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

  1. Veronica says:

    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.

  2. the angry black woman says:

    wow, the ignorance and crazy Marius is bringing is too funny! The upstart presumption! Ohhhh, what would Lady Catherine say?

    And Veronica: Hey, ABW, what are you thinking?! Everyone knows that each person is only allowed one culture of origin

    I know! people are like cocoa beans – the only good ones are single origin.

    So Marius says:

    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.

    I’m sorry, Marius, but I didn’t realize that you KNEW ME. I certainly don’t think I know you. So therefore, how do you know that I do NOT have mixed features? A point of fact, I actually do.

    And though I have always called myself black and identify racially as black because of what being black means in America, I have never felt the need to deny all the things that go into making me what I am. I also don’t feel the fucking need to hold forth about all the things I am all the time. The title of this site would certainly not benefit from being called “The Angry African Irish Native American with random Anglo elements Woman”. The political reality of what people see when they look at my skin color is that I am considered black unless that person has reason to believe I’m Latino or, occasionally, native.

    The funniest thing about your assertions (based on nothing, seemingly) is that, when growing up, I was constantly being asked what my mix was. It was pretty obvious to most people I encountered that I had something else going on in my background besides just Africa.

    But you wouldn’t know that because you do NOT fucking know me!

    My family tree is refreshingly diverse, and I love exploring it. Though you may doubt that I’m a quarter Irish, I do not. Though if it were tallied up precisely, I might come out to around 20% instead of 25%. Oh horrors! A lot of mixing went on in the days of my grandparents and great-grandparents and beyond. Therefore, it’s not as simple as saying “my grandmother was white and my grandfather was black” (which is not the case) as some people might. Both of them were mixed, as were their parents. I know less about my father’s side, but do know that there’s a heavy infusion of Native American. Not enough for me to roll up on a tribe (which I would not think of doing) but enough to affect the bone structure of my face and my hair.

    One of the things I love about myself is that I am so evidently an amalgam. That doesn’t make me any less “black” or filled with that self-hatred you seem to think black people have for themselves. What it does do is remind me that I’m connected to a lot of different kinds of people on this planet. And while it is expedient and politically true to refer to myself as “black”, I know that I am in no way denying any part of myself as you seem to be doing.

    I think, at this point, I’m going to start treating you as ridiculously as you’ve treated us. I see already that others have made this decision. So, Marius, you are not French. Your features are very Swiss and I dare say the size of your penis marks you as clearly from the moon Io (we all know about Ionians and their small, small dicks). But really, you need to choose – are you going to be Swiss or Ionian? You can’t be both! And, honestly, I like earth for earthlings. I think you maybe need to pack your bags and go back home.

  3. Marius - Louis says:

    I said I was french, how the hell can I be swiss or Ionian? Plus its probably not wise to call me names, I know a name that my folks use to call your grandaddies and trust me, its not a nice one.

    If you look black lets face it, your black and nothing else. Naomi campbell is 1/8 chinese, which means nothing, she is just black as far as the whole earth is concerned. Ooo look at me im 8% german, Im mixed yippie, I have a connection to germans even though im 92% french, family comes from france, speak french, Ooo i feel so connected to the germans. BULLSHIT. You are not connected to any irish people, you are black and nothing else. For your info, a lot of mixing DID NOT go on, slaves were raped by their masters, and the slave masters that could own a lot of slaves or enough to rape and have lots of mulatto babies were few. Who knows, maybe someone in haiti or martinique feels related or a connection to me because one of my ancestors might have raped their grandmother 300 years ago and now they feel there is some sort of magical connection because we have the same last names. That is a fucking farce.

    Everyone on earth is mixed with something no one is pure, so why doesnt everyone say they are mixed? I’ll tell you. It’s because its trivial and pointless, so are you going to go back and say everyone whose great great great great great great great grandmother from 8 generations ago was italian, hopi or irish, that they are mixed because they are like .0001 mixed?? That is dumb. If you aren’t significantly mixed, your not mixed. Brazilians are mixed, Puerto ricans are mixed, AA’s are not mixed, Jamaicans are not mixed, Haitians are not mixed.

    Like I said, everyone can be mixed it doesnt make a difference, if you are predominantly one group, then there is no basis for you to try to call yourself or try to relate to another group, its absurdity and trivial.

