Friday, February 5, 2010

Time to Move on From the Term African-American

Some time back, I'm not sure when, Jesse Jackson (for you kids out there he was a "black community leader" in the 1980s and 90s) decided that the word black no longer worked for him. From that point on, he insisted that blacks in the United States would now be called "African-Americans."
It had a certain ring to it and was meant to sound like other ethnic groups, such as Italian Americans or Irish-Americans, however the term ignored some important facts.
First, obviously through no fault of their own, many blacks arrived in America hundreds of years ago. Retaining that moniker of African makes as much sense as a Mayflower descendent calling himself English-American. If your family has been here for centuries, regardless of color, you have lost that cultural connection. You and I are plain old Americans now.
Second, it ignores the fact that millions of people from Africa are not black. White Afrikaaners have been there for 350 years. Arabs have been there since the 600s. Berbers have been there since before we know. Descendents of blue eyed Vandals still roam the north coast of Africa. That does not even mention those descended from the 1800s colonists who swarmed onto the continent from all over Europe. They are all African.
A 45 year old medical student from Mozambique named Paolo Serodio had the unmitigated gall to define himself as African American in a culture class in a New Jersey medical school. His family lived in Africa. Serodio was born there and moved to America. Technically he is African American. Several years ago a student from Kenya won a case against Georgetown after they tried to revoke an African-American scholarship. Of course he was white.
The class asked him to define himself. After he did so, the professor and administrators informed him that his identification was offensive to others and he was to desist. Serodio sued for harassment.
Besides the bizarre tyranny of the school officials, this demonstrates the ludicrous nature of this term. An Egyptian, Libyan, or many others who have come here are African-American. Either go back to the old classification of black or find something more accurate.
Better yet, let's stop classifying people and just call everybody "Americans." Wouldn't that be best?

1 comment:

  1. For obvious reasons we will reject a post that contains profanity and a general lack of good sense. However, I will respond to what was said. The unpublished comment asked what I thought about people of Italian or some other descent? I am a third generation Italian immigrant through my father's side. I'm proud of that, but I don't define myself by it. Using the term African American to only describe blacks is like saying you are European-American, but only meaning Germans, since branches of the German linguistic group dominate central Europe. It is too exclusive and too inaccurate.