I hate the term African-American. Its use makes no sense when you think about it rationally. It is another poorly thought out term propagated by PC stupidity. In social settings, how often do you see white people stumble over whether to say African-American or black in the most harmless of connotations. It has got to stop. Please. I beg you! It is offensive to both Africans and Americans….and the few actual African-Americans.
Racial discussion seems to make everyone stupid in this country. It is to the point I suggest we all carry a Crayola color chart. When we are confused by someone’s skin color or race, just hold up the chart to the person’s skin and call them whichever color most closely matches. Perhaps this will make everyone feel good about their respect of the races. We shall follow Crayola to racial enlightenment.
There are plenty of racial descriptors and insults which flat out make no sense on their face…or shall I say your face. I never understood why people would insult East Asians by calling them yellow. I know they aren’t referring to Blumenbach. Have these morons ever seen the color yellow? Do they look yellow? I am still waiting to see a yellow man from East Asia. Like the unicorn, I cannot find this mystical being. To me, they look white or brown and everything in between but not yellow.
I know there are many races in our diverse world and many different terms for them. I would love to go through some of the dumber ones but I reserve special disdain for the term African-American. This allegedly inoffensive term may be the champion of ignorance.
Why does it makes no sense? Several reasons but one is I am a caucasian African-American. This is to say I am a caucasian American citizen but was born in Africa to African parents of an African family. No, I am not some colonist, tourist, white South African or long european descendant. I am a native African. Genealogical studies have shown the ancestors of my particular ethnicity to have been in Africa for over 9,000 years. Long enough to surely claim myself an indigenous African.
Can you figure it out? I am a Berber from northwest Africa. How am I caucasian? The U.S. government defines caucasian as anyone of European, Middle Eastern, or North African descent.
There is a whole lot of brown in white, apparently. So as I said, I am a caucasian African-American. So are my kids. My poor misclassified progeny.
Around the world, being African is not a problem for racial classifications. Citizens of other nations have a better grasp of geography so no one is stumped when I say I am African. They know to look to the countries in North Africa. It is not a trick question.
But growing up in America, I learned a lesson. Americans know next to nothing about Africa. Here is a synopsis of the conversations I have had describing my background growing up in America. Conversations I still have:
Someone: Where are you from?
Me: From Algeria, in north Africa.
Someone: Come on. Stop messing around. You (pointing at me) are not from Africa.
Me: No really, I am.
Someone (half stumbling over thoughts): But….but….you’re not black???
Me: I know. Funny how this is. Africa is actually pretty diverse. They are generally south of the Sahara desert in what is called Sub-Saharan Africa. North of the desert, people look kind of like me in different shades of brown.
(often, I would have to explain what is the Sahara Desert)
Someone: I don’t know? You can’t really be African. You must be one of those Europeans that moved to Africa. I know all Africans are black.
(it is as if I am pretending to be African because it is nouveau chic)
Me: No really, I promise I am a native African. Parents, grandparents, everyone down the line. Have you ever seen an Egyptian in a movie? They are not all black and Egypt is in Africa.
(this usually helps settle doubts in their mind – Thank you, Brendan Fraser Mummy movies – I don’t know if there was a single Egyptian actor but close enough)
Someone: You’re right! I guess I never really thought about it.
This seemingly occurs once a month.
It is one thing to not know the demographics of Africa. I understand this. Many Americans cannot locate Canada on a map anymore so I cannot expect them to know the various ethnicities of each continent. But I know someone is a special moron if they ask the following question: Who is the president of Africa?
You would be stunned how many college graduates have asked me this. Seriously. Who is the freaking president of Africa!?! Ugh.
When I was younger, I was much more polite. I would kindly explain Africa is the second largest continent with over 60 different countries, each with different systems of government from democracies to dictatorships. This is what I used to say…when I was younger and more polite.
Now and even though he has passed if you ask me who is the president of Africa, I will look at you sincerely and without hesitation say Nelson Mandela.
