problem with that way of thinking is the fact that most Americans, regardless of race, are ignorant about the continent of Africa. They act as if Africa is a country, and as such they assume the people from the various countries of African will identify was with their continent of origin over their national identities or ethnic identities. Recent immigrants from the continent of African, know their countries and ethnic groups of origin; thus, they don’t have to use the vague term African. Since racism and slavery have stripped Afro-Latinos, Carribeans of African origin, and North Americans of African origin who arrived during slavery of connections to African ethnicities (and obviously African countries as we know them today), they are often unable to name a specific ethnicity or national origin within African that they are connected to by ancestry.

    Thus, the recent immigrant will not likely call her/himself African American, but rather Nigerian American, Senegalese American, Ghanaian American, and so on. In some cases, these same people may also reference specific ethnic groups (often called tribes, but that term is not the best), saying, “I’m Nigerian, and I am Yoruba.” “I’m Senegalese, and I am Wolof.” “I am Ghanaian, and I am Akan.”

    Thus, the way racial and ethnic identities overlap is is different from African Americans than it would be for black immigrants from the African continent. I am by no means saying that people born on the African continent would not identify themselves as Africans, but the more salient identities would likely be national origin or ethnicity. Which in the end, makes African immigrants like most other people. How often do I reference myself as an a North American? Almost never. How often do people from the European continent call themselves Europeans? Considerably less often than they call themselves French, German, Italian, etc.

  • transgressingengineer

    I used to use the term AA on a regular basis, but the more and more I read about race in the U.S., the less and less I find myself using the term AA. To me, AA confuses nationality and race. And by doing so, the term detracts from the central issue: race. So, I find myself using the term Black because it better highlights the central issue of race.

    I also capitalize the ‘B’ in Black because I feel that it gives authority and weight to the word, whereas I do NOT capitalize the ‘w’ in white. The reason I do this is so I don’t put white at the same level as I do Black. I feel to capitalze white trivializes the experiences that Blacks have had in our history and present.

    My doctoral research looks at race in academia- I have taken many pages in my dissertation to explain why I have choosen to use the words that I use, which is why I am enjoying hearing others’ voices on these word usage posts.

  • mike

    Angry,
    You are right on in your opposition to the generalization of all blacks as Africans.

    It came to mind in Belize, which I frequent. I dont remember when but I though…my friends here are not African American and frankly felt like a stupid American for thinking that.

    I dont refer to my friends by color code. They are all just my friends.

  • pllogan: After thinking about it for a while, I remember that it was actually the other way around. She said I was Black, but I told her I was brown.

    Anyway, the subject came up because we I had just been reading a book on colors on a somehow or another, I had gotten into an argument with a friend of mine. She told me I was Black, when I insisted I was brown. I left in a huff to ask my mom so I could prove to them I was right.

    I just remember being extremely confused. And a little angry. I didn’t like that dark color in the book. Brown was the color of trees and chocolate. Black was the color of shadows and nasty black licorice. ;P

  • “Black was the color of shadows and nasty black licorice. ;P ”

    LOL I like black licorice, it’s the best … :P

  • ishie

    pllogan Says:
    April 22nd, 2007 at 8:57 am

    “Your skin is brown but *you’re* black.”

    How did that make you feel at the time?

    white people arent exactly a perfect white either. maybe this one goes both ways with obvious negative results

  • LOL

    I’ve never seen a kid who thought his arm was the color white. Most whites don’t tell their kids that they’re white, yet they call a Black kid ‘Black’. They feel they have to point that out. I think that’s part of the problem. White kids are socialized to think their appearance is the norm for human beings and any other appearance is ‘other’. Kids don’t start out thinking about race at all, so we must be doing it to them.

  • Paola

    I sort of agree with your blog here about that term African-American. But who am I to comment on such a thing, especially since I’m a “Black” Canadian. They’ve been trying to use the term “African-Canadian” here recently but to no avial; people who are black, rather identify themselves by their nationality rather than race. To me, race is an opinion. I for example can be biracial one moment, then black the next but I always keep my caribbean culture/heritage intact. Canada probably does not have this problem of the AA term ’cause the black people here, on a whole, appreciate their nationality/background; even if it’s just Canadian.Not saying that black americans do not appreiciate being american, but why put the title “african” on someone or a group of people who don’t even know much about that african culture at all; only their “black” culture in america. I don’t understand why black americans can’t just be called Americans? If white americans can do such, whats the problem with black americans doing the same? And since when did African American mean black people anyway? Such problems with the term messes up the intention it had before. lol that’s just my two cents.

  • chris hillman

    >I’ve never seen a kid who thought his arm was the color white.
    >Most whites don’t tell their kids that they’re white,
    >yet they call a Black kid ‘Black’.
    >They feel they have to point that out.
    >I think that’s part of the problem.

    uh oh ..maybe i should add..
    Growing up in new-jersey I don`t remember my mom or dad ever refering to another kid as a Black kid etc. (maybe other kids did etc.) ..but my parents would more likely define someone as my friend or schoolmate ..that guy in the blue shirt? : ) lol
    but I should mention that the thought that most ‘caucasian parents do that’ I Realistically think is “Also” a misconception
    (Although yeah the post is also good ..makes a good point)

    (I kinda just typed all that because literally “yesterday” I was walking down the street and heard someone talking about a “white guy” and just thought how strange it was to bother to stretch to define people that way ..black or white)

    personally I never liked the term black or white because it`s just plain so inaccurate ..lots of people feel ok about it because of what it`s becomE or how it was presented or they`ve gotten used to it over the past few decades ..but wow if I was IN the meeting when they voted on that one I woulda been pissed! …yeah lets change the name of millions of really decent good people to “!BLACK!” ..not only shadows and licorice but the exact OPPOSITE end of the spectrum from !!WHITE!! It`s cute to talk about now but think about what gaLL someone had to Decide on thOSE Terms “before” they Existed! …i`m surprised this many people ever got sold on this one in the first place ..it just seems like original total purposeful Sabotage of what could`ve been a much much much better history.

    (sorry but i`m an artist ..i guess it bugs me that beige and brown are what? ..right “nEXT” to each other on the freakin color chart?? : ) lol

    chris

  • AA on the move

    Good Morning :),

    Maybe I am nieve (sp), but once again black is a color. It is a characteristic not a representation of a groups point of origin. You don’t see Asians, etc. saying “I am yellow”, or Native Americans saying “Yes we are Red”. You don’t see mexicans, hispanics saying our ethinicity is “Brown”. You do not see those boxes to check on any application except for a people whom, by this conversation still may not understand the possibilities of their ROOTS.

    Education should account for something in this society versus a way to get a job, it should help those whom have obtain abit of knowledge to sort out ignorance not perpetuate it.

    Webster’s Dictionary:
    A definition for black:
    ): of or relating to the African-American people or their culture (3): typical or representative of the most readily perceived characteristics of black culture

    A definition for ethnic:
    2 a: of or relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background <ethnic

    The miseducation of others can not guide our future. We may not know the exact place of our origin whether Africa, etc. but we sure didn’t come from a country/continent with the name of: BLACK. If so
    please show me on the globe.

    Help the misguided (college educated but didn’t pay attention), provide them with what they missed in colleage and education :)

  • Black is indeed a color. No one is actually “black” in skin color. We’re all shades of red, technically, and most people termed ‘black’ are shades of brown. However, I never said the terms was perfectly descriptive. Neither is African-American, really. To get technical, I’m a Native-Irish-British-African American. I have no problem identifying primarily with my African ancestry, but it does not fully describe me. It does not accurately reflect MY roots. Nor, probably the roots of most other “black” people in America.

    So what do you suggest we call ourselves if not Black? because, as I’ve already said, African American leaves out those who are not American and even those who don’t closely identify with Africa though they are of that heritage?

