Black vs. African-American- which do you use?

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Lady Sabine, Feb 1, 2014.


What is your favored term?

  1. Black.

    22 vote(s)
  2. African-American.

    2 vote(s)
  3. Something vague and politically correct, like People of Color

    0 vote(s)
  4. Something else entirely (Please please please comment with what you use)

    1 vote(s)
  5. Something politically incorrect/considered offensive

    2 vote(s)
  6. I just wanted to push a button.

    4 vote(s)
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  1. Recently, my Human Geography class had a pretty interesting discussion of these terms. Culture, Race, & Ethnicity, neither term really encompasses everything accurately. African-American works great if you're talking about culture. For race, Negroid is the "correct" term, but no one is going to say that out loud in public. For ethnicity, there are an endless number of potentially correct responses, of which I think just plain old "American" probably applies to the majority.

    Now, personally, I use the term "black". Why? Because their skin is black. That's the only difference I see between white people and black people.
    Also, because the first ancestor I can trace came to America in ~1860, so I'm pretty sure most "African-Americans" can find a family history of being here longer. If we're gonna play the "you came second, you have preface your American with something" game, I'm going to lose.
    Third, because I can count every black person in town on my fingers and none of them have ever seen Africa. There's a white girl in my grade whose parents moved from South Africa a few years before she was born. Fairly speaking, she is the most African person in my school. I'm pretty sure situations like this aren't uncommon.
    Fourth, because this leaves the question of what to call non-American, non-African black people. African Chinese? African Brits? There was this one absolutely painful interview (from the London Olympics, maybe?) of an American reporter interviewing a black British athlete. She asked him what it was like being African-American in the international sports community. He was just standing there awkwardly trying to explain that he wasn't American, and she was there awkwardly trying to find another term that was socially acceptable.
    And lastly, because I don't think anything should come before the word "American". I think history has proved time and time again that putting modifiers on this word just ends badly. Once you come to this country, you're one of us. European, Latin American, Asian, African, what-have-you, this is 'Murica. I would be pissed if everyone prefaced my American-ness with the continent my ancestors left generations ago, and I'm going to follow the golden rule on this one.

    Now, I get that this isn't the most politically correct term. I'll probably need to explain myself on this one more than once. But, personally, I find its the best and most correct term I've heard thus far. What do you think, Iwaku? I'd love to hear the opinions of people with different experiences on this. ^^ I'm not going to pretend that growing up in a town that's 99% Caucasian hasn't skewed my perspective at least a little, and if I sound like a racist Texan stereotype, I'd like to know now. XD
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  2. "Most of all, I dislike this idea nowadays that if you're a black person in America, then you must be called African-American. Listen, I've visited Africa, and I've got news for everyone: I'm not an African. The Africans know I'm not an African. I'm an American. This is my country. My people helped to build it and we've been here for centuries. Just call me black, if you want to call me anything." - Whoopi Goldberg, The Daily Telegraph, 20 April 1998

    If I recall correctly, she once said, also, that she would rather be called a [REDACTED] or a [REDACTED] than be called African-American. But that's just one person.

    My thoughts: Black people are black. Sorry, PC people. African-American is presumptuous in so many ways. How do you know they're American? How do you know if a person identifies has African? Personally, I've never met a black person that insisted on being called African-American. That's what people on TV do. It's not... real.

    Grain of salt time: As you can see in my quick profile, I'm from a city called Colonial Heights. It has been famously called Colonial Whites. Even now, the city is 89% white. Back when it was still supposedly socially acceptable to be overtly racist, the city uprooted the only land-owning black family in the city under the facade of "Hey, we want to build a park here. You know, kind of right where you're living now. You know how it is." Oy.

    On the phrase "people of color," it sounds far too much like colored people, which if I recall, was never really a nice thing to call anyone. Why it's the politically correct phrase du jour, I have no idea.

    Dujour means seat belts!
    Dujour means crash positions!
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  3. I think you should be able to call yourself whatever you want. I've had black friends who've associated with everything from black, African-American, Hispanic, and White. Did I think any of them were wrong? No. So what if you're not the race you identify with? What if you didn't come from Africa? What if you're not really White, but feel that way because both of your parents were? So what if one of your parents was Hispanic and the other Black and you wanted to be Hispanic and not black or African-American?

    America is too caught up in being PC sometimes. Live and let live. We need to let go of the past which restrains us. (Though not forget it, just let it go and be done)
    #3 WesteriaVale, Feb 1, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
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  4. It depends on what the person uses to describe themselves honestly. If I'm speaking in general terms then it's either black or POC (person of colour.) African American seems a bit silly to me since, well, not every black person is from Africa.
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  5. I tend to say Black, Negro, or Negroid, depending on my intent. Casually, I will use Black. In jest or mild propriety, I will use Negro. Any situation in which I would say "Caucasian" for a white person will draw me to using Negroid.

