General Question

rockfan's avatar

Do you think the term “black” will be an outdated way to refer to African-Americans in the near future?

Asked by rockfan (11360points) May 17th, 2018 from iPhone

Calling Asians “yellow” and Native Americans “red” is deemed offensive, but why not black?

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46 Answers

SergeantQueen's avatar

I don’t know and I don’t care. Most of them don’t even have 1% African in them, after generations of being born in America. If they are people from Africa, then yeah, I’d call them African Americans. But if they aren’t From Africa, or African why would I? Doesn’t make sense.
People I’ve talked to didn’t care. They either refer to themselves as that or don’t mind I say it when talking about current events, etc. and they never corrected me.
If someone did then sure I’d stop saying it around that particular person.

And I’m sure the N word is in the same plane as saying calling Asians yellow or Native Americans red. Doesn’t have to do with it being a color word.

IMO, calling someone black is the same as saying Asain. It’s a describing word and it’s not offensive.

SergeantQueen's avatar

But, of course, I’m white. So what can I really say about what is offensive to another race?

ragingloli's avatar

No, because unlike members of the melanin enriched persuasion, natives did not call themselves “reds”, and asians did not refer to themselves as “yellow”.

zenvelo's avatar

One syllable always wins out over 7. And African Americans describe themselves as Black, although often in an ironic way (i.e., “walking while Black, driving while Black).

But it would be better all around if we just call each other “people”.

Jeruba's avatar

Well, they adopted it for themselves in the 1960s with the “Black is beautiful” movement, and others learned to use it in place of terms that had been stuck on them. Other groups have done the same thing: chosen their own group label and asked others to get used to it. It only seems respectful to call people what they want to be called, although, as with anything else, there are reasonable limits.

For myself, I never picked “white” and have never been comfortable with it, even as a child, when I could see quite plainly (before fully acquiring the prevailing social norms) that I wasn’t white at all. I was fine being called a girl—except when I was wishing I were a boy—but I didn’t see a benefit to any of the other categories.

Yellowdog's avatar

All black people refer to themselves as black.
Only black government officials or political rallies or at press releases do blacks use the term African American.

Whites refer to blacks as Black, or African American if they think its polite.

My general feeling is to refer to African American to AVOID using the term “black person” but to use ‘black’ as an adjective (e.g. black congregations, black communities)

Yellowdog's avatar

The term “Black” should always be capitalized as the NAME of an ethnic group, My bad.

johnpowell's avatar

Take a step back. You are kinda losing your shit.

kritiper's avatar

No. Skin color is a great way to describe someone, if you must, and all people do it.
REPEAT: If you must!
No need to capitalize “black;” they are Negros.

flutherother's avatar

It depends how the word is used. If it’s used respectfully it might last but if it is used in a derogatory way its days will be numbered.

johnpowell's avatar

I love these questions… They are where I learn who to not help with their computer problems.

Yellowdog's avatar

Kritiper: “Black” and “Negro” are same thing, different language. If you capitalize one you capitalize the other. We call people what they WANT to be called if it falls in the pale of being an accurate or justifiable description.

The term ‘Negro’ is archaic and harkens back to Jim Crow days—I would only use it in describing WORLD races—in a blasse academic list that included designations such as Arab and Pacific Islander. Not to be used as the race of an individual. The world race described is Sub Saharan African or a person who looks or describes themselves that way

Black and Sub Saharan African are best—Negro if you must. Such a person may be neither African or American

johnpowell's avatar

Or we could just go with neighbors, comrades, friends….

kritiper's avatar

@Yellowdog We speak English here.
The word “black,” according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., is not capitalized when used to refer to a person’s skin color. (So, if capitalized, would be incorrect.)
Also, “Negro,” when used as a noun or adjective, is not considered offensive, unless so implied by the user.
If one was to capitalize the word “black” when describing a person, one must also capitalize white, red, bronze, yellow, tan, etc., etc., and any other color that comes along to describe people in general, and is so used by people in general.
People call me white. So what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, with nothing offensive being expressed or implied by this person.
Right or wrong, what you might express or imply is your business.
If it seems that I offend, and/or intend to offend, it is possibly a misunderstanding, or a intended misunderstanding, nothing more.

kritiper's avatar

I suppose if the word “black” were to be capitalized, to avoid offending anyone, maybe the words tall, short, fat, skinny, man, woman, etc., should be capitalized, too. Where would it all end???