  • Renee

    Well my mom is African American and my dad is from Martinique/Cuba. I call myself African American, although a lot of people want to argue with me about that because of the looks thing. Apparently I can’t be African American because I speak two other languages and I have straight brownie blonde hair and that is according to a teacher. Sometimes Afro Latino when people bother me. I just don’t feel that that accurately reflects who I am, I have to say that I want to align myself with my African roots. I want to know more about where my ancestors came from. Do you know what I mean. I want to be able to acknowledge being of Yoruba descent,etc. I think that I call myself African American because, well my anscestors made it across the Atlantic , through slavery, the Reconstruction, the Civil Rights movement and they are still here, that also has to count for a lot. I feel that calling myself African is about respecing those who came before me.

  • Admiral Komack

    I prefer “Black”.

    1) In my lifetime:
    Nigra
    Colored
    Negro
    Afro-American
    Black
    African-American

    Gee, what’s next!

    2)”Black” is short and to the point.

    Thank you.

  • Craig

    Forgive ignorant people if they mistake you. In light of eternity, race, or should I say the presumption of race upon you, should be a small matter. All you have to do, regardless of what someone says to offend you, is remember and celebrate who you are, even in the face of adversity. I go through it myself, but it’s not impossible.

    But I’m not saying be a dormat for abuse. Know how to extricate yourself from situations that threaten to make you violent or bitter. Well-being is key; it’s the only thing that matters.

  • Walter Ballard

    I would frankly prefer the simple term “American” regardless of race.

    If your family geneology can be traced back further and in some cases actually include other ethnicities (in my case, I have substantial Native American, Italian, English, Irish bloodlines in my geneology and even now, I am mixed), then yes I’m simply an American.

    Since American culture is based off race and in some cases, would need a practical way of identifying you by skin tone, then yes I would be “black” since I have reddish-brown skin even though ethnically-wise, I’m not actually 100% African rather I’m made up of these other ethnicities and it shows too in my appearance.

    What is ironic however, is that it’s really about preference.

    For example, one would not be wise to refer to an “Asian” person as “yellow” because the term may be offensive.

    Or for any person who knows about Taiwan would refer to a person from Taiwan as “Taiwanese” and not “Chinese” since Taiwan is clearly not part of China.

    However someway and somehow, people who are “black” are content with being identified as such even though in other countries, it is quite obvious that people simply identify with their country, not by skin tone.

    A Cuban, is just a Cuban and he/she can have varying skin tones from white to brown…etc. I’ve even seen people of Asian origin who were Cubans and spoke Spanish, etc. It’s a diverse world out there…..

    In Puerto Rican, people of all races are Puerto Ricans, not “African Ricans” or “white Ricans”, etc.

    In Africa itself, within Egypt, people are Egyptians, not African Egyptians, in Sudan, they are Sudanese, not “African-Sudanese” and so forth.

    The problem with the term “African” is that Africa is not country, but a continent, and although I see some practical use to the term “African American”, I am particularly against the term since it was pushed forward further by hypocritical black nationalists such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. I refuse to call myself to this day, an “African American” for I now know what I truly am. I’m an American. Plain and simple.

    Is skin color important to you (besides the police for practical purposes….) then yes I’m “black” or of reddish-brown skin tone…

    In fact, I know nothing about Africa, I was born here, I only know English (Spanish and Japanese are other languages that I’m learning), and the only thing I truly know is the United States of America.

    The same goes for whites, Asians, hispanics, and other groups of peoples who can trace their family being here for decades.

    The people who truly deserve the title “African American” are people who’ve RECENTLY come here from Africa. But even then “African” is just such an inaccurate term unless you’re from South Africa. A Nigerian immigrant would probably identify as “Nigerian American” if he/she are 1st generation immigrants…

    It seriously irks me everytime I hear the word “African-American” and it is aimed at people of my skin tone even though there are obvious contradictions. The title means nothing to me. I know nothing about Africa, plain and simple…

    I do know much, much, much more about America however…

  • Walter Ballard

    “To get technical, I’m a Native-Irish-British-African American. I have no problem identifying primarily with my African ancestry, but it does not fully describe me. It does not accurately reflect MY roots. Nor, probably the roots of most other “black” people in America.

    So what do you suggest we call ourselves if not Black? because, as I’ve already said, African American leaves out those who are not American and even those who don’t closely identify with Africa though they are of that heritage?”

    Hey this is like the best quote you could have ever written here…

    What we ALL should call ourselves, regardless of race, is simply “American”. The answer is staring at us from all directions. Look no further than Mexico, Canada, Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc.

    People there can be of varying skin tones, but that doesn’t mean that they are primarily “Spanish, European, African, Asian, etc”.

    You know what those people do? They identify with the country, not the skin tone.

    In Biblical times, when the Israelites left Egypt the Israelites obviously would have had relationships with the Egyptians after having been in Egypt for over 40 years (or was it 400?).

    At any rate, people who married into the Israelite family regardless of racial background, were Israelites after having been in that community for decades.

    In fact, Jesus himself came from a long line of various ethnicities and the Bible does not regard race as more important than character.

    To anyone who read the Bible, one would very well know that Jesus descended from Rahab who was certainly not a Jew, but she was actually the harlot who helped two Israelite spies to scout Jericho. It is from there we learn that Ruth is also not a Jew, but a Moabite (a group of peoples at the time) who married a Jew, Boaz.

    It is from this line that Jesus himself was descended and since they were in the Jewish family, then yes, they would be Israeli or Jewish (identifying with Israel).

    Same goes here for us who are here in America and have been for many centuries and decades now.

    We’re simply Americans here…

    I want to point out some quotes which I thought were good:

    a.) ” Nor, probably the roots of most other “black” people in America.”

    That’s very true. For example at least 40% of “blacks” here in America can find Native American ancestry within their bloodlines and it wouldn’t bejust 0.0001 percent, the blood link would be very significant.

    b.) “So what do you suggest we call ourselves if not Black?”

    I would say “American” but for practical purposes (statistics or crime investigation) the term “black” would be just a term to describe skin tone (even though it’s not actually accurate), but NOT where you’re from or who you actually are or your ENTIRE ethnic makeup.

    c.) “because, as I’ve already said, African American leaves out those who are not American and even those who don’t closely identify with Africa though they are of that heritage?”

    Not only that but you also leave out the roles that your other ancestors who actually were NOT African out of the picture. In other words, instead of coming together, you’re actually promoting a certain group above everyone else which is not exactly right.

    It would be a shame to identify as African American when I see my Grandmother who is clearly Native American. What part does she play here? Is she just a small part of some “African” greatness? I don’t think so.

    Once again, I’m not going to follow Jesse Jackson’s logic here…I refuse to identify myself as such.

  • Imani

    I agree with Walter

  • However someway and somehow, people who are “black” are content with being identified as such even though in other countries, it is quite obvious that people simply identify with their country, not by skin tone.

    This is not true. In fact, I recently had a discussion with British author China Mieville about navigating American racial lingo. In the UK, people of African descent are called “black”. And there was, apparently, much discussion about and a fight for this label (I don’t know what this was opposed to — possibly names much less polite). So, in the UK, it’s politically correct, shall we say, to call folks Black.

    What we ALL should call ourselves, regardless of race, is simply “American”.

    If you want to do that, go right ahead. But I respectfully put forth that some of us would like to feel solidarity with other folks of a darker hue who aren’t Americans. Thus, we call ourselves black. That covers a lot of ground. Honestly, I don’t want to identify myself with America at all. That’s another post, though.

    It would be a shame to identify as African American when I see my Grandmother who is clearly Native American. What part does she play here? Is she just a small part of some “African” greatness? I don’t think so.

    That would be a shame… FOR YOU. I don’t understand why you seem to feel that we all need to follow your example. My personal preference is for calling myself Black. Others may want to be called African American. If I respect them, then I should call them that. You just want to be American. Fine. What’s wrong with letting everyone else call themselves what they want?

    Once again, I’m not going to follow Jesse Jackson’s logic here…I refuse to identify myself as such.

    what the fuck does Jesse Jackson have to do with this conversation?

  • Monte Moire

    Well, I read all of your posts, and they are allgreat. But I am sticking with African-American, even though (like many in here) I am part puerto-rican, cuban, native american, african-american, and irish. Take care, gang.