Every time I have said it, the person has responded ‘That’s what I thought!’, appearing excited they think they knew some trivia. Shake my head. Whatever. Maybe they at least know how to find Canada. Doubtful.
So considering how much trouble Americans have with the geography it is no wonder the term African-American is so popular. It is merely designed to be a racism-masking, feel-good euphemism for normal Americans who happen to be black.
In the 1800’s, American referred to blacks as negroes or the famous insult derived therefrom. Because of the odious and oppressive history to which these terms were correlated, they did not last in our changing lexicon.
What term came along? Colored. And to be sure this term was also used in racist contexts. However, it was also used in normal contexts by those described as colored. After all, a word is just a word. It is the context of its use which matters. It was during this time the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded.
But what did not change was underlying racism throughout overall society. So while the term colored could be an innocent descriptor, it became a loaded term in its use for many. People would say: But that’s in the colored neighborhood. Here, the speaker infers it is a bad neighborhood because ostensibly in his/her mind there are no good colored neighborhoods. While the term changes from negro to colored the change is meaningless if the use is still the same.
So with the social movements of the 1900’s people abandoned the term colored and switched to black, which from what I gather has always been somewhat used throughout history. While colored is a ridiculously broad term which includes all of humanity, black is at least closer to what is being described. Some black people are indeed black on the color scale but most are shades of black all the way to light brown.
Then for some reason those who have only one black parent are only considered black even if they do not look black. Jason Kidd comes to mind:
Per Wikipedia, Mr. Kidd’s mother is Irish.
But guess what? While the term changed from colored to black its use did not for many. Whether it was colored, negro, or black, the inferences are the same when someone would say: But that’s in the black part of town.
Alas, our morality leaders had a solution to help mask the symptoms of racism again. They started using African-American. I scratch my head. We do not call white people European Americans. They would be more described in our common parlance as normal Americans and certainly not reminded their ancestors came from somewhere else – like black Americans. Let us not get started on the actual native Americans or rather the original normal Americans before the current-normal American’s ancestors decimated their culture and societies.
Ok, so you are saying ‘Well, African-Americans did come from Africa’.
First, everyone at some point came from Africa. It is the origin of the human species according to current theories.
‘But they came more recently. Not like Europeans and Asians who emigrated as early cavemen from Africa. You cannot compare that’ you might be thinking.
And you are right. But this is not what I am talking about. Think about when the slavetrade transpired and when the vast majority of the ancestors of black Americans were brought to the New World. They came as early as many settlers and colonists. For many black Americans, their ancestors have been on the continent as long as the Europeans or longer. After 400 years, I think they can be considered North American the same as the Europeans.
The transatlantic slave trade mostly ceased bringing new slaves from Africa by 1810. Thus, the shortest time a black American’s ancestors are likely to have been on the continent is about 200 years. Since which the United States received massive waves of European immigration from Ireland, Italy, Germany and throughout Europe in the 1800s and 1900s. The descendants of the these European immigrants have been in the United States for only a fraction of the time as black Americans.
Also, there is a lot of racial diversity in black American which is negated by the stupidity of the term African-American. They can have ancestors who were white, hispanic, african, or asian, etc. Just as there is a lot of brown in white, there are a lot of colors in black too. The ancestors of many black Americans do not only come from Africa. But we insist on reminding any American with dark or black skin that some very long time ago some ancestor did come from Africa. As if they might forget or not be able to figure it out.
For what it is worth, Woods made up his own term, cablinasian, combining caucasian, black, american indian, and asian. Crayola says his color is Earthtone.
If you have ever met a black African, you get another example of this nonsense. A sub-saharan African can tell you the unusual circumstances of America. When he goes to Europe, they call him black or African. Whichever. It does not matter unless the connotation is negative because black and African are what he is and has been his whole life. When he goes to Asia, same thing. Same thing in South America or Australia or anywhere in the world. This is normal.