JLeslie's avatar

I’m pretty sure the PC term is African American right now, but I always ask what the person prefers if I’m in a conversation that requires using one of the terms. 90% of the time the African American person I’m talking to says they prefer the term black.

African American has its problems. All the people I know why came to the US from Africa Within the last 40 years are white.

MrGrimm888's avatar

I think the African-American community has bigger fish to fry.

I also would opine it’s kind of a petty thing to be concerned about. A racist old black man once called me “pink.” He had a hateful look on his face, when he said it. I honestly don’t usually get offended, but that stuck with me. I can never say, that I know what it’s like to be a black person, and be called the “N” word. But I feel like how he made me feel was probably similar. I guess I felt like I didn’t deserve his racism. Then it occurred to me that nobody deserves it. He probably hated white people, because of his life experiences. I give him a pass on hurting my feelings, and a thank you, for perspective.

You see, I met him when I was a (terrible) car salesman.
I greated him, as he was walking through the lot. He was immediately abrasive, and every question I asked him, he gave a snide remark and a scowl.

I asked him what kind of vehicle he was looking for, trying to simply get somewhere with him. He said “I don’t know! ” Again with a scowl. So I asked him what color vehicle he prefers. He asked me “what color do I look?” I was pretty sure that regardless of my answer, it would be wrong. So , I redirected again, and asked “well, what color do I look like? ” He glanced up and down at me, and with a scowl he said “you look pink to me….”

He then said. I’m “black.”

So…. Even a very racist man of color, reffered to himself as “black.”

Will it fade away from language? Of course. Either all humans will be a shade of brown, through inner breeding, or language will simply change over time.

Nothing lasts forever.

JLeslie's avatar

^^I’m annoyed with car salesmen even if they look like they could be my twin sister. Lol. But, I appreciate the point you are making. I’m not sure if he was racist or just didn’t trust you, and felt like you were going to ask him all those ridiculous questions about how much he wants to spend per month, try to keep him imprisoned in the dealership for hours, and do that T/O BS with your manager and the negotiating ridiculousness. I once had a salesperson look me in the face after we were there just a few minutes, and he said to me, “you hate this don’t you?” I was a little shocked, and then I answered, “yes, I do.”

MrGrimm888's avatar

^Yeah. I get the salesperson thing. After a few minutes talking with him, I went and got a black salesman. He sold him a truck…

JLeslie's avatar

@MrGrimm888 I give you credit for giving the sale to the black guy. I hope he returned the favor eventually. Or, were you able to split the commission?

SavoirFaire's avatar

I think it’s much more likely that “black” will become dominant and that “African American” will fall to the wayside. For one, “black” seems to have spread naturally, whereas “African American” was more of a conscious effort. For another, not all black people identify as African. One of my father’s coworkers is from Trinidad, and he always used to say that he was black, Caribbean, and Trinidadian, but that he was not African. And lastly, not all black people are Americans. If the only term you have to refer to people within a particular range of skin tones is “African American,” then what are you going to call black people in Europe or Asia who have never been to any of the Americas? What are you going to call actual Africans?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Not anymore than the term “white” will be outdated when speaking of caucasians.
I tend to agree with above. It’s easy to see when you turn it around, how ridiculous would it be to call a white person “European american” how about just “american.” Race and ethnicity will probably disappear into the melting pot here ahead of most other places anyway.

JLeslie's avatar

We screw around with these things in common usage all the time. America uses “Asian” to mean East Asian, what we used to refer to as the Orient or Oriental, but the way I had always defined it was anywhere or anyone on the Asian continent. In fact, my UK friend does refer to Indian and Pakistani people as Asian. That makes more sense to me then what I hear in America.