  • Walter Ballard

    1.) “This is not true. In fact, I recently had a discussion with British author China Mieville about navigating American racial lingo. In the UK, people of African descent are called “black”. ”

    Yeah but are they “African-British”? Also exactly how long were those “black” people in UK and furthermore, does the term apply to African immigrants or to just about every person of dark skin color?

    The problem with this concept is that I’ve seen “black” people who were actually “white” (referring to skin color).

    Look no further than Mariah Carey. Is Alicia Keyes actually “black” in a sense?

    I’d rather say that both of these people are Americans of such and such ethnicity ^______^

    Even people around the world know that those two are Americans. Why can’t we figure this out?

    Hey I don’t know about you but I’m ready to move forward here….

    Also I was actually referring to countries in the Americas…like Cuba and Puerto Rico for example…I’ve seen the darkest Puerto Rican say he was Puerto Rican. He said nothing about “black Puerto Rican” or “African Puerto Rican” because its a NATIONAL TITLE. But if you asked him about his ethnicity, then yeah he’s “black” but even then “black doesn’t accurately describe his ENTIRE ethnic makeup” plus he’s not literally just “black” ;P

    I know white people with “African” blood in them. In fact, science proves that we’re all of one man/woman.

    The only race I know about is humanity.

    But since this is the world, there is a need to distinguish different peoples, but all I’m saying is that in America, we’re all Americans and if you need to describe someone to a cop for example, you could do just a good job by saying:

    “Oh that guy is like 5ft 9in tall, has dark skin, has a scar on his left cheek”

    and it would be JUST AS GOOD as

    “Oh that guy is like 5ft 9in tall, is black, has a scar on his left cheek”

    Problem with second statement? What if the guy was like very light-skinned and was not even American but a “black” dude from another country?

    I hope I made this a bit clear in the fog here…

    2.)”Thus, we call ourselves black. That covers a lot of ground. Honestly, I don’t want to identify myself with America at all. That’s another post, though.”

    That’s not actually accurate. For example, would you dare call an Asian person “yellow”?

    Also please enlighten the audience as to why you would NOT identify as “American”? How long have you been in this country? How many generations? Where were you born?

    Please tell the audience here….

    I don’t care what COLOR you are, if you’ve been here for generations then you’re an American. Bottom line.

    3.) “My personal preference is for calling myself Black.”

    Okay so I’m assuming you’re the actual “black” color of black construction paper then….

    4.) ” Others may want to be called African American. If I respect them, then I should call them that.”

    I’m fine with that too…but it doesn’t mean I’ll believe that because “African” itself is an inaccurate term. Africa is not a country, it’s a continent. Even in Africa itself, there is no one who litereally says they are “African”. You would belong to a tribe, country ,etc.

    5.) ” You just want to be American. Fine. What’s wrong with letting everyone else call themselves what they want?”

    Where the “fuck” did you pick that up from? Just because I disagree doesn’t mean I’m forcing everyone else to do likewise…

    But hey please go ahead and explain that to people from South Africa who immigrate here and would like to “borrow” that title whether they be black/white/Asian/or Native (from Africa). You have A LOT of explaining to do..

    6.) “what the fuck does Jesse Jackson have to do with this conversation?”

    Eh-hem

    “Fuck” is such a strong word, which is why I replied in turn in the above post in #5. ;p

    Um a lot if you did some research. Do I need to point that out to you or are you just ignorant of that info? I mean seriously…..

  • Walter Ballard

    If someone came up to me right now and asked me what race are you?

    I would say to them what skin color do you think I am?

    They would then not say “black” but reddish brown, but then they would equate that with “black”.

    This simply goes to show that it’s a matter of habit and that “race” as we know it is not really a true concept because the only real race is “humanity”.

    I am not here to say that people will move to this way of thinking, but it should cause a reflection to those who are more wise.

    When the Israelis were around in Biblical times, did race really matter?

    For those 400+ years that they spent in Egypt, do you guys honestly think there was no interracial relationships going on?

    Did ethnicity even matter? Or was it the character that mattered more?

    When Martin Luther spoke his “I have a Dream Speech”, did Martin advocate looking beyond race and for AMERICANS of all colors to join hands together in unity?

    Or did someone somehow think he was merely for the “African American” concept?

    I dare not think so. I think that what Martin Luther was truly advocating was for people of all color to come together and join as American, especially if this is the country that they know, were born in, and have lived in for generations.

    It would be shame to see people today, separating themselves according to “race/ethnicity/origin-”American” titles for I do not believe that was what Martin Luther King was really trying to say.

    To me, it is not really hard to distinguish between groups of peoples even if they are all Americans.

    One only has to note that a particular group is of such and such an origin. It’s that simple. Then if it went down to an actual individual, that individual would be an American of such and such an ethnicity.

    Besides, that person could be not just of one, but of perhaps two, or three, or more.

    If you insist on saying you are “Black” then where exactly would you fit the term “white” since you are of other non-”black” ethnicities “angry black woman”?

    You just said so yourself that you were of other “non-black” ethnicities did you not?

    And yet you are of a brown skin tone and are made up of more than just one ethnicity are you not?

    You can do just as good of a job by saying you are “dark-complexioned” or of a brown skin tone, rather than saying you are black.

    People will generally understand the concept when you say such things, whereas if you say “black” they will automatically in some cases, associate you with a certain group or stereotype….etc.

  • Walter Ballard

    ” But I am sticking with African-American, even though (like many in here) I am part puerto-rican, cuban, native american, african-american, and irish. ”

    Actually “African-American” is false…

    You’re ethnically part puerto rican, cuban, native American, African (using this term because you do not know from where your descendants came as most other Americans of African descent do not as well….), and Irish.

    But since you were either born, have been here for generations, etc, then you are American.

    “American” is a national title.

    Ethnic make-up is a different story…

    BTW : “African-American” is false, because Africa is not the name of a country.

    The only relevant country is South Africa. But if I recall, most “African” ancestors were from Western Nigeria and pretty much along countries that were along the Western coast of Africa. Now do we know the names of the actual country from which our ancestors were from?

    Probably not, so here it makes perfect sense to say part of your ethnic makeup is “African”.

    But ultimately, if your family has been here for years, then we are now Americans of such and such descent.

    I just wanted to put that in perspective. I’m not here to force this on anyone, but it to me, seems perfectly rational…

  • Walter Ballard

    “I do know much, much, much more about America however…”

    And yet ironically, you won’t identify yourself as “American” as opposed to “Black”?

    Um oookay.

    You really do need to go ahead and post one on this…

    I’m very curious..

  • Yeah but are they “African-British”? Also exactly how long were those “black” people in UK and furthermore, does the term apply to African immigrants or to just about every person of dark skin color?

    As far as I know (and anyone who actually lives in the UK can come along and correct me), both immigrants and people born in the UK who are of a darker hue are called black. Unless they’re Asian or Indian, at which point they would not be called black.

    The term applies to call “black” people.

    The problem with this concept is that I’ve seen “black” people who were actually “white” (referring to skin color).

    Look no further than Mariah Carey. Is Alicia Keyes actually “black” in a sense?

    I’d rather say that both of these people are Americans of such and such ethnicity ^______^

    Well, Alicia Keys looks plenty black to me. I know that she’s half white, but she’s got dark skin, kinky hair, full lips, and a voice extremely well suited for jazz and hip-hop. I think she’s “black” enough to be in the club. Mariah is doing her best to convince everyone that she’s black even though she did her best to hide it at the beginning of her career. We call those people “confused”. Or “high-yellow”.

    At any rate, the point is not if someone is dark enough or too light or whatever. the point is… actually, I already made my point. You’re basically just throwing up strawmen to muddle the point. If you want to call yourself American, do so. But don’t insist that I do so. because I won’t.

    The only race I know about is humanity.

    yes, and right there is where I figured out that you’re not worth talking to about this subject. Colorblindness and “we’re all one race, the HUMAN race” talk is just masking the issue, not addressing it. People look different. People come from different places. You can’t change that by posting 20,000 comments on my blog, okay? You really just can’t.