    If you are tswana and living in england for 2 generations or france for 2 generations damn right your not english or french. Nationality IS NOT ethnicity. I’m not “american” I am French, my nationality is “American” their nationality is “English or French” not their ethnic status.

    You can always change your nationality, but you can never change your ethnicity.

    By the way, How do you know the size of my penis? I dont think you’ve seen me naked or had intercourse with me so how could you possibly know? Unless…. I might have fucked you a long time ago and forgot, I know you angry black women are as breezy as the wind. In french we call it Pétasse

    AND

    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.

  4. the angry black woman says:

    Just so everyone knows, I let the comment above in because it’s such a completely hilarious bit of crazy that i thought you’d all enjoy laughing at it. Marius is obviously moving into offensive troll territory, though, and may be moderated soon. So don’t feed him too much, but feel free to mock.

  5. Veronica says:

    Dude, moving into offense troll territory? Isn’t this the guy who began by posting under the screenname “Nigger Killer”?

    I can’t even really mock. Did he really just say we shouldn’t call him names because he knows worse names? Like, are we supposed to be scared? Does he really think that he knows any names that we haven’t heard before? Oh, no! I bet you’re just quaking with fear about what he might call you. I bet you’ve never experienced anyone calling you foul names before.

    He has this weirdo fantasy that emigrants retain their exact same culture down through the generations–like the Tswana living in England for a few generations have exactly the same cultural/ethnic practices and traditions as those living in Botswana. That is so batshit crazy I don’t even know where to begin except by, oh yeah, looking out my NY window.

    I like “you can’t hog an entire race”–because racial categories are like…blankets, or red M&Ms (“quit hogging! there won’t be any left for me!”). Jeez, ABW, if you keep on calling yourself black, there won’t be any black left for anybody else!

    Hey, speaking of the misuse of the term “African-American,” did I ever tell you about the time one of my students wrote a short paper in which she kept referring to the speaker in William Blake’s poem “The Little Black Boy” as “African-American”?

  6. Marius says:

    Like i said, ethnicity is not nationality, how hard is that to understand, just because you live in england for generations doesnt mean your dna recodes itself into anglo saxon genes, you still have tswana genes or genes from where your kind originated from. Whats so hard to grasp about that?

    I never said they had the same culture as the ones in botswana, all i said was that they arent ethnic english people, they are merely citizens of england, not anglo saxons.

    Really, dont you see how other blacks try and distance themselves from you, i know a lot of africans who dislike AA’s and a lot of haitians who despise you all as well. If you say your just black, it confuses people and when haitians say they are black, they equate haitians with AA’s when it is not the case. Plus, saying your just black has a negative impact on other black ethnic groups, whatever you AA’s do wrong gets pinned on them since they are black as well which is unfair, i know white people who say they hate black people, not caring to differentiate because they think you are all the same which is not the case.

    Black is a blanket term for all peoples descended from africans. If you wanna define yourselves with a blanket term then fine, but when other blacks dont want to identify with you dont get mad.

    I’m french, which equals white, but by just saying your white it is too vague, everyone can tell your race, thats when your specific ethnic group comes into like anglos, germans, danes, nordsmen, etc.

    Not having a specific ethnic group erodes culture and history and has an overall negative impact. There are more than 500 million blacks in the world who have nothing in common with you AA’s. Thats exactly why they have different tribes or ethnic groups because they know that they arent just black There are east europeans who have nothing in common with me.

    I dont know why you think Im a troll, but just because you cant accept counter arguments doesnt make me one.

    On behalf of other black ethnic groups, I will not allow you to denigrate and degenerate them by trying to claim a whole race as your ethnic group.

  7. the angry black woman says:

    *snickers* I’m sure all the other blacks appreciate your sticking up for them.

    Counter arguments do not make a troll. Crazy bigotry does.

  8. Marius says:

    Im not a bigot

  9. Marius says:

    Im just saying, No one group should monopolize a whole race like AA’s are trying to do.

  10. the angry black woman says:

    Im not a bigot

    coulda fooled me.

    No one group should monopolize a whole race like AA’s are trying to do.

