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Why not stop using the term "African American"?

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#21 Norville

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 12:11 PM

I try not to use those sorts of PC terms. Why can't Americans just be called Americans? Yes, yes, that's all very simplistic, but it's what I prefer. So, yes, *gasp*, I still use the term "black". Or "brown", because sometimes that's prefered; I remember that the actor Avery Brooks likes to call himself "brown".
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#22 Cardie

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 01:50 PM

Digital Man, on Oct 9 2004, 12:44 PM, said:

How in the world can you live life like that?! If you have to spend every waking moment worrying about what offends whom, what kind of life are you living? What kind of interaction are you having with your fellow human beings?

A pretty damn stressful life, I'm afraid.

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Gosh, I do my best not to offend, but I'd hardly say I spend very much time being stressed out over whether I might misspeak.  Finding out from a person of Japanese ancestry that she would prefer I say "Asian" rather than "Oriental" was a minor upset to the first time I was called a kike, so I can't say that I sympathize much with the idea that policing language is the worst thing we face in a multicultural society.

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#23 Godeskian

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 02:09 PM

You know, i've never understood American's atachements to their family trees anyway. I mean, does it really affect your life to know your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather came from Belgium?

Isnt it enough to be Americans, without being African Americans or European Americans, or as one friend said to me, a French/Canadian/Dutch/German American

i honestly don't get it

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#24 Delvo

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 03:26 PM

You mean Europeans generally DON'T keep track of their ancestry? I thought that was done by people in all cultures!

Certainly it isn't all of us that care at all about such things, or even most, but there are always those that do. Practically nobody bothers calling himself or herself a Belgian American (in fact the word "Belgian" probably means big horses in most Americans' minds, rather than people) or German American or any other such thing, or even European American. It's only an issue to some people of minority races, because they feel like attention is already being called to their race all the time, in a bad way, and they can't make that not be so, so they figure they might as well try to make it a positive thing (lemons & lemonade). Also, there's a matter of choice; for those who know they couldn't trace their ancestors with any specificity prior to their arrival here, whether they wanted to or not, just being deprived of the option seems to bother more people than would have ever cared about it if they HAD had the option.

On the original question in the thread title: I think the answer really is just that using the term "African-American" already is essentially stopped, having never really quite gotten started and caught on in the first place, because it's just silly. Yes, you'll find a few references using it here and there, but it's not the way people really talk.

#25 schoolpsycho

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 03:43 PM

I think the answer really is just that using the term "African-American" already is essentially stopped, having never really quite gotten started and caught on in the first place, because it's just silly. Yes, you'll find a few references using it here and there, but it's not the way people really talk.

It's used plenty where I am, and it's not silly for those who wish to be called that.

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#26 Cardie

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 03:58 PM

Steven, unlike in Europe, where the majority of the populations have ancestral roots in the country going back many centuries, the majority of people in the United States came here from elsewhere.   Some have been here since the seventeenth century, but the great eras of immigration from Europe were the 19th and 20th centuries and from Asia and Latin America, the 20th and 21st centuries.   The first wave of black, forced immigration was in the 17th and 18th centuries, a second wave from Africa and the Caribbean in the 20th and 21st.  Americans often refer to themselves as "a nation of immigrants."  Most of our families haven't been here that long relative to the populations of other countries.

I know that this seems odd to Europeans, but it is part of our culture.  I had a graduate student from Iceland who once remarked that any time you met  Americans and sat down to have an in depth conversation with them, it only took an hour for them to start talking about their ancestry and "where they came from."  Iceland not being a nation of immigrants, she found it very odd.

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#27 offworlder

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 04:02 PM

boy somebody does like to 'make it happen'

:hehe:

but since this thread is proceding in a nice and almost academic way:
I find it strange that, while I understand the reasons for the african-american phrase starting and going, I still find it strange that people of my ilk are called a color by all, while people of a different ilk are not called a color, they are called two-continents... the pc and common name for what they call me is white; everyone uses that, no one says caucasian as though I came from Georgia in southwest Asia; everyone but everyone says White.
ergo...
why can't anyone say black anymore?
well... I do. And I will go on, as long as they call me Mr Ti... erm, call me white.

The main thing is what is touchy; black folks find it preferable to be called african-american, though why capitalize it?, and some, only some, get a bit testy being called black anymore.

oh, the thing about those caucus and association things with the 'old' names: they keep those to remind of that thing we have a week (month?) for in the spring: Black History
(teach the old to remind how better the new can be, or how much farther to go?)

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#28 G1223

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 04:27 PM

I seem to remember it being unheard of for a mixing of the races till the 20th cnetury.

I mean Frenchmen did not marry Germans  Nor Poles. Slavs were looked upon as less thn human. So Yeah Europe is a great metling pot of people.

I  have heard it said that a German moving to France and becomming a citizen will always be considered a German  while a German moving to America  after a whiel will simply be an American. HE might say of himself that he is a German-American or he might think it silly and just say American.
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#29 Ogami

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 05:50 PM

Hotspur wrote:

"African American", as it is used today, is a deeply flawed term.

David Brinkley had an interesting answer on this. He had grown up with blacks being called all sorts of name they had no control over.

By making white America refer to the current correct term, "Afro American", "Black", "African-American", he thought it went a little way towards making up for that.

I personally find any hyphen divisive. If anyone asks me what I am, I answer that my race is Human, my ethnic group is American.

No hyphen.