    And also I’m putting you on moderation. Mainly because this isn’t your blog, it’s mine. If you want to post long screeds about how we shouldn’t call each other by color names because construction paper is darker than me, then do so on your own blog. I really don’t have time to be worrying about you.

  • Susan

    I’d rather not be called “people of color” and I am Asian-American. So when you say it makes you feel like it makes you more relateable to other “non-whites”. No, it doesn’t. I just told a professor when she addressed the student body as “Dear Students of Color” that she could’ve just said “Dear Students”. I prefer the term, “non-white”. But overall, why use any of those labels; we’re all just people. And why do people have to ask, “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” Well, I’m from America. But if you want to know, ask, what is your family’s background?

  • Susan,

    Because you’re Asian, I’m sure you get a lot more “where are you from?” than I do. Most people see black, assume african american and are done. I can’t imagine how annoying (and worse) that is for you.

    And you’re right, we are all just people. however, because we are people (humans) we are hardwired for labels. That’s not going to change. the nature of the labels we use for each other has changed over time and will continue to change. maybe someday in the future all labels will be based on how much hardware you have installed in you or which place you were born — the surface of the moon, Mars, the space station, or earth? they will still be labels, though.

    To that end, it’s useless to fight against labeling in and of itself. People are not going to just consider others “people” until we all become enlightened. In the meantime, I feel I have a right to guide which label people apply to me. thus, *I* (and I will repeat myself *I*) prefer the term Black.

    You may prefer other terms and I respect that. However, I take issue with this statement:

    “So when you say it makes you feel like it makes you more relateable to other “non-whites”. No, it doesn’t.”

    First, what I *actually* said was: It connects me to folks who may not be Black, but with whom I have a lot in common.

    You may not be one of those people with whom I have a lot in common. I don’t feel that it makes me more relatable to non-whites, I just feel that saying I am a person of color tells most other people that I am not only non-white, but ally myself with other non-whites. Not that Black is an exclusionary term, it’s just very specific.

    “Of Color” doesn’t leave any non-white people out. I don’t like using the term non-white because, for one thing, defining yourself in the negative is uncool, in my opinion. Also, I don’t feel the need to define myself in relation to white people.

    Your professor probably has some similar thinking. And while you are an Asian person who just wants to be considered a person (which is fine), please respect those Asians and Latin@s and Black folks and others Of Color who would like that acknowledgment. For some, it shows that the person speaking is aware of racial issues and, therefore, may be a more understanding person on this front, overall. Allies are hard to come by. Its’ good when they call themselves out.

  • CaribDollyGal

    Hey, I am a beautiful black West-Indian woman and I like prefer the word Black. I have met white African’s and Africans of Indian and Middle-Eastern Descent. Are they African Americans?

    Also, in my experience with Black Americans, they enjoyed Africans and West Indians and are very disparaging of any non-European culture. I am not sure why they decided to call themselves “African” Americans because most of the ones I met seemed to hate Africa. It may have something to do with the success of Africans in the US and some sort of attempt to fold them into the cake batter. Africans in this country, like most recent immigrants, have a comparatively high level of education, culture and earning power. I believe that Africans are the highest educated group in the US. But I think they stopped studies like that since all black people became “African Americans”

    At any rate all have different cultures but we are part of the same “race” (whatever that means) Let’s use a word with One syllable and save a few trees. Black is Beautiful! It’s the most beautiful color. I would also like to say Senegalese women are the most beautiful women in the world even though I am not from there: 1. http://media3.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/photo/2006/11/02/PH2006110201992.jpg
    2. http://www.worldofstock.com/closeups/PCH4219.php
    3. http://www.bettypress.com/AfricanWebPictures/bigimages/11%20Young%20women,%20Senegal.jpg
    I would just like them to stop the trend for bleaching the skin! The black skin, beautiful eyes and teeth make them so exquisite. I blame the white people and the black men who are there, because otherwise why would they do that?

    Anyway, I digress. Let’s put the Black back in Blackness. Thank you.

  • Cecily Jones

    Hey everyone,

    I’ve been reading this blog with interest, and wanted to give my two pence worth. I am of black Caribbean heritage but now live in Britain. I hvae done so for many, many years, most of my life in fact. I regard myself firstly as African-Caribbean and secondly as Black British. I use the first to refer to my ancestral origins – the Caribbean born descendant of Aricans forcibly transplanted to the region. For me, the term African-Caribbean speaks voulmes about who I am, where and who I have come from. It does not matter to me that Africans may not regard me as such – Africa is my heritage whether I or they want or like or respect that fact or not. The term Africa does not convey the diversity of the continent, but having been stripped away from Africa, few of us know our African countries of origin. And while I would love to know that point of origin, I am happy to just accept that I am a great-great, great granddaugher of the African continent. I use the term Caribbean because that is where I was born. Note that I was actually born in Barbados,and so the term Caribbean does not convey this speciifcity. Like Africa, the region is diverse, but I neverthe less claim the term Caribbean because it speaks of my geographical belonging. I live in England but I am not English; instead I have British Citizenship, as do all of us – except the Republic of Northern Ireland . I sometimes refer to myself as Black British…it may be problematic for some, but on the whole, Black British helps to locate me within a speciifc historical and political position, rather than a simple reference to my colour. It is pretty complicated – my children were both born here, and yet are not defined as English – Englishness still very much refers to a condition of whiteness. Interestingly censuses here generally ask one to define myself either as African Caribbean , African or Black British, I guess the latter is more inclusive as it includes those blacks who are not of the Caribbean or Africa…it’s often appropriated by children of African or African-Caribbean parentage but who were born here. So here in the UK its just as complex – though there is a greater sense that all those who are not visibly white are Black – though when Asians are thrown into the mix, it does become more problematic, as some Asians claim the political term Black for themselves, while others do not. As I said, I am quite happy with the designators African-Caribbean or Black British, and use them interchangeably, depending on situation…if I’m with Black people, I am African Caribbean, in other situations I am Black British – strnagely enough I find myself using that self-descriptor most often when I’m in the USA!
    Thanks for taking the time to read, and hope I haven’t just added to the confusion! Have a great day!

  • Angelicque

    Hi I am also Black British born of Guyanese parentage
    and I would like to reaffirm all that was said in the previous post,
    the situation here is just as problematic as in the US..
    My husband is Nigerian, and I am always confused about which box to check when i am asked aou th ethnicity of my girls.
    Normally i check all boxes that apply,
    but I do so with conflicted feelings.

  • Angelicque

    SORRY TYPO MISSPELT WORD IS ABOUT

  • CaptainReality

    Black is best because it’s simple and descriptive. Simple, descriptive phrases are the least offensive, and most accurate.

    Just like ‘white’ is the better term instead of ‘European American’ (which is never used).

  • abw

    I just to care all that much about this issue. I …just don’t…fine for people that do. I do believe language speaks volumes and that the power to define is important. But I can be called anyone of them-Black, African American, POC.

  • abw

    I meant to say I just do not care all that much about this issue.

  • I have read a lot of the comments and I have to say with some of them I truly disagree with. There is nothing wrong with being an African American or being called that. Being of African descent is something to be proud of not looked down upon. Take the time to learn of the individual Countries and societies of Africa. Maybe if more “black americans” took the time to learn more of our African counter parts they would feel more comfortable about being referred to as an African Americans. Remember one thing as well before you deny the that term think of this if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be who we are. Also when talking to a lot of Africans I see now to an extent why some feel black americans don’t try to learn anything about African history and why some look at us the same way they do whites over there

  • You're all Idiots

    All of you posters are so caught up being a racist and a bigot, you miss the big point. Referring to someone as African-American, Italian-American, or Irish American, etc means one or more things: you are bi-lingual and speak both languages, you are bi-cultural (you have one parent from each country), or you are an immigrant (or hold dual citizenship).
    American “African-Americans” do not speak swahili or tanzanian. They do not have one parent from Congo or Egypt. They were not born in Africa. To describe Americans with dark skin color as “African-American” is just a lie, but is probably true of their great-grandparents. I am not Irish-American, but my great grandfather was.
    What is an African-American then? A person with pale skin, born in Cape Town or Johannesburg, who moved to New York. That would be an example.