    And that is a completely new one on me – we’re monopolizing the WHOLE race now! I have been accused of much, but this? Wow. There is not enough black left for all of Africa if I take a little for me, huh?

    Also, Veronica, that is HILARIOUS about your student.

  11. C W says:

    ABOUT TIME SOMEONE SET IT STRAIGHT!

    -We did not immigrate

    -Most of our Black parents/grandparents/great-grandparents did not immigrate

    -We are Americans with full 100% rights thereof

    -Most of us have never been to Africa

    BWDB http://thecwexperience.wordpress.com

  12. nojojojo says:

    …Would it be totally inappropriate, or culturally appropriative, if I just slapped my forehead right here and said, “OY VEY.”

    (Y’know, since I’m an Israelite and all.)

  13. blackpurlz says:

    Hey! First, let me say that I love this site! It’s propbably the most honest thing I’ve seen in a loong time! I too, am an ABW, and what really twists my knickers is ignorant fucks like Marius who speak with such authority and don’t know shit! Marius, my friend, I’m afraid you are oversimplifying the matter. ABW, just devowel him next time because he really has no idea what he’s talking about, and being French, as he has mentioned a thousand times before, really doesn’t even qualify him to be on this site! Nevermind what AAs should claim or call themselves. When will folks realize that many black people are a mixture of a lot of different things. And while it may not win us any brownie points in this “great divide”, it makes no sense to pretend as though race mixing never happened. Or, maybe it’s easier for those “racially pure” (snicker, cough) folks to remain in denial. After all, if we AAs aren’t racially pure, then it’s possible that very few people are!!! Press on, ABW!!!

  14. Veronica says:

    Speaking for the imposter Jews of NYC, Nora, I say that there could be no more appropriate response!

