General Question

stevenb's avatar

When will the US be able to drop the whole "African American" name thing? Why do we have to use that label for people? I'm not a "Native American, Norwegian, German, swedish, Irish American" , I am an American.

Asked by stevenb (3836points) November 5th, 2008 from iPhone

why do we need this label still. When can we grow up like the rest of the world and lose that thing?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

40 Answers

wrestlemaniac3's avatar

Because some things never die out, it impossible, can you change the past, you can’t, what’s done is done.

poofandmook's avatar

that smacks of future Republican

@steven: I’d wager a guess that it’s just a “nice” way to say he’s black more than anything else.

cdwccrn's avatar

when we quit thinking we vs them about our fellow citizens. When every citizen really does have equal opportunity.

tonedef's avatar

As long as people care about their ethnic or social heritage, then they will continue to use it as an indicator of their identity. You’re talking about it like it’s some scourge on the face of our nation. There’s nothing wrong with ethnic or social pride.

wrestlemaniac3's avatar

place your bets, 50$ says that a civil war will start over this issue.

poofandmook's avatar

uh, no Wrestle.

Nimis's avatar

I think tacking on -American is often used as a politically-correct, apologetic.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a connotation of other to words like African or Black
and people feel the need to balance out their (and society’s) underlying prejudices.

EmpressPixie's avatar

It depends on if this question is about heritage and culture or the color of your skin.

If it is skin tone, then you’d be “white” (judging by your avatar), not “American”.

If it is about heritage or culture, some people are proud of their heritage/culture. As long as there are people who are proud of it (there is usually at LEAST one in every family), we’ll always have these great long lists of things we attach to ourselves. African American is often a catch-all that people have to use because slavers didn’t take the best records so it can be hard to trace ancestry to a more specific location. But even then, I would imagine someone would say African.

Honestly, as far as I know, African American is generally used only for skin tone. And we’ll always be describing each other until the day we go blind. Sometimes we’ll do it at inappropriate times, but often we won’t. I mean, to some extent that’s like saying “when will the US be able to drop the whole “female” thing? Why can’t we all be mankind?”. Sometimes gender is used inappropriately, sometimes not. But we can’t ignore it, it’s kind of there to stay.

Unless you mean specifically the words “African American” instead of “black”. That’s all about political correctness and politeness. Some people prefer “black”, some “African American”, some grew up with “negro” and are actually just fine with that. It depends on who you are talking to and how they’d prefer you refer to something that the vast majority of the time is a shade of brown.

EmpressPixie's avatar

In my bit on culture, I should have also acknowledged that there is an African American culture/heritage as well that people may wish to refer to as well—not just African. We didn’t go from “slaves on boats” to 2008. And a lot of what is between is unique to African Americans.

wrestlemaniac3's avatar

damn!!, boy I have issues don’t I, well if I can think of a smart answer I’ll answer.

Nimis's avatar

What also drives me crazy about the term is that
not all black people are from Africa. Goodness.

Emp: Yes, there is definitely a unique African-American culture.
But that’s also true for any immigrant [read: most] culture in America.

wrestlemaniac3's avatar

true they’re scattered all over the world. even we have a percentage of blacks in us.

funkdaddy's avatar

There’s nothing wrong with the identifiers, saying someone is French or Dutch for example doesn’t cause anyone any sleepless nights.

What needs to change are any generalized misconceptions about any group of people as a whole and that takes time. Last night 60 something MILLION votes were counted for an African-American and a lot of people’s eyes were opened that the views of the past on that particular group are no longer held in high regard or popular opinion.

Don’t do away with the term, just unload the hate and bias.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Nimis, that bugs me too. And yes—any immigrant culture develops. I was just trying to cover at least 90% of my bases.

SuperMouse's avatar

I don’t see the goal as everyone mixing into one homogenized group. I see the goal as accepting and celebrating one another’s differences rather than hating or judging someone based on whether they are able-bodied, their sexual orientation, their color, or any other random trait.

I see nothing wrong with telling people I’m Polish (well they guess as soon as they see my surname), my issue is if people make certain assumptions because I am Polish or Irish or a person who lives with mental illness.

Nimis's avatar

Emp: What I should have further said is that while every immigrant culture develops, the term African-American is much more widely used. There seems to be less of a need to tack -American onto Caucasian ethnicities. It seems to be used to apologize for pointing out the race of someone who is not Caucasian.

ie Sorry for calling you African or Mexican, but I recognize that you’re American too.

wrestlemaniac3's avatar

enough, we all are and we’re proud of it!

squirbel's avatar

I’d love to see you call a dark-colored Caribbean person “African-American”. They’ll bite your head off – or cuss you out under their breath. That’s just one instance.

My boyfriend’s name is Colõn, and he can’t stand [in his words] “those stupid white people” who call him Colon [as in the body part]. We’re both Puerto Rican.

I will say what no one else will in this thread.

The majority race is the majority. If they say that dark-colored people are to be called African-American, that is the way it will be. If white people are Americans, and Mexicans are Mexican-American, and dark people are African-Americans – that is how it will be. They are the majority.

The way you learn to live with it is to define yourself. Know who you are, and stick to it. If you get a census form – don’t feel guilty or like you’re lying if you don’t choose what they would label you as. You know who you are – write it.