    So what do we call people. Let’s see. They were born in America. They speak English. Both their parents were American. Guess what they’re just AMERICAN.
    IDIOTS.

  • Eliani

    Hey, Tempest. I’ve always used “black” if I were uncertain of a person’s heritage.

    To me, African American describes a history and culture within America with origins in forced immigration, slavery, and aftermath—there is a common background there that is distinct and worthy of recognition. African American are certainly black to me, but not all blacks are African American, including members of my family.

    Suffice it to say, I find rare call to use African American at a mere glance, because I don’t think it’s perceptible visually.

    Anyone whose family hasn’t come down through that common cultural experience, those relatively fresh off the boat with disparate histories and the only thing uniting them being ranges of skin tone and features, I’m not going to call by a cultural distinction but a visual. Black is an descriptive umbrella; African American is a history.

    At least in my vocabulary.

  • nojojojo

    You’re All Idiots,

    Thanks for the lesson. However, your perception of culture is unbelievably simplistic and inaccurate.

    For example… American culture = Native American culture. They were here first; everyone else is an immigrant. Of course, “Native American culture” is pretty useless as a term, since within Native American culture there’s huge variety. The Navajo are nothing like the Mayans; the Inuit have nothing to do with the Mashantucket-Pequots. But you and your Irish ancestors fit right in with all of the above, I guess.

    Among us immigrants, there’s also quite a bit of variety, but of course, we’re all idiots if we acknowledge those differences. So you must be a good holy-rolling Southern Baptist, right? Some of us are, so I guess you must be too. Tell me — do you remember the first time you got called a wetback, even though you were born here? How was your bar mitzvah? Don’t you hate it when you’re making groundnut stew and you run out of okra? Were you betrothed to your arranged wife at birth, or as a teenager? How often do you burn incense and leave offerings for your great-grandfather?

    What, most of these questions don’t apply to you? Well, why the hell not? You’re American, right? There should be no difference between you and the rest of us.

    If that sounds stupid to you, imagine how your statements sound to the rest of us.

  • You're all idiots

    Nojojojo, I see you buy into the IDIOT line of thinking. By your thought process, Mexicans, Chileans, Guatemalans, and Peruvians would all have to call themselves “Spanish-Aztec/Inca/Myan” ..becuase most of South America was colonized by the Spanish, Portuguese, or French. Furthermore the Native Americans orginially crossed over the frozen tundra connecting Russia and Canada….so what do you call them? I guess you would call everyone “people of GWANDANALAND decent.” Hahaha.

    People Identify themselves based on the COUNTRY (not Continent) where they were born and live most of their lives, and language they speak. So why don’t you be a true patriot and call yourself an AMERICAN! Shed your identity crisis!
    Like I said before, you are a “hyphenated” american when 1. You are a dual citizen and were born in another country 2. You are naturally bi-lingual with the other country’s language, and/or 3. You are bi-cultural meaning each of your parents were from a different country.

  • Paulette

    Alicia Keys is half-Jamaican and does NOT have dark skin. I don’t know what pictures YOU are looking at.

    It seems more problematic for Americans of African/Native descent. Their self-centeredness gets to me. How can many people in 2007 be so ignorant of the Diaspora that exists? Not this blogger, but many that I encounter are constantly complaining about this and that, when peace of mind comes from not having to push your idas of “race” on others who see the world differently. Most Africans were taken to OTHER PARTS OF THE AMERICAS IN GREAT NUMBERS, not the U.S. If anything, Brazilians and Caribbeans, who are often told we are not “black” have more of a right to use that term as they are also of African descent and live IN AMERICA.

    We are ALL African when you get down to the meat and potatoes of it all.

  • nojojojo

    Paulette,

    Your comments are a little confusing, in part because I’m not sure who/what you’re responding to. There’s a long thread of comments here and it’s difficult to dig all the way back through it to figure out what you’re referencing. Could you clarify your point about Alicia Keys? Also, Americans of African/Native descent being self-centered? Are you speaking about Americans of African *or* Native American descent? Or Americans who are part African and part Native American, like the Freedmen who recently got kicked out of the Cherokee? And you’re mentioning the African Diaspora, but also saying we’re all African… I’m just a little confused here. =)

  • nojojojo

    You’re All Idiots,

    Whoops, sorry, ignored you for a bit there. Been busy. Anyhow,

    People Identify themselves based on the COUNTRY (not Continent) where they were born and live most of their lives, and language they speak. So why don’t you be a true patriot and call yourself an AMERICAN! Shed your identity crisis!

    Actually, people identify themselves in many different ways. Try talking to some people and see. And as with most identifications, they’re neither mutually exclusive nor static. There are times when I, for example, identify myself primarily as an American — usually when I’m traveling overseas. (Though lately I’ve been much more hesitant to do that, because it’s no longer safe to be an American in some places. Hail Canada!) And there are times when I identify myself primarily as a writer. Or a woman. Or a heterosexual. Or a Gen-Xer. I’m all of these things, and more — just like most Americans.

    But it’s a plain fact of life that a substantial portion of America looks at me first and sees, not all that other stuff, but the color of my skin. And because that portion of America reacts to me differently when they see this color, I’ve had to learn a number of strategies to deal with it. I’ve gotten a lot of support from people who share the same experience, so naturally I identify with those people more closely. I’ve worked to try and change that differential treatment.

    And guess what? That makes me quintessentially American, too. America would not be the great country that it is now without its history of deeply-entrenched, often violent, blatant and subtle racism. I accept and acknowledge that history, which makes me an informed patriot, unlike most of the people out there proclaiming their patriotism who don’t seem to have a clue what they’re “standing for”.

    Like you. How “American” is it of you to try and demand that I or anyone else adhere to your definition of identity? Since when does your opinion trump that of the framers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence? How “American” is it of you to exclude those who speak another language, or have another culture? Have you completely forgotten the history of this country? Or are you just so brainwashed by the conservative spin machine that you haven’t thought about the garbage you’re spewing?

  • I have a twelve year old biracial son( i hate that word but i could not think of any other word to make my point).When he,my husband,or myself are asked to put “race” on any type of form we simply put Human.

  • Ico

    Monica, your example brings up the problem of fitting identity into check boxes (on forms and suchlike). I like “Black” over African American because as ABW noted, it’s more inclusive (and also less formal and easier to say). But where do people who are biracial fit themselves?

    As a kid, categories of race always confused me. I knew I wasn’t white, but I had a white extended family and a white cultural upbringing, which put me much closer to my white classmates than the Asian-Americans I knew (mostly Japanese folks). I used to put “white” in the boxes in elementary school because everyone else in the class did. Sometimes I would put “Other.”

    The situation of your son makes me think of something else, too. I have white friends who have an adopted black daughter. She’s still a toddler, really — absolutely adorable, the kind of kid who can trick you into wanting kids of your own. I wonder what she will think when she has those boxes to check as she grows older, and they are different from what her parents check. And there’s a memoir I read recently by James McBride — it’s essentially his tribute to his white mother. He used to ask her about her race, and she always told him she was “light-skinned,” not white. When he was a kid, I think it kind of perplexed him.

    We have categories, but I don’t know that we’ve got any useful sort of language for multiracial people and families who sort of fall in between those boxes.

  • Hairy Blueberry

    Personally, I don’t really like it. Why? Because it throws ethnicity and nationality into the same box. This just doesn’t work. Your race is not indictative of your nationality.

    When filling any government regulated form in Britain you denote your NATIONALITY and then ETHNICITY – the two are not referred to as one in the same.
    I am therefore for A) British, and B) Mixed – white british/black carribean.
    If you are not covered by the inherent inflexibility of the categories you state ‘Other’ and specify.

    When asked ‘what are you?’ I say it plainly… one of my parents is Black Jamaican, the other White English. And I am British.
    My half-brother’s parents are both Black Jamaican. And he is British.