  15. Rohan SuperNeRD says:

    I agree, Black…..is a CORRECT. African American is just….hmmm too incorrect for what really is and Black is what is…Do you hear of whites being called White American? If your of Anglo-Saxon descent and have caucasoid features, then your white no matter where your from, and I’ve never heard a white person refer to themselves as White American and you know no white people are really from America Neither are we Black people.
    AND i think you should post a blog about the word MINORITY when white folk statistically are outnumbered by the “MINORITY” ……. AND PEOPLE WHO ARE BLACK…WHEN SOME ONE ASKS YOU WHAT YOU ARE…STOP SAYING OTHER THINGS LIKE I’M JAMAICAN, PART INDIAN, AND I HAVE WHITE FROM MY GRANDMOTHERS SIDE….AND NOT ONCE DID YOU SA BLACK!!!! PEOPLE IF YA BLACK YA BLACK…CUZ NO MATTER WHAT YOU SAY THATS NOT WHAT THEY SEE, AND UNTIL YOUR PROUD TO BE BLACK…YOUR DOING EXACTLY WHAT THEY BRAINWASHED YOU TO THINK LONG AGO…TO FEEL INFERIOR. LIKE THEY SAID BACK IN SLAVERY TIMES…..KEEP EM STRONG BUT KEEP THE MIND WEAK. I am more than just a man I am more than just skin and flesh I am a creature of God and blessed Yes, I am Black…GOD is perfect and I am just perfect with the way GOD made me If we were created in the image of GOD… and since Black people came before any other race… Then…….”No it couldn’t be”….”But wait”…..”MAYBE GOD”…..” WE WILL NEVER KNOW”…”YES” lol BUT THINK ABOUT THAT! King James Bible……do you really read that? And do you take what is in there as truth and GOD’S actual word??? Maybe some of it is…but for the most part the TRUTH are really LIES and thats the way it is especially in terms of history. TRUTH for what is actually true…was destroyed or distorted to fit a certain group of people’s view of Superiority, and if they did not do it, then no one else can, so it was changed….and molded to fit what there agenda was made out to be. AND since when did straight hair become beautiful and “kinky” “fro-ish” “nappy” hair become “BAD” hair??? That is how brain washed and messed up we are…we have been torn down and built up in the mind to believe that caucasoid aka White features are more favorable than most all other traits possessed by peoples of color. And when did Jesus become white???? There is a possibility but how likely is that in the middle east where he was born…unless Mary and David where some poor traveling white folk….uhm MOST LIKELY NOT. Unless Anglo saxon folk turned into Semite middle Eastern peoples in that short amount of time and quite frankly I DON’T THINK SO. Think about this for a second……We know that Caucasians have similar features and they look alike…so why is it that other peoples with similar almost indistinguishable features are broken down and CATEGORIZED into many races? AND WHY ARE BLACKS CONSIDERED A MINORITY IN AMERICA!!!??? I mean the term was used long ago and even then “STATISTICALLY” that was darn near incorrect…even during slavery where AFRICAN AMERICANS OUTNUMBERED THE SLAVE OWNERS AND EVEN THOSE WHO WERE NOT SLAVE OWNERS. Other races are SQUEEZED into the demeaning term of minority when in actuality the so-called MINORITY out numbers CAUCASIANS!!!! AND what are Caucasians considered???? The Majority??? Please do not make me type a “LMAO!”….wait but i will LMAO! We know that now schools are more diverse, so you can not just teach from a Eurocentric approach!! By adding a small part about Africa and SLAVERY( which BLACK HISTORY DID NOT START FROM…EVEN IN THE AMERICAS) does not justify anything to and for anyone. There needs to be more and in order for more…BLACK SCHOLARS and HISTORIANS need to write more books and our history books…and they do, and none of them seem to make there way in the hands where it truly matters….the children in the schools…that little Black girl who claims that she is indian and has that indian hair when she is more so Black and refuses to accept her apparent identity. Whites won’t see you any differently unless you FIRST start by seeing your self differently. Most Caucasians do not even know the truth…nor do many care to do so…they have a sense of their identity and there history wasn’t distorted to make them feel any less than what they truly are…in fact some of there history really is not there history. White Egypt??? Yea, maybe after the 25th dynasty which was waaaaay after the pyramids were constructed. White Jesus? White WORLD…i know i may be getting a little extreme….BUT WHAT REALLY IS EXTREME is the fact that many have views of us as having such a atrocious and negative image when in truth we have not done any harm to the races of the world and left a long-lasting negative effect….the way Caucasians have to almost every culture the world knows. Isn’t that extreme? Don’t take my word for it though…if you do not believe me and think I am some crazy extremist of afrocentrism…well I am not, nor am I racist…I LOVE my white brothers and sisters even for those that do not do the same to me…nor do i see them as the enemy…nor do i hate or despise…the only thing I worry about as of now is getting the knowledge out there! So colored peoples=Black peoples=our people gain this knowledge which is EMPOWERING and lift them out of the mental deterioration brought upon them by Caucasians. Either it be from force(slavery, breeding of the aboriginal, trying to breed out the blackness, forcing us to give up our religion to accept there religion known as Christianity and other forced methods) or indirect force( trickle down effects from imperialism, colonizing other countries by disrupting cultures, economics, distortion of history…etc) which all helped to demean the value and pride people of color have or had on a general scale. And it is real real sad and wrong that MEXICANS are immigrants or illegal aliens in their own country…because they are the natives who were forced to speak Spanish(SPAIN) and English(AMERICA, BRITAIN) and even Portuguese (PORTUGAL) almost eradicating all native languages of these native people to the Americas. That to me is absurd! There is a revolution coming…but not of war….but of knowledge…the mind…the soul…and the basis of what the truth is itself!!! GET INFORMED, DO THE RESEARCH, GET THE KNOWLEDGE…BECAUSE IT IS POWER!!!!! WAKE UP MY FELLOW PEOPLE OF ALL COLORS INCLUDING WHITE!!! WAKE UP AND SMELL THE NEW DAY. THE TRUTH IS A COMIN’…..and it will make hose who are guilty guilty and those who have no clue LIBERATED…and just because slavery does not exist in America, just because there are no shackles and chains doesn’t mean your mind is free. SO FREE IT!!!! YOU YOURSELF CAN DO THAT!!! ONE LOVE FROM YOUR BLACK PROUD BROTHER AND FRIEND ROHAN SUPERNERD aka JOHNATHAN ROHAN HILL.