I assume African American developed as an effort to not focus on the color of skin, but rather on national background similar to saying Italian-America, but African American is listed under race still on forms and on the census for that matter, so how is it not a racial term? I think the census listed black, African American and negro. I don’t remember for sure on this last one.

Maybe the problem is Americans suck all too often at geography, and overall knowledge of people around the world.

@ARE_you_kidding_me I use European white sometimes to define the American I’m talking about. White comes in a lot of packages, and Americans in many more packages. Rarely does the need come up, but I don’t assume an American is a “California girl” type. My Hispanic husband of Mediterranean descent is white and American, and so am I, but we have very different features.

LostInParadise's avatar

We all came from Africa originally. Singling out blacks as being African American denies them a history that can include ancestors from around the world. The term black will win out.

rockfan's avatar


Why is this such a terrible question?

JLeslie's avatar

@LostInParadise I think the original intent was that black Americans had been denied their history. Many don’t know which country in Africa they came from, some feel their ancestors were converted to the white religion, Christianity. They feel they were not able to carry forward their traditions and language, so those things were lost. Giving them the title/identity African American was an attempt to acknowledge their ancestry.

However, I will say that many black peoples I’ve spoken to assume all white people know all of their national origin, and traditions, and came here freely, but many people don’t know their family history well, whites in history have been forced to change religion in other countries, and many white people suffered through horrible times in their previous country, and lived in very difficult conditions when they first came to America. I do think there is a difference being bought and sold, then fleeing a bad situation while you still have freedom, but I feel like some assumptions are incorrect and idealized.

Yellowdog's avatar

When I was in second grade, I remember a boy named Glenn who said we were “pink” (Peachy pink) and that the only thing ‘wrong’ with Black people is that God left them in the oven too long. This was his explanation for racial differences.

The question is a matter of how you like your humans done. Rare or Medium or Well Done?

LostInParadise's avatar

@JLeslie , Your point is well taken, but in time blacks will be creating a history of migrations between countries outside of Africa. Their African ancestry will decrease in importance.

janbb's avatar

I try to call people the term they use to self-identify. It may take me a while to adjust to using a new term, but I get there in time. So it’s not my problem to worry about when a term might become obsolete; I’d rather try to make sure that Black lives matter.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

No. I don’t say AA, I say black people, white people. I’m German American and my children are American. I don’t expect to be called German American. Black people in America are Americans, like me, excluding of course people not born here and not naturalized. I also call Indians Indians.

MrGrimm888's avatar

@JLeslie . No returned favor. No split commission. Is what it is…

Yellowdog's avatar

I think they WANT to be a distinct group or culture. Given the HISTORY of the States, I think its OK to keep demographics and stats on Black Americans as a distinct group for progress or special needs as a demographic group

MrGrimm888's avatar

Well. In America, the blacks had to build a culture. The most important thing was to rewire their communities to value themselves. They needed to come together to thrive, or even have a chance. They had to refer to themselves as something.

Later, they had to form associations, to fight for their rights.

JLeslie's avatar

@MrGrimm888 I don’t know. I’d say it’s very tricky. Part of my strong identity as a Jew is I have no choice, because society, especially the haters, mark me as a Jew no matter what I do. I think if society was blind to race and religion, it would be completely different for minorities. I think lots of labels would go away, the need for statistics would go away, the need to help your own would go away, and everyone would be just one group of human beings.

Strong feelings about identity I think are more of a reaction than anything. I think what @Yellowdog said about blacks wanting to be a distinct group is interesting. Supposedly, groups that have pridecanout their culture tend to do well in America. Black pride was maybe an attempt at that. As I write this, I’m just wondering how deliberate that movement was back in the 70’s and 80’s. I’m not so sure they WANT a distinct culture, not all of them. Not if parts of the culture are destructive in some ways.