    My reasoning is, Black is the informal, Negro is the formal, and Negroid is the scientific. Black being widely accepted, Negro being somewhat ambiguous, although it has been used by numerous Civil Rights Activists during the movement. Negroid of course simply notes someone of African descent, as Caucasian notes someone of European (or Caucasus Mountain region) descent.
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  6. I totally agree with everyone that self-identification should be respected first. ^^ Obviously, each individual can identify themselves as they please. My main problem is putting an entire race under a somewhat misleading and vaguely insulting catchall term. Glad to hear that I'm not the only one that thinks the entire concept of "African-American" is a little ridiculous. The only reason I hesitate to use Negroid is how easy it is to mishear, or misunderstand- and I'm not calling my white friends Caucasians.

    Also, Colonial Whites. XD Wish my town's name was that easy to modify. The only thing we've got going as far as racial stereotyping in the town is that our high school used to be the Hillbillies. That was declared non-PC back in the seventies(?) and we became the Battlin' Billies, which is not nearly as much fun. (though the goat-poking jokes still run rampant)

    I think my school of 1,000 is ~23-29% Hispanic. We have two Chinese kids (one who is completely assimilated and indistinguishable from the rest of the Catholic school crowd & one whose family runs the only Chinese restaurant- he came over earlier this year and speaks more Spanish than English), an Indian senior (from India, not Amerindian, and tries her best to act completely white), a half-black sophomore (enjoys the stereotypes and does his best to prove them right; is unfortunately short and only decent at basketball), and a black kid in special ed (zero language ability but always smiling and loves high-fives; not entirely sure where he fits in the cultural scale). Those are our minorities. I kind of wish I was kidding, but I can count everyone who isn't Caucasian on one hand.
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  7. A few of my best and closest friends are black. They prefer black, but since they are half white I tease them with the term "Mulatto" from time to time. I can even say that terribly racist word that isn't so nice around them. But it's just them, and only them. I would never do that to someone else because I haven't literally grown up with them since the age of five like I have with my friends.

    Usually I just use the term "black". If someone wants to correct me then while I am with them I use that term. I use the same general principle with race as I do with gender. I'll call you whatever you want me to call you and I would hope you do the same.
  8. If it's absolutely relevant and necessary for me to mention the person's ethnicity, I use the term black. It has fewer syllables and I am lazy. Also, like Scrap Iron said, African-American involves making assumptions. We all know what happens when you assume. :P

    LET ME. KNOWLEDGE BOMB ALL OVER THE GODDAMN PLACE. Fuck this not-knowing bullshit, all of this is not new. It's been written about, extensively and academically for a very, very long-ass time.


    Now on the actual topic

    The African diaspora is fucking large as shit spread across all over the goddamn globe. But in the context of the U.S. African-Americans can be black but not all blacks are African-American. Some grew up in or subscribe to a black [american] identity while others, predominantly 1st, 2nd and occasionally 3rd generation African immigrants/their descendants still hold close to their ethnic roots be it Ghanaian, Kenyan, Nigerian, Somalian etc. because that's that part of them that they hold importance to. Hyphenated identity Became A Thing because for the longest time even up until present day the mold of 'American' did not fit into us and so hyphenation became a way to reconcile and to embrace an aspect that for many would and has alienated them from others.

    Goddamn, ain't none of this is new. At, thefuck, all. No one runs up on a scientist trying to get into a discussion about... I dunno photonic applications in, like... fuckin' laser surgery by saying how the sky's blue because of the sun's light getting refracted kinda 101 introductory level bullshit. But this subject, always, in particular, gets people flouncing around with shit and ain't no one seemed to have read academically on this shit when there are literal wings in libraries in universities full of dissertations, essays, decades long studies, and thesis papers focusing on this shit.

    Fuck's sake. Everyone wanna feel smart and so observant for pointing out the black ranger was black and the yellow ranger was asian in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers but the minute other folk wanna talk some shit about the casting choices of the live action Avatar: the Last Airbender or The Hunger Games suddenly it's, "omg u gaiz not evrything is about race!!!1!" Folk wanna walk that walk just as long as it doesn't take them into the neighborhood. Pffff.



    #9 Kooriryu, Feb 1, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
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  10. Um. So your point being that... well, I don't know what you're trying to say. Maybe that everyone is an academic, and that everyone feels that way perhaps because of the academics of it? You make it sound like we're treating it as cut and dry, while you're presenting a cut and dry argument yourself, or at least that's what it seems like.