  16. Question says:

    I have been reading through this with great interest and it reminds me of my first lesson in race. I’m white–close to being the whitest white that ever whited (hilarious). My whole family is white–as in, SPF 50. When I was about 8, my best friend was black, very dark. The weird and moving part of this story is I REALLY never noticed she was black and she never noticed I was white UNTIL her parents refused to let me in their house “because she’s white.” We looked at each other with total confusion and then she went inside and I went home. That’s it. And our friendship disintegrated–she felt there was something wrong with me because her parents said I was white. Now, we could speculate on all of the societal issues at play but from a kid’s impressionable perspective, all that matters is: she’s white, she can’t come in.

    So my question is: does the labeling divide us? When we label to celebrate heritage (I’m of Swedish decent and I like to explore/rejoice in culture) and race, are the consequences more division? I’m torn. Maybe culture is one thing and race another so labels can describe a completely different culture…but race is just that–a dividing label that doesn’t really mean anything more than “lots of melanocytes/very few melanocytes/olive-colored melanocytes.” I feel like the simple, quick label I was given as a child changed two people forever. Even if her parents would have said “Oh yes, she can come in. We’ll celebrate black culture and white culture,” I would still have seen the color difference that I hadn’t noticed before.

    Not to dwell but have you guys heard of the controversial experiment a grade school teacher did, I don’t know, 20 years ago? She took her unified class, separated them by “brown eyes” and “blue eyes” and gave each one special treatment for a week. By the end of two weeks, the children had divided themselves and were hostile to other kids who had the “other” color of eyes. She then explained this is how racism works and the kids should look past their physical differences to overcome racism. Well, the kids are adults now and interviews reveal this to be a huge lesson in their lives. I guess that’s sort of what happened to me.

    Sorry to go on but this is an important issue to me and I find this blog helpful. It’s a hard topic for me to really understand since my experiences are so different in this racially charged society. I somewhat envy the rich, soulful black culture. See? How do I describe the culture without the race label? AA? It’s not exactly right either.

  17. Question says:

    Jane Elliot. From 1968 after Dr. MLK Jr assassination. The brown-eyed/blue-eyed experiment.

    A powerful example of the power of suggestion.

  18. cvalda says:

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

    I can identify with this, as a white New Zealander who likes the term “Pakeha” as it specifies my country. Race and nationality are largely social, so I think it’s important to self-identity in amongst the ever-changing standardised terms.

  19. Atomic Dogg says:

    In my humble opinion. The last generation of a family not born in America can still carry the name African American, Irish American and so on. The generation that is raised in this country is a solid American. As for color, God gave everything color to make it beautiful and so we can describe it. It is purely a harmful human characteristic to wanna label everything then put a taboo on the things you no nothing about. I am a “white” colored man with a Puerto Rican heritage. My girlfriend is Black, as in, the light that reflects off her stunning skin is almost gray. OMG you should see her in the moon light after she just rubbed coco butter all over to moisten her skin……………………………sorry, where was I? Actually, I don’t care anymore I need to find my ridiculously BLACK girlfriend and try to find her in the dark. Stupid people. Just go to home depot, grab the color chart find the color closest to what you are. On the back is a number, then you can all start bitching about that and this thread wont matter. Where’s the coco butter?

  20. Juan says:

    ^ ^ ^ ^
    Thank you for not paying the slightest bit of attention to the discussion, being like the umpteenth fool to debate over semantics… and for sounding rather creepy with your “Black girlfriend defense”…

  21. Geraldo Jenkins says:

    thank you Juan….we have Morons in the vicinity…….anyway…I personally go with the term “Black”…it’s really interesting how people run away from it because it’s “too degrading”…I know a hatian girl who is my complexion (Dark Medium, if u will) and a Trinidadian girl who is blacker than wesley snipes and they both say “I’m not Black, I’m Haitian” or “I’m not Black, I’m Trini”….completely failing to look at the big picture. both have ardently explained to me (Look at my skin, and look at this…(enter an object that is literally black, here) I’m not Black…we shouldn’t be called that b/c it means all of the bad things…the plague, etc..”….And that’s the point. People shy away because of the terms that Negrophobes have associated with the color black, so automatically they feel an animosity towards the label. People are gonna have their reasons and ethnic backgrounds and loyalties and blah blah blah but as an AA man, I look at the big picture. I am in no way shape or form against the observance of ones culture..I love divesity more than anything; i’d rather be in a room full of everything than in a room full of only black people…but where did all the dark people in Trinidad and Haiti come from in the first place?? stop it, if Africans didn’t get mixed into the picture u (those that apply) would not be in the picture… we’re all mixed regardless but you know what…UR BLACK…DEAL WITH IT…we tend to water everything down in order to be “accepted”…SCREW THAT…I’m different and I want everyone to know……Now…I’m also a bit torn because I concord to the question that was posed before, i think the label does divide us to some extent…I agree….new orleaneans have a lineage that may not mirror those of blacks in new york, and those in Trinidad, and those in DR, and those of Cote d’lvoire, and those of Guinea, and Ghana, etc…but as i said before, I tend to look at the big picture…we’re divided b/c we were put that way ….. we can’t deny our immediate lineage…but that immediate lineage came from somewhere else…..all in all, I wish we all could just be viewed as human beings…..i would love that more than anything…..but since that will never happen, “I aint gotta do nothing but stay BLACK and die…”