Building a culture is an interesting way to look at it though. A friend of mine was offered a job in Atlanta, and her boss told her it would be great for her and her family, because of the black culture there. I remember her thinking out loud to me whether she was ok with that expression, let alone whether that was attractive to her. She didn’t move in the end, but for a myriad of reasons.

The same friend of mine was pissed 25 years ago when there was a few articles in some magazines about Ebonics. She thought it was ridiculous to call it a real language and try to give it status. She herself once in a while sounds a little “black” but she knows she isn’t using that when going on an interview. There are some other things she likes and does that are stereotypical black, but overall, what she identifies with, is educated professionals regardless of race. She also happens to be a religious Catholic.

I think the big divider (I’m not talking about politics, I’m talking about paychographics and cultural norms) in our country is social class, not race, ethnicity, or religion. That’s true in most countries, but in America we come from a history of being loathe to discuss it. I think it stems from our rejection of a royal class, and our desire to believe everyone is created equal, and we are a merit based society.

What I see more and more now is mention and stories of black peoples in our history who were incredible. I saw a presentation during black history month two years ago that included scientists, inventors, leaders, people who changed the world. I think this is a great path. Funny, when I see a presentation around that topic, what always stands out to me is the women, I guess because I’m a woman. Eventually, I hope there isn’t a separate presentation for black people like that, but just all included with all people in history. The separate presentation should not be necessary.

@ALL No matter what, we will use descriptors for skin and hair and height and eye color. I think that never goes away, so I’m not so sure the term black, or an equivalent, ever goes away. But, I will say I have never used the terms yellow, red, or brown to describe skin color. I’ve used pink, peach, olive, and red to describe undertones though, but it’s rare. It’s only when talking about make-up or clothing or a topic specifically related to skin color.

JLeslie's avatar

I just watched the royal wedding ceremony, and I might have to take some of what I wrote above back. I haven’t looked at what the world is saying about it, I’m still watching the ceremony on DVR, but many of those in attendance seem to be downright laughing, and possibly a little appalled by this black preacher. I can’t help wondering if Meghan is happy with his display. Even I am quite taken aback at what I just watched.

MrGrimm888's avatar

As a side note, as a LEO (former profession,) I had to give other officers descriptions of people of interest. I always used black, or white, and I guess I used Asian, although I rarely had “Asian” suspects.

Sometimes (mostly I would say,) “black” is just a way of describing someone. I don’t really see any malicious use of the term.

SergeantQueen's avatar

Just to point out, just because a race or group of people call themselves a name doesn’t automatically give someone outside of the group the right to call them that. Can’t call them the N word

JLeslie's avatar

@SergeantQueen True. I think it’s a mistake, but it’s true.

MrGrimm888's avatar

SQ. Although the N word is used by some, I don’t think they refer to themselves necessarily as that.

SergeantQueen's avatar

@MrGrimm888 eh, I’ve heard a few.

MrGrimm888's avatar

No doubt. But not in serious circumstances. No civil rights parties, that I know of, or communities, refer to themselves (as a group) by that word.

It’s just a word. But it has no equal word, in this country, for white people. No word is as offensive. Cracker, is probably the worst C word for whites, and it just isn’t that offensive. To me… To most whites, I know…

JLeslie's avatar

^^Some black people do use the word nigger with each other. I’m not around those people, but it’s still going on, and some people say it’s their way of taking ownership back of the word, and controlling the meaning. I think it’s a bad idea.

Yellowdog's avatar

The N word is popular street slang among friends and every sixth word in rap music.
(the other five words in rap music are Dick, Hoe, Flow, Trick, and Muthafucka)

The “N” word is appropriate for blacks to call each other because it is a shared experience,but it is never appropriate for a person of another race to call a black person because it implies racism

MrGrimm888's avatar

^For some reason, I didn’t see you as listening to much rap.~

Yeah. In most popular rap, there are explicit lyrics…

Yellowdog's avatar

The ‘N’ word is fairly common in rap music—and in Memphis, Rap music is everywhere. It is often used for intimidation

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