    Sub-dividing nationality by race is stupid and does not work. Especially if you are of mixed descent, such as myself. The two should be treated seperately.

    Black doesn’t have a nationality. Nor does White. Nor do even Asian. They are there purely for the easy of description.

    Let’s just keep it simple and to the point, they are not African-American; they are American, and they are Black.

  • kirkbrew

    Good article. Three things to add:
    The term African American would include Dave Mathews. After all, he is from Africa and an American. He’s also white. Africa has a lot of whites and Arabs who all call themselves African. I think that people who use the term “African American” don’t realize that.
    Semantically, African-American falls down on two levels. Not only what ABW said that Africa is a continent (with many different nationalities, races and cultures). But so to is America. Cubans, Mexicans, Indians (feather not dot) etc all consider themselves “Americans” because they come from the American continent.
    Finally, people who use any Hyphenated American term (Irish-American, Italian-American, Mexican-American, I don’t care which one) do so to create division between their “culture” and others. Until we realize that these people are husslin’ us, we will never get over this. We need to be “One nation under a groove”. And when we get there, just like George said, “Nothin’ can stop us”!!!

  • As a white (that is – Anglo-Saxon, Caucasian, What-The-F-Ever) I think that the last thing Black people want to be hung up on is things like calling themselves black or african-american… I mean… who cares… ? only the people who would use the categories and names to belittle you… Europeans have long used naming and linguistic convention to control and demean “difference”. Either way, black is just so goddamn beautiful and a rose is a rose and would smell as sweet by any other name… Don’t get hung up on power games with words… just be who and what you are and live strong happy and free – fuck the wordplay. Peace. :)

  • addendum… we are all humans, not colours or shades or whatever – HUMAN.

  • Juan

    @kirkbrew & Graeme

    *FACEPALM*

  • @kirkbrew & Graeme

    *FACEPALM*

    THANK YOU!

  • As a wise man once said:

    “I know you are, but what am I?” ;P

  • Juan

    “Graeme, on December 17th, 2007 at 2:10 am Said:
    very erudite, u moron”

    Gosh, thank you! *Goofy laugh* :B

    But really, always wonderful to understand that when someone is trying to sell you a piece of dung wrapped with a bowtie and glitter on, it is still just a piece of dung. =p

  • Ico

    Graeme, you sound in your initial post as if you have good intentions but are extremely colorblind. You wrote, “we are all humans, not colours or shades or whatever – HUMAN”

    You ought to think about that. It means… what exactly? That skin color is irrelevant? That we should ignore culture and history and personal experience and pretend race doesn’t matter? That it isn’t an integral part of identity (your identity included, btw… it’s part of white privilege not to notice that or have to think about it)? You do realize that to say skin color doesn’t matter is to invalidate the very real and personal experiences of people for whom it matters very much?

    ABW’s post on colorblindness is here, if you haven’t read it yet:
    http://theangryblackwoman.wordpress.com/2007/04/23/things-you-need-to-understand-5-color-blindness/

  • How many CENTURIES have to go by before we are considered American? I was born in the same hospital my mother and grandmother were born in. A teacher of mine had grandparents from Poland, yet she considered herself “American” and me “African-American”. African-American my ass – try 6th generation American, if not more.

  • KharBevNor

    Do you not find ‘black’ too general a term? Take me, for instance. My skin colour is white (or rather the slightly pink beige we generally call ‘white’) but does that mean I necessarily have anything more in common with, say, a Finn, or a Greek, or a Russian, than I do with any other person from another country? I’d say I probably have more in common with the majority of people of colour in the UK, especially second or third generation, than I do with, say, a Latvian. (I’m basing this on observation of my friends and acquaintances. The Latvians have an…interesting sense of humour*). To a certain extent, I understand the colourblind position: race is such an artificial construction, as of course are countries, I suppose. Even in your decisions here, Angry (can I call you that?) you are in a way buying into a artificial, white conception of race, namely the ‘drop of blood’ rule. Yet, the aggrivating thing is, I can’t see that you have any other choice, speaking from a realistic, as opposed to idealistic perspective. Colourblindness just ignores the issues, racialisation leads you into a construction of human identity thought up by some paleface git hundreds of years ago. It’s a pretty fix. I suppose at the end of the day my preferred course of action for myself as far as racial identification goes, ie. specificity (I refer to myself as an anglo-celt, when I have to) simply isn’t available for many members of the African diaspora, which is a shame. I suppose if I were a dark skinned American, I would call myself an African-American, but then, if I were a dark-skinned American, I wouldn’t be the same person at all, so that’s probably not much of a worthwhile opinion.

    *Though this could well just be my two friends.

  • Mihko

    I found your blog today. i am currently embroiled in a vigorous forum-melee with some particularly stubborn people and so I went online and googled “white privilege” in images and found your site with the race card cartoon.

    I started clicking links and got here…=)

    Wanted to comment on identity and the politics that come along with naming/defining ourselves according to our respective communities.

    I never used to use the term “person of color” because I never thought of myself as a person of color. I always thought of myself as Cree, because that’s what I am.

    As I read more work from people who were writing from the experience of the African diaspora, slavery, abolition, Jim Crow and civil rights eras, as I began to learn more about the intersectionality of shared oppressions between the non-white communities in both the US and Canada, I began to understand the term more clearly and how you put it—”It connects me to folks who may not be Black, but with whom I have a lot in common”—began to make more sense to me, so these days when I am in a room with other people who are not white and not-Cree I think of myself as belonging to this extended community: People of Color.

    And yes there are issues that are uniquely Cree, just as there are issues that are uniquely First Nations as opposed to American Indian and issues that are uniquely NDGNS as opposed to non-NDGNS.

    For the most part I reject any term that has the words “American” in it because my tribe never signed away political or cultural self-determination to the US or to Canada.

    We are Cree, it is as much a cultural identity as it is a political and ethnic one. I also reject the word “Indian” because where I grew up it was used as a racist pejorative in a very offensive and casual manner by the racist whites around me AND it is a misnomer.

    So, for my community our tribal identity is about self-determination and cultural sovereignty and is very important especially since our ways were systematically attacked through assimilative methods.

    This becomes even more important when I understand that both the US and Canada were never meant to include tribal nations. That we survived with much of our cultural memory intact, if not our people, was probably not part of the master plan of manifest destiny….=)

    No matter how many generations pass, we will be and remain Nehiyaw and that is a very good thing.

    It is interesting to me to hear about how other POC think of identity, particularly in terms of coalition building. How do our discrete communities deal with issues that are often a source of tension despite our shared histories of oppression and our histories of horizontal violence against each other while the main oppressor benefited from that conflict?

    If the tribal nations in the US decided to (as the Lakota recently did, apparently) secede, would the black community support that or see it as treason against America?

    if push come to shove and a choice had to be made between being on the side of the black community (or Mexican or Asian community) or the side of the US where would tribal nations stand?

    What are the things that are keeping all the oppressed communities from building solidarity?

    thanks,
    Mihko

  • KharBevNor

    My post seems to have dissapeared…was it moderated, or is this an error? If it was moderated could I respectfully, perhaps, ask why?

  • Khar-

    It went into moderation for some reason. I fished it out.

  • Nigger Killer

    I’m French American. I come from Louisiana as do my parents and their parents and so forth. I dont have a problem with blacks calling themselves African Americans, it is very accurate. Their ancestors came from the continent of Africa and now they are settled in america, therefore making them african american. i doubt any black knows which country in africa they came from because none of the modern day african nations existed back then.

    I call myself french american, because my family is 100% french, but we have been in america for at least four generations. African americans cant be compared to other people, because they are in a peculiar situation. Immigrants to the UK know where they came from unlike african americans who have to use a whole continent as a reference which makes perfect sense.

  • I’m not African-American. I’m black. I’m African. I was born in the US and part of my upbringing was here. I don’t identify my culture or upbringing as African-American.

  • JohnDoe

    caucasian-persuasion……..