  22. Geraldo Jenkins says:

    just to comment on stuff i read earlier…(i’m sorry, i know i rambled above..but this topic gets me going)….in reality….NO ONE IS BLACK, NO ONE IS WHITE…WE’RE ALL BROWN……but we don’t live in the literal sense anyway…so we use “white and black”, however, it is history that tells us what certain things mean…my favorite color is actually black, no relation to the race at all even tho i am black….”White” isnt necessarily pure and whatever else they say..it’s all made up to begin with…it’s all fabrication….labels….but ill admittingly say that Im gonna fall into it…I’m BLACK…black symbolically to me means strength, it’s the one color that matches with everything, and it reminds me of night..my favorite time of the 24 hr cycle…..it’s all fabrication and made up stuff….but im BLACK…

  23. LaToya McInnis says:

    Denying my African identity is like denying who I really am. Regardless of the fact that I know little about my African roots. I know when I look in the mirror I see and African woman. a women who happen to be brought to this continent of North America called America. Not many other ethnic groups hyphenate their names with America on the end, even if they were born in America, then why should I. I am an AFRICAN!!

  24. Rhonda says:

    I identify myself as African-American…I am an American Black woman of African descent. That simple.

  25. travis says:

    firstly, I have to admit, i’m white. or caucasian, or whatever. basically, I’m a light skinned american. and I definitely agree with your post.

    i’ve found many problems with the term “african-american”, mostly, the fact that it is used to describe a race. there’s no race mentioned in that two word phrase.

    firstly, african just means the continent one was born on, which I assume, would NOT apply to the majority of dark-skinned americans. lots of blacks here in america were born here, and plenty have come from the islands, or other countries altoether. my ancestors came from the british isle, and i can trace it in my family tree. but the last four generations were born on american soil – therefore, we just see ourselves as americans.

    secondly, the term american is not a race, its just a nationality. enough said there.

    i would not assume to know what dark-skinned people in america would prefer to be called, as i feel ‘black’ still carries a lot of bad connotation, but i does seem to be the only one that actually fits.

    i’m american, and i’m white, but there’s no need to call me a white-american, because it’d be overkill on the obvious.

    i’m white, and i’m proud, but not because i’m white. i’m just proud to be me. the white thing came by default, and there’s lots of crap that comes with it.

    have a great day, and keep fighting for your dignity.

    -travis

  26. Michelle says:

    I have a problem with the term “Black” I have had this problem for a long time. Being in the entertainment, performing arts, and business world. I couldn’t understand why we were described as such. Black is the color of my shoes, my pants, and my purse. It’s the color of a crayon, do you really think it sounds nice to call someone a color or of what they really are? The word Black doesn’t describe who I am, I remember going to an event in Los Angeles and this lady said to me. Wow! You’re a beautiful black girl. At that moment I knew the label was off. We as a people didn’t decide on the label others decided for us, not to mention that I am African, Native American, Dutch and Jewish and the label African-American or other fits me just fine.

    Every African-American is not from African understood, but please find out through DNA what you are. We are in 2008 technology is advanced there is no excuse and we have genealogy trees and ancestry trees to research the history. Our ancestors would roll over in their graves if we didn’t at least try. The label Black when used sounds like someone is calling me the “N” word. Have you heard newscasters use it as they described someone or better yet your other people of color brother’s and sisters who are Latin who have every kind of way of describing us being funny and it’s all described as “Black”. I’ve heard it all and it’s not funny.

