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.