  • Nigger Killer

    AA’s cant just say they are black. They cant claim a whole race to themselves. Haitians are black, jamiaicans, are black, nigerians are black, south africans are black etc….

    There is no need to worry about what someone from africa will be called if they immigrate to america. They will simply be called Country-American, such as Nigerian america, kenyan american, somalian american, algerian american. Africa is not a country.

    Blacks in america should be called AA’s because that is the legitimate truth. they did not originate in america, they originated from about every country in africa so they have a right to claim the whole continet. Im french american not european american, it goes by nation of origin then the current country your in.

  • sebony

    The last time I looked in the mirror I was dark brown. I have never been black.
    I have yet to see a black person (the colour of soot) for that matter I have yet to see a white person(the colour of fresh milk).

    Everybody on this planet is a person of colour, If we talking about pigmentation as in paints, you’ll see that white is listed as a colour.

    So what is my point – That definitions, classifications and discriptions
    that we are using where originally formulated in days when sensitivity to another persons ethnic makeup was not high on the agenda.
    Indeed most of the terms that describes the modern world are from a European (Mainly English, French, Spanish Portugese dutch?)
    {Ancient world view = from Roman, Greek}
    point of view

    Africa, [latin(Roman)] Asia(Greek) Indians(Britain) America(Portugese)

    The inhabitants of Africa, Asia and America weren’t calling themselves Africans Asians Americans.

    How one ididntifies oneself is a matter of personal choice,

    my skin colour is Brown( Chocolate or Coffee :>) cus I certainly have flavour or Ebony

    My ancestorial origin is West African

    My Nationality is British

    My race is Homo Sapiens-Sapiens

    One catch all term will never suffice

    Perhaps we should start looking for new labels

  • I have never been black. I have yet to see a black person (the colour of soot) for that matter I have yet to see a white person(the colour of fresh milk).

    I have.

  • Terence Huffman

    I’m Black, so are 99% of you. If you were not born in Africa and/or have African citizenship, you are not African American, period. This topic is not open to opinion, it’s fact. My neighbors are African American, both are White. Both were born and raised in Africa. Black African’s scoff at those of us that refer to ourselves as African American. You know what our “brothers” call us there?, Coloured. They don’t consider most of us black enough to begin with. I know this having spoken with countless natives of that continent in my numerous photography travels there. 25 yrs. ago i sat through many “Afro-Latin” courses at the Univ. Of Cincinnati where it was impressed upon me the power of words. I still hear so many of us constantly wrestling and endlessly pondering about the words society uses. How about we get busy doing more, talk less. I did. Aloooong time ago. Move on.

  • Juan

    Thank you for not paying attention to 99% of the article and follow discussion. This statement is not open to opinion.

  • ABW and anyone else who cares to answer, what are your thoughts on the terms “colored people” vs. “people of color”

    Most people I know (of any race) find the first derogatory in most situations. I can’t remember the last time I heard anyoneanyone not old enough to collect social security refer to another person as “colored.”

    And I realize that POC is considered to be a more positive and inclusive phrase, and one that lends itself to a shared struggle against white priviledge. Even so, every time I hear it, part of me cringes. I can’t help feeling like people of color is just a fancy way of calling non-whites colored people.

    Or is my perception of the term colored (oh, I crack me up sometimes) by the fact that I rarely hear the term in conversation, and I’ve never heard non-white person using it as a self descriptor?

  • Ico

    “I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone not old enough to collect social security refer to another person as ‘colored.’”

    Hah, you must live in a more civilized place than I do. :P I’ve had students in their written responses to an article by Gloria Naylor refer to her as a “colored person,” not intending any offense, but… wow.

  • My mom used to work as a cashier. She told me a man came up to her when she and a couple of other cashiers were talking to each other, and asked if they had seen some item that he’d left behind. They said no, and asked if he remembered who his cashier was. He said no; all he remembered was that she was a colored woman.

    One of my mom’s coworkers asked, “What color was she?”

  • Angel H., I used to ask my nana that exact question. She’d always give me an exasperated look, and I’d always shrug and say, “Last time I checked we all had a color… I was just wondering which color you meant.”

  • Nigger Killer

    “I’m Black, so are 99% of you. If you were not born in Africa and/or have African citizenship, you are not African American, period.”
    I’m French american, i wasnt born in France, it is a refrence to your ancestral origins. I have a lot of black friends and its a shame they think like you. In america, there are german/ irish americans who have been here for more than 5 generations, but they call themseleves german and irish american because they have respect for their ancestral origins just like i do.

    I think blacks in the western hemisphere should have a special status. They are probably the only people that were forcefully taken from their continent from so many tribes in and regions that they have to refrence the whole continent. There is nothing wrong with that. People who are heavily mixed europeans do the same thing such as someone who is lets say “irish, dutch, french, german, portuguese, and italian” They cant just claim one, because they would be negating the others so they just say they are white or european american. Nothing wrong with that. Same goes for african americans. Except they have no idea where they came from. White africans arent really africans. They are European-Africans. They are hyphenated. They are more european because they still practice european culture and the only thing african about them is their location. Therefore they are not really african, location doesnt make you what you are, ;your DNA and genetic history does. If i were born in china i would not be chinese, i would still be french, but i would be a citizen of china. To think the opposite is so stupid.

    Black people are called black especially africans, are called black because the majority of the continent is close to being black skinned or are already black skinned. How can you say you have not seen a “black person” I know you have seen kenyans, sudanese, malinese, congolese, and tanzanians. They are really black. And we white people are closest to white, thats why we are called white. We call people a certain color based on how close they are to the actual color such as chinese people who are yellow, white people and in some cases, we can get really white, scary!, and black people, although a lot are dark brown, you all are closest to being black than any other color.

  • Arias Delmar

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  • ^^^What have you been smoking and where can I get a hit?

  • A.

    For serious. I’m just in awe right now.

  • Yo'el

    The real truth is that most people in America who call themselves Black,African American or any other numer of colonial titles are incorrect. The fact is is that your race or nationality come from your fathers bloodline. The vast majority of so-called Blacks are really descendents of the tribes of Israel and are therefore Israelites.The so-called Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Aboriginies, South American Indians, and a few other groups make up the majority of the so-called lost tribe of Israel. I am a Hebrew Israelite not Black or anything else.Hebrew means ancient and refers to culture and customs. Israelite is my nationality. The term black,afro-american, negro, colored are colonial terms given by our conquerors. I am from the tribe of Judah. The term African is even a colonial name as it was named after a Roman general Scipio Africanus Major. Just because you have the same skin does’nt mean you are from the same kin. Israelites are made up of different shades of brown. Judites,Levites and Benjamites migrated from what is now Palestine through north Africa to settle on the west coast of Africa. This Happend after the Romans took over Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in 70A.D. We are Shemites most Africans are Hamites. This is all written in the bible. Read deutoronamy 28 1-68 and it explains exactly how we came to America and what we would endure.

  • Nigger Killer

    Both Yo’el and Arias Delmar are smoking the same weed. You guys must have the same dealer.

    African americans are not israelites, there are several similarites, but to say your israeli or jewish is a fairytale. How come a lot of african americans want to be anything but african american. Im proud of what I am, French american, how come not you guys.

    maybe too much low self esteem from centuries of discrimination. None of you are israelites, you are of african descent, nothing jewish about any of you.

  • The fact is is that your race or nationality come from your fathers bloodline.

    It’s interesting that, of all the things you say in that post, this is what I find most silly. That is definitely not a “fact” and it’s stupid, besides.

    Secondly: Nigger Killer, I would appreciate if you changed your handle. It might also help to check yourself on statements like these: “How come a lot of african americans want to be anything but african american.”

    I don’t believe that to be true. While Yoel may feel or know himself to be Isrealite, I don’t think he’s denying his “true” self. You don’t know for sure what he is or isn’t and the fact is that most African Americans in this country are many things alongside being the descendants of African slaves. Are you going to tell me that I don’t get to call myself Irish even though I have dark skin?

    It’s a dodgy proposition to start telling people who you don’t know what they are or aren’t.