    We have history, culture, customs, language, religion, ancestry, knowledge, and a purpose.

    African covers the Sub-Saharan African
    American covers-Native, Dutch, and Jewish woman from the Bronx

    Donada
    Thank you

  27. Thirza says:

    I am not from Africa nor I’m I purely African descent. I am a mixture of Amerindian, Portuguese and North/East African.

    I rather be called black than African American.

    My ancestors did not come from West Africa.

  28. Barbra Fortman says:

    It does not say West African American, it says African American, so all of Africa is included. If one is purely from Africa, they are African.

  29. sc says:

    I am not black but I once overheard a black co-worker make fun with her white co-worker of a white supervisor who used the term African American. At first it shocked me , but when I heard her say “I’m not African I am Black” it really hit me, “She’s right.” There are white Africans and black non-Africans living here and African American just promotes the slavery image, like many of you have said. I don’t care about skin color. In this case, the black woman is right and we non blacks need to show more respect by not using the African American descriptor.

  30. Duncan says:

    “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.”

    If only it were so! At the very least you would have to say that there was collusion. Black people did their damnedest to assimilate, but white people wouldn’t let them, so they had to band together for mutual support and defense. That seems to true for most “minorities.”

    It also seems that you’re assuming that WASP culture is American culture (which of course it isn’t — the English settlers did not assimilate to the American cultures they found here, they kept their Englishness), so that anyone who comes to these shores and doesn’t immediately speak the King’s English and eat mutton, etc., is just trying to create division. Maybe they’re just sticking to what is comfortable for them, as the English settlers did. And don’t forget, Spanish was an American language before English was; French too, if I believe.

    A couple of people have said that in Latin America, identities are national not racial: “Cuban” not “Afro-Cuban” or whatever. I’m not so sure of that even on its face, but I’m also not sure where labels like “Afro-Cuban” originated. If an American asks a black Cuban for her identity, no doubt she’ll say “Cuban,” but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t identify as black when she’s in Cuba. Or that other Cubans don’t label her so. My Mexican friends divvy Mexicans up in racial terms — chino and negro and indio, for example — but to outsiders they label themselves Mexicanos. (There’s also a tendency to play down their indio and negro ancestry, much as we gabachos do; it seems that Mexicans of “pure” Spanish ancestry are interested in ‘creating division’ between themselves and indios.)

    Identities are almost never absolute, as ABW has pointed out: they are relative and contextual. How I identify myself (white, American, male, gay, Hoosier, atheist, Irish-French-German ancestry, etc.) depends on the context in which I’m being asked to identify. I agree with ABW that it’s important to respect other people’s self-labeling and -identification, and I think we can go a long way towards doing so if we remember the inadequacies of our own labels for ourselves.

  31. In the Moment says:

    1) The last posting I just read is one by Marius. His writing is contradictory, in that he says “we’re all mixed”, yet he claims he’s French ethnically. But how can he be enthnically (and genetically, as he defines it) French when the people there have mixed origins too? Did he not say that the geographic location, where you’re from, is not your ethnicity? So fine, if he’s White, okay. But White people have been mixing all over Europe forever, not to mention, even blending with non-White groups too; saying “White” is more accurate than claiming to be genetically French.

    2) Looking “Black” is defined by current culture, but Blacks today are more watered down than folks off the boat from Africa. It’s evident when you look at pics of people from all over Africa. Even the tan, light brown North East Africans (whom I’m sure are labeled as just racially Black) don’t look the same as Black people in America.

    3) And yes, “Black” isn’t really the proper color, especially when Indians (from the far east) can even be darker than Blacks in America.

    4) If you’re mixed with different ethnicities (as in coming from people from certain geographic locations, people who practice a specific regional culture), why not celebrate that? If you’re 1/8 Chinese, 1/8 Indian, 1/8 Trinidadian, 1/8 Congalese, 1/8 Italian, 1/8 Polish, 1/8 Native American, and 1/8 Fijian, are you only allowed to identify as the group whom society chooses you to be? So, so what if you’re mostly black with just a little Irish; the more cultures to celebrate the better!