I had an experience when I went to apply for a license in Alabama. The lady writing up the card was white – and I had marked the box next to “Hispanic or Latino”. But she changed my answer on her computer to say “Black” – and I didn’t know until it was printed out. That’s infuriating. I didn’t fight it because it felt hopeless.

I don’t believe this world will ever see an evolved version of the human species who does not make color a major distinction. Not until we are all a semi-brown [from mixture].

seVen's avatar

there should be just one race I agree a “human race”.

augustlan's avatar

The words “African-American” are a continuation of and an attempt to move away from previously accepted but now racially charged words: negro, n..ger, and black. It was/is thought to be more politically correct…but I really think it’s kind of insulting to say all brown skinned people must be from Africa!

I think it is up to the black/brown community to come up with a universally agreed upon term to use as a descriptor only, one that would not be offensive to anyone in that group and let the rest of us know what it is. Only then might we have an accurate word that would stick around.

stevenb's avatar

When I was in the Navy, most of my friends were black. They called themselves black, or brothers. We all refered to other blacks as brothers or sisters. I liked that immensely. It felt like we were all family. I read another thread about this way back when, and someone had stated that in Europe they just say “black”, not “African French”, etc. Nobody gets mad, nobody protests, nobody gets all riled up. That’s all I am saying. Why can’t we get past it. I am a quarter Native American, and I am proud of that. It is the strongest part of my history that is traceable. Still, I am proud to just be an American! I guess I just don’t understand the need for it.

stevenb's avatar

Oh, I was in the Navy in the late eighties, and early nineties. My friends were from Alabama, Chicago, Texas, Florida, new jersey and a few other places. We all got along like brothers, and, being from a TINY town in Montana, I don’t know if I had ever seen a “person of color” before Bootcamp. Just background info.

stevenb's avatar

I was not refering to Obama specifically. Just in general.

laureth's avatar

We continually “get past” different words for this demographic. We’ve gone through “negro,” “coloreds,” and “Black,” for example. Each one was the polite term for a while, until for some reason it passed out of vogue and started sounding offensive.

I think “African-American” came in because “Black” started having a negative connotation, like black=dark=negative=evil. At the same time, a certain kind of pride in ancestry developed, and you started seeing people wearing dashikis. Then we had “Afro-Americans” and in the 1980’s, “African Americans.” It was politically correct at the time, and it stuck.

The term changes every generation or so, and it’s probably time for the next word to come into vogue. However, I think that there will always be some term to describe these people, just like we have “white” and “hispanic.”

If we get rid of all descriptive terms, we’ll start sounding like the Smurfs.

andrew's avatar

Last I checked, “Black” was the preferred term. Of course, that was in the early naughts.

laureth's avatar

Perhaps it’s regional.

augustlan's avatar

And it depends on who you ask. Some prefer black, some African-American.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

the thing that bothers me is the race question on certain pages. From now on I am checking the OTHER box and typing in HUMAN.

GAMBIT's avatar

There is pride in saying I am African American. I was sold into slavery taken away from my family, chained and whipped. I was forced to work and treated like an animal but yet I survived because I am strong.

A piece of paper said I was set free but I had no means to get back to my ancestors birth place Africa it was tofar away so I lived under the Jim Crowe laws yet I survived because I am strong.

I’ve been called a darkey, ngger, negro, black and spade again ripping away and insulting my birthplace like the old slave master who tried to break my will but I remain a child of Africa and I am strong.

I have now been accepted as part of the United States but how can I forget the ones who took the whip who died on ships who were raped and degraded. I can not forget these people. I will call myself African American and I am strong.

andrew's avatar

@laureth: It probably also had to do with the fact that I had some Cape Verdean friends.

andrew's avatar

@GAMBIT: So do you take offense at the term “Black”?

GAMBIT's avatar

@andrew – I don’t take offense at anything.

andrew's avatar

* resists urge to make a ‘your mom’ joke *

GAMBIT's avatar

@andrew – sticks and stones but don’t you talk about my momma.

augustlan's avatar

@Gambit: While you do not find “black” offensive, is that true of the wider community? I find myself unsure. I grew up in a very well mixed society, and “black” was the accepted term in the 80s. My friends self identified as black. I live in a much more “white” (and bigoted, sadly) area these days, and would very much like to know what is the preferred descriptor now.

stevenb's avatar

I thought the theory was that we are ALL from Africa? Didn’t they finally agree that we are all descended from Africans originally? So we are all African Americans.

GAMBIT's avatar

@augustian – I know what I am it doesn’t really bother me what other people call me. It is mainly used as a very quick identifier. I make sure that I say African American out of respect for people of color. Believe me there are a lot of other things to worry about besides that.

augustlan's avatar

As a side note, I always thought it would be more accurate to say “peach” rather than “white” and “brown” rather than “black”. Perhaps we really are color blind : )

BBQsomeCows's avatar

once everyone else realizes we are all ultimately from Africa

and we all start referring to ourselves as Afrian America

the inanity will finally die

Strauss's avatar

The need for terms like “African-American” will die out when the stigma of being such dies out, much like it did with “Irish need not apply” type discrimination. Only when we can truly outgrow the long-lasting cultural effects of slavery, miscegenation and Jim Crow can we grow as a nation into the land of the free that we idolize.

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