Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Black is beautiful, African American is not!

I have a problem with the term "African American." In fact, i hate using it to describe folks of African descent and am much more comfortable referring to them as black people. Most of my black friends agree.

Says Pam, "I don't use African-American unless quoting someone else. You're correct that this is some sort of politically correct moniker."

While chatting with Pam I suggested that "African American" is an expression used by white people to make themselves feel/look more culturally sensitive. Further, I hardly ever hear blacks refer to themselves as "African American." Frankly, blacks never really embraced the expression.

They're no more comfortable with "African American" than I would be with "European American." Not only does the term itself sound clunky, it's just bizarre making a reference to the continent of my ancestor's birth to describe myself. This is not to suggest I'm not proud of my Irish heartige, quite the contrary. But for others to characterize me in ways (and with words) I would never use to describe myself makes me wonder how black feel about being referred to as "African American" by white people. And the feedback I got indicated they are not offended with the term "black."

Besides, the moniker is totally illogical, as Miss Pam points out, "It makes no sense - white Charlize Theron, born in South Africa, should, based on that definition, be African American. It's so stupid." I agree.

Where do you fall on this one?

(Click pic of African-born Oscar winner Charlize Theron with former South African President Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg)

11 comments:

liberal elite said...

I think it's interesting that you have this reaction to the term especially since it was specifically coined by some black people (I believe Jesse Jackson was instrumental in getting it wide appeal) to address the fact that all the terms for them came from Whites (i.e, colored, negro, black, etc.).

Onanite said...

I call friends of mine who are black, black. I do this rarely as the people I know are just people, and I usually do not refer to people's racial background. My partner is jewish, but I don't introduce him as my Jewish partner.

I had a friend in lawschool that used to introduce me at every get together as his "gay" friend. I finally had to ask him to stop. Sure a part of me was gay, but I had hoped to just be his "friend" when introduced.

Onanite

Bearette24 said...

i find it clunky, too.

Chicago_Sexbox said...

I just call them "darkies"....ok, I am just kidding! Seriously though, I just say "black". African American sounds just as how you described it: some suburban white person trying to come off as being culturally sensitive.

Jami said...

I say "black". Also, why is it "African-American" (a whole damned continent) but only "Irish-" or "Italian-American" (just a single country)? And now I've even heard "Muslim-American"! I agree that it's all just so white folks can feel better about being sensitive. Frankly, I like my 5-year-old daughter's approach - she just calls folks whatever color they really are. She's got pink friends and tan friends and brown friends and chocolate friends, but she doesn't have any black friends.

Schadenfreude said...

I've said it before, if we could all please continue to boink all other races besides our own, we'll eventually all be beige and this will be a non-issue. I'm doing my part with my wife who is a Polack-Limey-Guido-American.

I've always liked the term "black" for the majority of situations. Though for some special occasions, my family and certain friends are fond of using the term "Negro" -- it's like bringing back the word "groovy".

Angry said...

It's not simply black and white, there's a large grey area to this too...

Sitting here in Australia, I can only go on what I saw in the media as it evolved, but I was always under the impression that a term was needed to allow everyone (and I guess that meant white people) could refer to black people without any of the racial baggage that came with the then widely used terms such as negro, nigger and even boy. But surely the term is used mainly as a reference and not as an introduction, we don’t introduce our partner as “my Jewish partner” but we may refer to them as such when it’s relevant and the subject matter requires it.

Speaking of ‘boy’ as a term for black males, I remember during an Aussie TV awards show in 1979 where Mohammed Ali was a special guest presenter, the show’s host, Bert Newton, made a gaffe; Bert at the time, had a ‘tag line’ that he was well known for that was delivered in a ‘Colonel Sanders’ style, you know, of KFC fame, in a deep southern accent. This line was delivered after an amusing banter with Ali, Bert faced the audience and said “I LIKE THE BOY”. The expected audience laughter was replaced by a deadly silence, everyone in the room except Bert realized how inappropriate it was. Ali immediately saw that it was not intended as a racial jibe and said “Hold it, hold it… Did you say Roy?” Bert, with a look of confusion, said “NO, I said boy… I like the boy” and as Ali repeated “Roy, you said Roy” offering Bert a life-line, Bert was looking around and saying “what’s wrong with boy…?” and it was about then that the penny finally dropped. Ali was simply so graceful about the whole thing that I’m sure this incident raised the collective respect for him by Aussies to a new height.

Here, and I think it’s mainly the Aboriginals that do it, but here it’s Black Fella and White Fella (‘fella’ being Aussie for ‘fellow’). This term somehow seems to carry less baggage.

But I must say that I like the way African Americans are reclaiming 'Nigger' as their own, it really takes the sting out of its tail don't you think?

Robguy said...

I just go with Black for the most part.

A story - I used to have a black roommate (1/2 black, 1/2 white). During the late 80's my sister had a habit of calling everything with a penis - boy. The first time she did it to my roommate I gave her a dirty look, and I could tell it bothered him. The second time she did it, I told her - you don't call a black man "boy". She looked shocked and said "He's Black?! I thought he was Greek."

Stephanie, in Victoria said...

In my family, I have an African-American cousin, an African-Canadian uncle (who technically is a Somalian-Canadian) and a brother-in-law who is African-African. Using "black" would be much simpler.

jay lassiter said...

schad said it best...
sooner or later we will all be the same color.

Maya's Granny said...

I live in Alaska and about 15% of the population in my area is Tlingit. They prefer that if you don't know their tribe, you call them Indians. This Native American thing seems artificial. Seems good to me -- call people what they want to be called.