    5) That “one drop rule” really screwed things up. In reality, most Blacks in America are mixed. But all people seem to focus on are the shades of Black, rather shades of “Brown” that Black people are. If you’re mixed, recognize it. Thinking is still archaic, where even if your parents are 2 different races, somehow, that defaults to Black; we’ve gotten accustomed to ignoring mixture of Black with other races. How else did so many Black Americans get curly vs. kinky hair if it weren’t for mixture?

    6) It’s true, if you’re not from a certain place, don’t identify the geographic location with your identity, especially racial identity. It just gets too confusing, e.g. African American (When all races can be this & it’s too vague of a term), Irish-American. If you’re American, that should come first. Get off the race thing and just see the variation of being human. At least utilize the nationality as a means of working together, coming together.

    7) Why bring God into this discussion, and go off on the topic? We need to see that it’s us who have the control over human societal affairs. It’s up to us to take responsibility, good or bad, for our own actions and solutions.

    8) It is true that “African-Americans”/Black Americans are changing the way that the world views Black people, and it isn’t favorable; yes, our president is 1/2 Black, and of course, the US has Oprah. But unfortunately, it’s the negative Blacks who seem to get the most notice, and it’s making people afraid of or ashamed of Black Americans,including folks who are Black and from other countries! Negative depictions of Blacks: crime, sexual promiscuity, loud, obnoxious, ignorant, not studious etc. Something’s gone really wrong since the 60s, the last time that American Blacks really seemed to want to join together to be educated and to enrich their lives.

    8) There’s needs to be a new category for people who are mixed race. And, there needs to be a new category for Black people in the US. I understand too that even the origins of being called “Black” were derogatory, hence why African American came about.

    9) To put a multi-layered and painful history simply, the difference between being a White American and a Black American is that White people tend to remind Black people how they’re different from White and Black people remind each other how they’re different from White. Otherwise, the cultures are pretty similar. But yes, Black people have had is much harder and way more horrific experiences than White people in the US in the past 400 years. But I’m sorry, hair texture and skin color aren’t enough for me to link myself to belonging to the same culture of another being.

    10) My personal rant: An afro is an afro, something folks sported in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and your occasional disco-themed party. If hair curls in obvious ringlets and is not picked out, it’s called CURLY HAIR people.

    11) Rant #2: chimpanzees have straight hair, pink faces, and no lips. There is an “ape” to resemble features/characteristics of all races of people.

  32. In the Moment says:

    ” ‘Black,’ in our political and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves. Voluntary immigrants of African descent (even those descended from West Indian slaves) are just that, voluntary immigrants of African descent with markedly different outlooks on the role of race in their lives and in politics. At a minimum, it can’t be assumed that a Nigerian cabdriver and a third-generation Harlemite have more in common than the fact a cop won’t bother to make the distinction. They’re both “black” as a matter of skin color and DNA, but only the Harlemite, for better or worse, is politically and culturally black, as we use the term.”

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/01/22/obama/index.html

  33. R. says:

    I’ve been reading ABW for awhile now and I love it. I really do. The discussions are great as are the posts.

    Now to my comment: In the Moment, while I understand exactly where you are coming from, I want to say this. Race is a social construct. Created by the “Self” so they could have an “Other”, a scapegoat, someone to feel superior over. That’s taught in every college level Anthropology class, at least it was at my college. We do not need new categories for mixed race or Black people. Why? Because we already have the “Other” located on papers, test sheets, etc.

    I prefer to be called “Black” simply because my family is not just African, but also Jamaican, possibly Haitian, more than likely Irish or English and heck, maybe eve a little Asian. I also remind myself that the racial label is just a label, a construct. It is not biological. The only thing biological is the color of our skin. Facial features are blurred across ethnic lines as is hair texture. I guess you’d have to create a whole new category for Indians because they are the “original” mixed race, Dravidian and Aryan people.

    Anyhow, I digress. As for your #8, I have met many Black Americans who are extremely positive and role model material. These people are mentioned just as much as the “bad ones” you talked about in your comment. I see it as a half and half deal. The same with anybody from any background.

  34. R. says:

    What I meant to say when I said the only thing biologically different was the color of our skin. Still race was a social construct crafted to separate and your comment seems to me as if you back that type of thinking up.

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