But not in America. When he visits America and walks out of the airport, no white person would ever call him African on the street. It would be perceived as a loaded racist insult by bystanders. Many kind people will not even call him black. Solely by visiting our country he has changed races. The African man is no longer African or merely black to everyone around him. Now he is considered an African-American. Magically, he has added an America to his racial classification.
Maybe you do not know a sub-saharan African but they are out there. You may notice them in sports. Take Loul Deng for example. I have seen him described as an African-American too many times. Loul Deng is not an African-American. He was born in Sudan (now South Sudan) and moved to Britain as a child and obtained citizenship there. He is British. He is African. He is black. He is not a freaking African-American.
Even if he obtains American citizenship, it solves nothing. He would be an African-American just like my very pale caucasian ass. Only by virtue of him being both African and an American citizen and not by virtue of his race. So please for god’s sake, stop calling people African-Americans unless they are actually African and American. It is not a race. Just two diverse locations.
All those black Americans you hope to describe as African-American are Americans who happen to be black or whatever color Crayola decides. They are likely to be more native to North America than you. And if you are concerned saying the word black is racist, think about how you are saying it rather than the word itself. But please leave Africa out of it. Its got enough problems and does not need to also carry America’s racial baggage.
To answer questions I keep getting about this post from people taking things too seriously:
Yes, I am well aware of the variety of non-black Africans in sub-saharan Africa and the presence of black Africans in North Africa (I’ve met many). I am speaking generally of the high percentage majorities in both.
No, I don’t view the African descendants of Europeans or wherever as less African than indigenous Africans. Like I view those who chose to emigrate to America as Americans, they are as African as I am African. Same for nationalities. Go Africa! Go America!
This is a personal analysis and rant. I am also aware I have blended concepts of race, ethnicity and nationality to reach my conclusions. I don’t care. I am a walking contradiction. The use of term African-American is dumb.
16 thoughts on “The Term African-American Is Stupid”
I don’t know where you got this strange idea that white people came up with and are perpetuating the term, as a way to be racist. Most white people I know, cringe at the term. We know it’s stupid. The term came about in 1988 when the race baiter Jesse Jackson held a news conference to urge Americans to use it to refer to blacks. So when we don’t use it, we are made to feel racist. But oh no, it’s racist and it’s all the white peoples fault! Can’t win. Racist if you use it, racist if you don’t
And the idea that many Americans can’t identity Canada on a map, is absurd. How many? 10? 20?
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I never said white people came up with it. I said it was propagated by pc stupidity and is attempt to change language to help mask symptoms of racism. I am paraphrasing myself but this should help with comprehension. I am aware of Jesse Jackson’s role.
As for Americans with geography, there are tons of examples of our geographic illiteracy: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10640690/Americans-surveyed-misunderstood-misrepresented-or-ignorant.html and http://recoilmag.com/poll-73-percent-of-americans-unable-to-locate-america-on-map-of-america-2/
Or you may have seen the countless times late night television does the routine where there ask basic questions to people on the street. By the numbers, I’d guess at least 10 to 20…million.
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A Negro is a Negro because their parents were Negros. Their parents were Negros . Their parents were Negros. That is what they are. Black in Roman,
Portuguese and Spanish are simply modern Latin.
ImHThere is some truth to this half wit rant, but let me correct him when he said that these so called caucasian africans been in africa for 90,000+ years. What was he smoking when he wrote this article. The real reason why north africa looks the way it do today is simply because of a series of invasions from Iran, Iraq, and other so called middle eastern countries around 600 A.D. They spreded out thoughout northern africa pushing the original africans out after a series of wars fought. So the originals africans often ignorantly refered as so called sub saharan africans were pushed to the areas south of the sahara desert. However, many black africans live in northern africa even to this day. Something he also missed is that not all americans are stupid. I’m black and i can say that im much more creative and intellegent than most so called caucasian north africans who really is no different than people refered as mullatoes since most north africans are half black or have black ancestery down the african gene pool. To sum it all up, most north africans are a mixed people no different than many latinos and the like. You made some good points about so called african americans, which i to find the term stupid. However, giving the history of race relations between africans and arabs, its clear you wanted to downplay your so called sub saharan african ancestry by making a pathetic rant about so called african americans. Cleary you dont know your own history, so therefore you is everybit as dumb as these stupid americans.