  • Veronica

    It’s interesting that, of all the things you say in that post, this is what I find most silly. That is definitely not a “fact” and it’s stupid, besides.

    Especially when a person is talking about being Hebrew/Israeli. Judaism follows a matrilineal descent.

  • Yo'el

    This is for those ignorant people out there that just want to deny the facts. First of all the about 90% of the people running around today claiming to be so-called Jews or Jewish are imposters. They are not Israelites but religious converts to the religion of Judaism. Judaism is an offshoot of the Babalonian mystery religion. Their are to kind of so-called Jews today, the Sephardi and the Ashkenazi. The Ashkenazi are decendents of the Khazar empire from central asia. They migrated to Palestine around 700AD and adopted the religion of Judaism. Read “The Thirteenth Tribe” by A. Koestler a Jewish man who explain this fact in great scientic detail.The remaining Sephardi Jews are decended from the Edomite citizens of Judea and therefore called Jews. It is true that these Jews follow a matrilineal descent wich is wrong and totally backwards. Your father is the one that determins your nationality not your mother. Just read the bible, it rarely talks about the son of this woman or that women. It is always father to son father to son. Even the bible itself warns us time and time again about imposters, read rev. 2:9 and rev.3:9.

  • #1 – stay on topic. this thread is not about the history of the Jews.

    #2 – again i say, the idea that you get your race from your father is batshit craziness. As far as I know, I got DNA from both of my parents. and it wouldn’t matter if my father was the whitest white that ever whited, I would not be only “white” if my mother was black, Chinese, Indian, or Native American.

    #3 – Race is a construct, therefore we get it from our culture and society and not from our fathers. We get our ethnic and genetic makeup from, again, both parents. If you continue to espouse this frankly sexist line I will have to mock you roundly.

  • Ico

    *ROFL* @ “the whitest white that ever whited.” :D Seriously, you are awesome! And so right.

  • Veronica

    “Just read the Bible”? Because, what, the Bible must be right? Being Jewish for 1300 years makes you an “imposter”? Jewish cultural traditions are “wrong and totally backwards” because you don’t agree with them?

    Sorry, ABW. I know this thread is not about questions of Jewish identity, but as well as batshit craziness and sexism, I’m sensing a strain of anti-semitism in Yo’el’s posts that is really pissing me off. I mean, what, today’s Jews are not “really” Jewish? We’re just claiming to be? We’re imposters? Our culture’s traditions are “wrong and totally backwards”?

  • Marius Louis (formerly known as Nigger Killer)

    ” Are you going to tell me that I don’t get to call myself Irish even though I have dark skin? ”

    Yes i will say you arent irish because you are black. Irish people are white by definition, there is no such thing as a black irish person. We can become trivial and say that everyone is mixed but what would that accomplish, nothing. Sorry to burst your bubble but you can never be irish. lets not get into that 1/16 native and 1/32 german nonsense. It accomplishes nothing. For all intensive and reasonable purposes you are AA and nothing more or less

    I know that im part german but that doesnt make me any less french.

    Race is a social construct, so what, everyone has been differentiating themselves for thousands of years by language, tribe, line of descent, color, culture and etc. The first racist was Miriam, moses’s sister(both real jews) she was mad that he married someone dark or black. There is nothing wrong with differentiation, but when people become racist or prejudice then it becomes wrong.

    AA’s cant just say they are black. Black is a race not an ethnic group, by saying your black you are implying you have no ethnic group and there is nothing more to you than your race. AA is your ethnicity and black is your race, French is my ethnicity and white is my race.

    You cant hog an entire race to yourselves. Its unreasonable, there are many black groups with different ethnicities that are just as black as you are. AA;s are not the only blacks, just like Irish arent the only whites.

  • Dude, you are not making a lick of sense. Firstly, I already warned you about telling people what they are and are not when you don’t know them. I’m not 1/16th or 1/32nd Irish, I’m like 1/4th. And there are plenty of black people in ireland right now who would take exception to your assertion that there are no black irish. I am, indeed, black. I am also a good chunk native american. And though I do understand the concept of being what you’re perceived to be, YOU do not get to tell me that YOUR perception matters more than what I know I am. That’s really just the bottom line.

    Just because you want it to be so doesn’t make it so, though it’s obvious that you’re so steeped in privilege that this notion doesn’t even occur to you.

    as for the rest of your comment… dude, you’re not making any damn sense.

  • Deoridhe

    Yes i will say you arent irish because you are black.

    There are more things under heaven and earth, Marius, than are dreampt of in your philosophies. Amazingly, genetics, culture, and ethnicity are “yes, and,” not “one, not the other”.

  • Marius Louis (formerly known as Nigger Killer)

    You are not 1/4 irish. “im like 1/4th” first of all you dont even know certainly how much you are, i doubt you are a quarter irish, that would mean you have mixed features which is common in people who are 25% something else. You even said you are black, your name says you are black, your first post mentioned nothing of you being “mixed” or ooohhh im “irish”.

    Stop the bullhit. You are black and nothing else, get it through that skull of yours. Just because there are blacks in ireland doesnt make them irish, that makes them citizen. dont confuse nationality with ethnicity, if you were born in france, we would not consider your french even though the law would, we would consider you AA or whatever your ethnicity is. Then if your a good chunk native, how black can you be?

    Do the math 25 % irish, good chunk native, how come you dont say your mixed, trust me, everyone who is more than 20% something else calls themselves mixed unless they are AA’s. That would mean one of your parents was mulatto and the other part native.

    If you were what you say you were, your posts would reflect it and they dont. You are what we call a negre.

    Sorry to bursty your bubble though.

    “Race is a social construct, so what, everyone has been differentiating themselves for thousands of years by language, tribe, line of descent, color, culture and etc. The first racist was Miriam, moses’s sister(both real jews) she was mad that he married someone dark or black. There is nothing wrong with differentiation, but when people become racist or prejudice then it becomes wrong.

    AA’s cant just say they are black. Black is a race not an ethnic group, by saying your black you are implying you have no ethnic group and there is nothing more to you than your race. AA is your ethnicity and black is your race, French is my ethnicity and white is my race.

    You cant hog an entire race to yourselves. Its unreasonable, there are many black groups with different ethnicities that are just as black as you are. AA;s are not the only blacks, just like Irish arent the only whites.”

    makes perfect sense.

  • Arias Delmar

    Viva Brasilia

    Hey Marius, why do white people smell bad huh?

    White People Smell Bad?
    why do white people smell bad, i mean they smell horrendous, like sewage. Evertime I go to class, their side of the room smells like bad breath and as.s

    I know we brazilians have good hygiene. Blacks are pretty clean too, they always have cologne and stuff. Its always the whites that bring the foul horrendous odor to the environment. One of them even told me she doesnt take showers in the morning, what a dirty broad.

    There was this white boy that said he brushes his teeth the night before and gets dressed at night, so when he wakes up he can just eat and leave. He said taking showers in the morning is a waste of time.

    Like i said, whites are disgusting and smell horrible, they are nasty, and they are the only people who kiss dogs in the mouth , and kiss each other in the mouth without brushing their teeth.

    What do you guys think??

  • Arias Delmar

    whites kiss before brushing their teeth in the morning, Yuck.

  • Veronica

    whites kiss before brushing their teeth in the morning, Yuck

    That is gross.

    Hey, ABW, what are you thinking?! Everyone knows that each person is only allowed one culture of origin, one ethnic heritage, one sense of yourself! Marius Louis is the Lord High Arbiter of Identity, and he says so! So, y’know, if your mom is black and your dad is, I don’t know, Italian-American, you just have to suck it up and pick! And if you are of Hopi descent and you have an Irish grandmother whose extended family helped to raise you, well, too bad for you! And if you’re black and your family has lived in England for two generations, you can’t be both Tswana and English! Forget it! Man, if you accept that kind of crazy talk, next thing you know, you’ll be thinking it’s OK for someone to be attracted to both men and women, or for someone to grow up speaking more than one language! One to a customer, please. We have a limited supply.

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