    I don't know what you're trying to do, shame people because heaven forbid they're not scholars? Make people feel bad because they can't tell the difference between two peoples' facial structures at first glance and be able to tell their genetic origin?

    Half of what you seem to be arguing against hasn't even been brought up. So, no. Knowledge bomb? More like a hate bomb. Certainly everyone that's ever interacted with someone that has a different shade of skin has read up on it all and of course anyone that dislikes certain terms or phrases used to describe a person always does so for the exact same reason. Of course.

    In the article/video, the woman herself admits that they've done a crappy job of communicating what "people of color" means and who came up with the idea to begin with. And then she puts it in a way that makes it sound like it should be used as an "us versus them" mentality.

    If I see someone on the street for the first time, how am I supposed to know how they self-identify? Really.

    As for the thing about Avatar and The Hunger Games, I don't recall anyone saying it's not about race. In fact, isn't it two different things in each movie? In the first, some clearly non-white characters are portrayed by extremely white people, and in the other, a character whose race or skin color is never mentioned is portrayed by a dark-skinned person. For the first example, people got upset because they wanted to see characters that were screen accurate (e.g., non-white), and in the latter, the only people that made any remark at all were assholes that seemingly wanted to live in a world where the default race is white, and thus anyone that isn't outright described as something else should be white, again by default. I don't recall anyone at all reacting the way you've described.

    Should I be shit on for being ignorant of the minutiae of this? I should hope not. I'm not doing so willfully.

    Should I be demonized for trying my best to accomodate with the knowledge I'm given? Again, I hope not.

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  11. Why is this such a big deal to anyone? Why should you refer to someone differently because of a separate color of skin? I'm using "you" as an in-general term.

    I think of it this way. Do I refer all people who have to use a wheelchair as "cripples"? Do I refer to people who are different to me in any way the "outsider?" Who cares what you call someone. A man is a man. Instead of saying 'that black guy', why can't we all say 'that guy'? Is there really no other descriptive words you can use? I guess I'm bad too, as I use whatever else others use occasionally. I try not to. This should really stop being so deeply ingrained. When it is, you won't have to worry about being correct. Why? Because then nobody will be wrong.

    Whatever, just my two cents. Make what you will of it, this is my opinion.
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  12. Speaking of this, I recently had a moment when I was retelling a story and was about to refer to one of my friends as " one of my <ethnicity> friends" when I thought to myself "does this person's ethnicity have anything to do with the story?" The answer was no, so I just referred to him as a friend.
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  13. See? And that's how it should be thought of if you can help it. In the long run, race doesn't matter. Just personality.
  14. As a black person, I'm fine with calling my fellow folks black, negro, person of color, whatever depending on the context.

    I prefer non-black people just use 'black'. Listening to white people say anything different really comes across as them trying to be too politically correct.
    Like, dude, don't worry. Calling us black isn't hurting anything.

    Besides, not all blacks are African American. What about Haitian/Caribbean/Afro-Dominicans etc? You can't exactly tell us apart by eye so just save yourself the confusion.

    Calling me 'colored' will get you a chop in the throat though.
  15. I have never called anyone ___-American, cause that's dumb. >:[ If you were born in America or have become a citizen, you're American. There is no reason to hyphen your genetics or former nationality in there. x__x Do they even do that in other countries? It's one of those weird things I've never got. (Koori's info-dump was a nice insight to the history of hows/whys though.)

    I will always say black guy, asian guy, white guy, etc, etc when I am describing someone. If I know something more specific, I will say that instead. Korean guy, mexican guy, jamaican guy, british etc. Cause people's appearance will be different depending on location and you'll get a better idea of their appearance that way.

    Otherwise, unless there is reason to mention it, or I am really trying to paint a picture, there's no reason to throw that info in there! Kinda like, there's no reason to bring up someone's sexuality, political stance, type of shoes, pet fetishes, or that other nonsense. o__o It's gotta be relevant to the convo.
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  16. @Kooriryu
    While your material raises some good questions and has some good points, there are also a multitude of inaccuracies and other things that are distinctly wrong or racist. I'll just address the videos for now, since they are the things that strike me as glaringly wrong.