The article said 9000 years, not 90,000. The genealogy of Berbers is not some classified secret and you can research it yourself. I hate to break it to people who keep hoping to claim African history for only one particular race, but Berber empires existed long before 600AD, Christ, or even the Romans and ancient greeks…just like our neighbors in the Carthaginian (Tunisia) and Egyptian Empires…and no, the vast majority of ancient Egypt’s diverse and large empire was not black though the Nubians from Sudan were (part of Ancient Egypt) – go look at all the ancient art and statutes in the Louvre/British Museum if you lack sources. Egypt had 3500 years of white/brown/arab-looking pharaohs except for the brief 400 years when the Kings of Kush (Nubians) were able to rule.
Where did you even get this 600AD Iraqi/Iranian invasion stuff? Arabs have been nomads for longer than that and Iranians are Persians, not Arabs. Are you confusing them with the Moors? Either way, go look at depictions King Jugurtha, a Numidian king who fought the Romans around 125bc. Go look at Scippio Africanus, the Berber Roman general who handed Hannibal is final defeat and saved the Roman Empire.
GO STUDY SOME HISTORY OF THE WORLD!!! but before doing so, wipe away any politically-driven hopes and just learn.
My entire life, I have been encountering Americans who display a stunning lack of knowledge or misconceptions about Africa. I find it amazing how many people in this country hope/think that all Africans are black, don’t know a lick of its history, have never been to Africa, couldn’t name three African countries and don’t know a single actual African. And all the while, still acting like they do.
You really don’t understand this article at all, do you, my African-America friend?
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I’m African American and if you don’t like it you can kiss my butt !
No, You aren’t. Read the article and try to understand.
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Good afternoon, this was a great article id love to set up an email correspondence in order to have you on my podcast, how may i contact you?.
Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed it. The site provided me an email address with your comment’s IP info. I have sent a message to you. If not received, you can contact me on twitter @mehdimanseur
That is funny to me, is why people care so much as to what we African Americans call ourselves. Those that are Black and and wondering why the term is used please look up your history of Black people in the United States. Black is ok in. It’s casual sense, but it doesn’t make us more American because we use Black. Our history is more than just a color that can be used as a political identity. It’s broad just like African. We know we are Americans and proud of it! We also embrace our African heritage and understand we are an extension of African history also. The point is understanding the right to naming ourselves, the principle of self determination. During the Black Power Movement, the term Afro was the name of a hairstyle named after the people, which means of African descent. Afro-American didn’t catch on as much because some couldn’t separate it from the hairstyle and thought we were calling ourselves a hairstyle, which is ridiculous, when that term is used in other parts of the Americas.
If everyone would take the time to go back to the beginning of our history in the U.S. you would see that during the 1600s free blacks had farms named Angola for example. In the 1700s our ancestors called themselves Africans. Even if they had been here for generations and only spoke English or Dutch. Names like Quander/Quando, Cuffe,Cudjoe, Banneker etc. come from African names. Also in the 1700s you will see organizations and churches such as the African Methodist, African Baptist, Free African Society, Free African Schools, Masonic African Lodge,Absynian church etc.. 1800s Afro- American League, Afro American Newspaper, Hamitic League etc.
During the mid 1800s at the National Negro Convention, it was discussed to drop the term African from all organizations and churches and to fully use th term Negro or colored. The African Methodist refused to give up that part of history. After another century of being second class citizens, for survival reasons embraced Afican identity again.
What is amazing to me Jamaicans saying they are of African descent but not African. It’s my understanding that the colors of the Jamaican flag itself are Pan African colors which several Caribbean countries have African colors as well as African nations having the same colors.
