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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Are Afro-Americans Black or black?

The USA is known as a melting pot. We were inhabited by Native Americans and they apparently arrived from Asia long before. Then came the Spanish and the French and the British. Of course, there is evidence that Eric the Red made a Scandinavian presence on North American soil long before Chris Columbus began bopping around in the Caribbean.

Later, refugees and emigrants from Europe began filling the inner cities of the American East while still later Orientals were imported to work on the West coast and build railroads. Slaves, predominantly black and from Africa, were imported in large numbers. Natives of South and Central America settled largely in the Southwest. Here is a link for those who find the subject fascinating.

Prejudice has always been involved in the influx of emigrants. People had bad names for Irish, Italians, Hispanics, on and on. But no group suffered as much through slavery and prejudice than the Negro. Not even the most populous minority group in the USA now (Hispanics now hold that title), people of largely African descent would have to be the group that had the farthest to go and had to work the hardest to get to the place that they would be accepted by all.

Naturally there is always the idiot factor, and many people still hold prejudice against those of other skin tones or countries of origin. For society in general, however, the playing field has been largely leveled. To me, no one color or creed should have an advantage in the job market or in any other way.

Everyone knows not to use the "N-word" when talking to or referring to a person of dark hue. Yet amongst themselves they do refer to each other in that manner. I was close to a few darker friends when I lived in Washington, DC, and one of them actually would greet me with "What's up, N______?" Sometimes I would say that to him. It was clowning, it was friendly and it was only something done between friends. Even today I am aware that this word is sometimes used, but I would never use it. It has too many degrading connotations.

Fine. I do want to know what is safe to say if wishing to describe a person of color now? (Or should I even say it that way???)

Black: You can order a T-shirt that says "Please Don't Call Me Black" There was a time in the 1960's and 70's when many of those of darker hue rejected the word, "black" and opted for Afro-American. That is kind of a mouthful but, okay, why not?

Afro-American? A blogger I admire and whose link is on my friends blogroll is of darker hue. She says:

"One of the many reasons I don’t like the term “African American” is that I’m not African, and I doubt any African — black or white — would claim me as such.

Being of African descent doesn’t make one African. It’s strange that we use the word “African” as a nationality when I suspect that true Africans refer to their countries when referring to their nationality, and not the continent."

So, anyway, I will soon do a posting about Black or black or Afro-Americans in politics and government and I sure would like to know which adjective to use. Because I am just a white guy and I haven't spend a lot of time thinking about it until now.

By the way, I am part German and Austrian and English and Scot and Irish and American Indian. I am a mongrel. But society calls me white so there you go. I tend to use the term "black" for now, until someone says otherwise. To me, Condi Rice is a great American, very accomplished, and I would say that she is a black woman. But if it is important to say it another way, so be it.

Yes, I know, it would likely be better if we were all to the point that skin tones and origins were never used. Maybe. Of course, that means we'd have to cut out all the blonde jokes.


Meg said...


radar said...

I would have thought so, so I am probably on the right track, thanks!

highboy said...

No one, not even the blacks, went through what the American Indian went through. To me, African-americans don't exist. They are American or they are not. I'm only racist against illegals. Color doesn't matter.

Meg said...

Highboy, So if you got mugged by a Black person, and the police came to ask you what the person looked like, would you say the person was an American or might you desceibe the person as Black?

highboy said...

Meg: My wife and I were mugged by eight black people. Yes, I would describe them as black. If you read what I actually posted instead of looking for controversy, you'll see that I said African-Americans don't exist. I said nothing about not calling them black. I'll call them black but I won't say "eight African-Americans mugged me." They are either American or they are African in my book.

Meg said...

Don't be silly. Of course they exist. You just don't like the name, because you think it's mis-representative in some way. And that's ridiculous. Let them choose what they want to be called.

highboy said...

Let them choose what they want to be called.

Yes, Black.

Never said that they didn't exist, once again, read what I actually wrote. I said, "they are either American, or they're not."

Liberals like you aren't supposed to stereotype, or racially profile.


Meg said...

Hahahahahahahahaha. I can't believe you called me a nazi! You have problems.

highboy said...

Meg: Lighten up. I'm just screwing with you. You really think I care what you call black people?

Zombie said...

Over the years, for me this has become a sore topic. Being someone who is of African descent, i have some authority over the subject. I have a problem with the term African-American or Afro-whatever because it tends to: 1. cause generalization under a vaccum, 2. It doesn't actually say anything about ancestry, and 3. It simply doesn't make much sense.
To argue my first point, people tend to label by what they see. As a black person, or someone of color (whatever makes u feel good), i am usually labeled Afro-American. The problem i have with this, personally, is that i am not African. I am not from Africa, nor is any immediate family of mine from there. Secondly, I am not North American. Observing that the term was coined here to classify Americans who are of Black descent (those who have ties to 1st generation "African-Americans"), i do not feel the term applies to me. However, i am black. That is my skin color. As far as ancestry goes, i am Spanish, Moore, German and Native American (Caribbean). The term African-American, you can see is very exclusive. It would be just as exclusive to call myself Spanish-blah, blah or Native-blah blah, etc. Thirdly, having explained that, i feel that most people would agree that the term African-American doesn't really apply to anyone, except to one who is only of African descent, and is geographically North American. That is rare. I'm not sure that i make sense each time i attempt to explain this--this is why the topic is sore--but i do try my best because i feel it is in my best interest that i explain myself. I look forward to reading what you discover.

radar said...

Black seems to be the consensus. It is a description you don't need to use all the time. I mean, I have an acquaintance who is a network administrator named Darryl and in all the various conversations we've had I have never felt the need to comment, "Hey, you are black!" and don't suppose I ever will.

Then there is the distinction between Black and black? I don't know, but I guess if I were a black guy I would want the emphasis not to be on a general descriptive term but more personal things (smart, handsome, strong, you know, that kind of thing....or even stupid, fat and smelly) because it would be about me and not my race.

Like you, Zombie, most black people are like most white people (in the USA) in that we are of mixed descent. I have German, too. I also have Scots, Irish, English and Cherokee Indian and a couple of others way back there. So in fact you are probably kind of coffee colored, maybe coffee with cream, rather than black. I am sort of a light tan with a pink or red undertone rather than white.

I hate racism. I find it in myself, in that I have to fight stereotypes in my brain in certain situations. Society has promulgated some of them, like a bunch of black teens on a street corner are up to no good, or if a black woman is about to sing I will expect she has a good voice. Stereotypes can be good or bad, right? But not every black teen is a gangsta, duh, and not every black woman can sing and not every black guy is a good athlete and on and on.

Eh, there is not a lot I can do about prejudice. Just treat people as individuals no matter what. So, are you going to start a blog? Ping me if you do so I can check it out!