    Man, the entire "women of color" thing just pisses me off. Why? Because the entire thing is "if you're not white, you can be one of us". FUCK THAT. Fuck that, in every way possible. That is the exact idea why racism isn't dying. Because I'm White and Because You're Not White is the same fucking shit. If it's okay to discriminate against people for being white, it's okay to discriminate for being non-white. You can't say that "our animal shelter provides shelter for every type of dog except pitbulls" and then say you're about dog equality and making life better for all dogs everywhere.
    And then the PC Police. First they act like the word "retarded" has always been used as a derogatory slur. Knowledge grenade: it was the "PC" way to describe any number of people suffering from serious mental disability for quite a long time. After acknowledging the fact that "retarded" is offensive because of it's changed definition, they then go on to claim that the word "bitch" has a very narrow definition and cannot possibly be used to refer to anything else. Because words, clearly, are not in a constant and rapid state of change. Because language is the same today as it was twenty years ago, or two hundred years ago, or will be in another twenty, fifty, or one hundred. Because we should just abandon any word that has been misused, declare it taboo, and never touch it again. I firmly identify with one of the multitude of definitions of the word "bitch". As a strong-willed woman who will fight to get her way and has no qualms about "busting balls" to get shit done, I fit it perfectly. That isn't the only definition, but I'm not going to abandon a word because one of its uses disagrees with me. I'd have to leave "fuck" in the dust in that case, because it has more fucking uses than I can even think of.

    Now, about the entire "this has been extensively studied" bullshit. Great, you know everything there is to know. It's so nice to know that there are some people in this world who already know everything, are perfectly correct, and cannot learn or understand anything new from discussion. That's really great. ^^
    But the entire idea that things which have already been addressed should be ignored is FUCKING RETARDED, to use a non-PC phrase. Race issues are changing. The entire American identity and experience is changing. Language is changing. PEOPLE are changing. This is a modern, current, and lingering problem that we should NEVER ignore or accept what has been previously found as correct and right. The slaveowners of the old South doubtlessly would agree with you that "this is old hat, we don't need to discuss this again, its already been settled!".

    TL;DR though some of what was posted is good shit, some (videos in particular) is bullshit.

    Simple answer: because it's a distinct group of people that sometimes are set apart from the rest of the population, especially in history. Should we look back at the Civil War and say that Abraham Lincoln declared "those guys" who had been slaves in rebelling states were now free? Or that "those guy" students qualify for certain scholarships/aid while "these other guy" students don't? Ignoring differences is just as wrong as deciding they're the end-all and be-all. No one here is saying that race should be the primary identifying factor, but it is significant.
    The story example is a good one. If race doesn't matter, leave it out. But if you're talking about two friends and you don't want to use their names, "my white friend" and "my black friend" are an easy way to tell people apart. Or when describing people in movies. "Primrose is Katniss' sister and Rue is the black girl she makes friends with in the arena", for example, would be a good way to help a friend to distinguish between two girls of similar age, build, and plot device.
    When the easiest distinguishing factor is race, use it. Otherwise, it can usually be ignored. ^^ That's pretty much my theory on it.
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  17. Unless "race" is specifically asked about, I avoid using it to distinguish someone.

    Not sure how this is such a tragically difficult concept for some.
  18. 1) And I'm afraid that shouldn't be the way things are. Even in the past, it was even more wrong the way people were discriminated against. the world has become better bit by bit, but once we leave stereotypes, and race names behind, I believe we can all avoid having to try to be "right"

    2) This also shouldn't be a thing. But it is. "We are going to give these people scholarships because we pity them as a whole, and we want to look good as a school by helping these struggling people." Bullshit. They can be just as worthy as anyone else, and it's been proven time and time again. The thing holding them back the most is the stereotypes everyone has. once everyone can get over themselves and stop looking down on them, we can move on, and have students who aren't pressured into being stupid.

    3) I'm not saying to ignore differences. If anything, everyone should recognize and accept them as a whole. A world full of the same people with no differences is a dull world. However, everyone shouldn't let that be a defining factor for people.

    4) again, race shouldn't have to be the easiest factor to refer to people by, but, still, I understand. Some people need that as a factor because it's the easiest to understand for them at the time. I've got nothing against that, and I don't expect it to go away easily.
  19. Revisionist history is a scary, scary thing. Combine that with complete censorship of certain words, and I think it's a recipe for disaster. :/ If we choose to make scientific & sensitive discussion taboo, to pinkwash race names from our lexicon, we're opening the door for a repeat of the past. We need to allow discussion and ideas so that we know what we have to avoid. The solution to preventing war is not to make the word "war" illegal, or to ban discussion of past conflicts. Why would we try to escape racism by making race a dirty word?

    I agree that it's bullshit; unfortunately for us bullshit exists. We can't remove the idea by removing the word.

    So, race shouldn't be the easiest factor to refer to people by. What do you suggest we use to differentiate strangers of different race, then?
  20. Related to identifying someone's race:

    In this instance, the Black Student Union at the University of Minnesota have decided that it's racial profiling to mention the race of a suspect in campus security's crime reports. The BSU claims that the black students feel threatened when they are supposedly lumped in with a criminal if they share the same skin color.

    It's an easy to spot descriptor. What are you going to do? Being the same race as a criminal doesn't make you a criminal. I don't get it.
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