When talking about Marcus Garvey and Claude McKay they have been honored for their work by African Americans. Garvey himself promoted an African identity and created an African flag and song. The flag had a great ceremony at Madison Square Garden in New York in the 1920s. We use those colors for Kwanzaa. Juneteenth, our Red, Black and Green banquets etc.. Don’t forget that some African Americans did settle in Jamaica after emancipation. While we all have our identipdiffernt histories, we must remember at the same time we have a shared history through the Middle Passage and the Carolinas and Louisiana had connections with the Caribbean also during slavery.
To say that your appalled and hurt by being called African America when you from the Caribbean is odd to me. I have been asked if I was African as in being continental and I merely corrected them, but for that to hurt or appall me wouldn’t enter my mind.
As far as North Africans, don’t think we are all ignorant in America. We know that Libya is part of the African Union and that Momarr Qudaffi thought of himself as African and that he was indigenous and was an Arabized Berber, not an Arab.
As for continentals hating we use the term African American, there are some and others that actually think we should embrace being African. People are so busy thinking none of us know anything about the continent that we wouldn’t know our commonalities. Try reading the book the differences between African and African Americans written by Ali Mazuri a continental African.
If you take the flag of Ghana they took the colors from Ethiopia as many countries did and he added a black star and called their soccer team the the Black All Stars that was influenced by Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey was influenced by Booker T Washington before he left Jamaica.
The African American embracing our history as had the effects of help keeping artistic crafts alive in Africa, rejuvenating the use of Kente Cloth. Fela Kuti of Nigeria re braced his African heritage because of the pride he saw in African American in the U.S..
As for being mixed ancestry, we have always known that. In many cases that has been shrouded in pain by the rejection of the white side of the family. Over time we yet again embraced being African. President Obama doesn’t use the identity to appease black people, it’s his personal experience that gives him a Black identity, it’s not a rejection of his white ancestry by any means.
Please research the people that your so critical about.
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What amazes me is Black Americans calling themselves African American and stating that as a White person born and raised, with generations of ancestors born and raised here seem to believe they have more right to be here than me. I would assure you most Black Americans would not survive here for Month on the streets of Joburg. I’m White and I’m African and I’m here to stay. So put that in your Pumpkin pie and eat it
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You just don’t get it, There is no, “African-American”. Its a made up term. You could be from Sudan like the article said and then became an American citizen. Its the same as saying you are a “South American-American”. Africa is 60 countries, the US is one. If you aren’t smart enough to figure that out, than you just don’t understand how stupid the phrase, “African-American” is. Oh wait, Nelson Mandela was your former President.
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Liked this article a lot. I am Jamaican and do not understand when I am visiting America why people refer to me as African-American. I immediately tell them I am not American, so how can I be African-American? They say Oh yeah, you’re Jamaican, it’s different. Yes, but that’s still not my race. I don’t understand why it’s Ok to say white but not Ok to say black. Black is the best way to describe the race, and the term hasn’t been sullied by racism so it seems like the best one to use. I wonder when they were coming up with African-American, how no one in the room said, but there are black people in other countries? Have you ever heard someone being called African-Canadian? Or African-British? I’m really not sure how America gets so many things right but keeps fucking up when it comes to race and racial inequality.
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I enjoyed this piece. As an American, it stung. Yet you’re assessment is fair and I cannot disagree with the absurdity of our ‘political correctness.’ It is a miserable bandage to place upon our nation’s most ghastly scars.
Also, we do not learn of Africa. When we do, it is under the pro-business banner. In this fashion, the people are led to believe that Western companies operating out of Africa are their for Africa’s own benefit. These stories are reported with strangely straight faces. And of course, there was the Ebola terror…
And to think, at one time, Black was beautiful. It was a badge of honor for Blacks. It was ok to say, ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud!’ Not that the sentiment is gone, but it is imprisoned in the walls of political correctness. Now, it’s almost better to say nothing controversial at all than to actually search for answers. The court of public opinion is easily swayed, and reputations are hard to rebuild. And so most leaders march with the pack.