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#30 QueenTiye

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 06:48 PM

Digital Man, on Oct 9 2004, 12:26 PM, said:

I am all for respect-but by the same token, where do you cross the line into hypersensitivity? That is something I have VERY little patience for, and I simply won't tolerate it.

Well, there is such a thing as hypersensitivity, and you have a right to not cater to it.  But people also have a right to their feelings.  Like it or not, this name game has real antecedents, and names applied to African-Americans have often been intended to hurt.  The sensitivity here isn't out of the blue.

Quote

Again-here's an interesting double standard: black and Negro are the SAME THING. The only difference is the language. "Negro" is the Spanish version. Based on my understanding of the name sensitivity issue, it would not surprise me if certain black folks would find Hispanics' use of the word Negro to be "politically incorrect." It would not matter that this was a different language altogether.

I gave this some thought.  While I understand your point, I'll end up saying - English usage today isn't "Negro."  If you were speaking Spanish and called me "Negro" I'd understand it, and have no problem with it at all.  If you called me that in English, I would wonder why you did so.  I'm not hypersensitive - but I don't think that that sudden questioning is out of place for the culture.  The fact is, this isn't a spanish speaking culture, so it isn't me who's interpretting things out of context.  It would be you.  And - in a pluralistic society, that's to be expected.  We learn from each other in those dissonant spaces.   But - being upset because there's some learning to be done on both sides isn't helpful, in my opinion.

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#31 Nikcara

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 07:25 PM

Personally, I tend to call African-Americans blacks simply because that is what they are most often called in my neck of the woods.  If someone asks me not to use the term I'll stop, but it's one of those ingrained habits that I don't think is really offensive (for the same reason I don't find "whites" to be offensive - besides, it's easier to say and I'm a very lazy speaker some times)
If someone gets really offended that I used the term "black" and starts yelling at me for it, I tend to decide that we have no real reason to be speaking to each other and move on.


I also had the experiance of going to a school with a lot of minorities.  My best friends were middle eastern, Indian and Asian for the most part and I hung out with blacks, hispanics, and whites in fairly equal amounts.  It wasn't really something I thought about.

After I entered college, there were very few non-white students.  And while I was able to go through four years of highschool without offending anyone because of race, I think maybe half of the currant minority students have called me racist by now (mainly because during the "people of color takeover week" I publically said writing things like "kill all crackers" was hate speech no matter who had written it).  I hate this emphasis so many of these people have on race.  It feels like some people want me to look at the label they've given themselves rather then just as a person (not everyone, but there are some that really, really irk me by telling me all the things I believe simply because I'm white and how I need to change)
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#32 Vapor Trails

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 07:45 PM

HM writes:

Quote

Well, there is such a thing as hypersensitivity, and you have a right to not cater to it. But people also have a right to their feelings. Like it or not, this name game has real antecedents, and names applied to African-Americans have often been intended to hurt. The sensitivity here isn't out of the blue.

I never said that this sensitivity came out of the blue. But frankly, some people get too carried away with political correctness. I have very little patience for that. If my impatience alienates me from some folks, well-so be it. I'm not going to bow down to every Tom, Dick and Harriet just to get along. Respect is one thing-but I refuse to give in to hypersensitivity.

Quote

While I understand your point, I'll end up saying - English usage today isn't "Negro." If you were speaking Spanish and called me "Negro" I'd understand it, and have no problem with it at all. If you called me that in English, I would wonder why you did so. I'm not hypersensitive - but I don't think that that sudden questioning is out of place for the culture. The fact is, this isn't a spanish speaking culture, so it isn't me who's interpretting things out of context. It would be you. And - in a pluralistic society, that's to be expected. We learn from each other in those dissonant spaces. But - being upset because there's some learning to be done on both sides isn't helpful, in my opinion.

Um-my opinion still is the same. It's a double standard to me. And if you're talking about the negative connotation the word Negro in English-why should that connotaion change just because it's spoken in Spanish? That makes no sense to me.  So, we'll have to agree to disagree on that.

And yes-I find political correctness annoying and a bit upsetting. If that's not helpful, so what? You did say that "people have a right to their feelings." Politcal correctness can be taken to extremes, where it's hard to know at times what to say and what not to say.

I know I'm coming off a bit blunt-but I assure you HM-no slam is intended. I'm just a very frank person by nature.

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#33 GoldenCoal

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 08:02 PM

I like what you said at the end, Nikcara, about how we need to look at the person, not the label. Everyone is different, and we have to see that two people of the same label could be extremely different. I just don't think that labels of any type are particularly helpful when the difference between two labels is basically trivial.

#34 Norville

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 08:16 PM

schoolpsycho said:

it's not silly for those who wish to be called that.

Then I'll call you whatever you want to be called when in a conversation with you; if I speak to someone called "schoolpsycho", I'm likely to let that person get his way in a conversation just due to the name. ;) Pardon me if I let slip the word "black" (or "brown", a la Avery Brooks) in a conversation with someone else, though.

Cardie said:

Americans often refer to themselves as "a nation of immigrants." [...] I know that this seems odd to Europeans, but it is part of our culture.

True. Personally, I'm proud of my British ancestry. There's not even any logic behind it, probably.

offworlder said:

why can't anyone say black anymore?
well... I do.

Same here. I pray that it's not considered as offensive as "n****r", because I've never purposely spoken that word aloud in my life -- everyone will have to forgive me for the time when I was an innocent child, saw the name of the country Niger, and asked my sister "N****r??" Heh... ouch.

As for "Negro", it's just never a term I've used much. I remember reading an interview with Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammed, long ago, who claimed that "Negro" was related to "necro" (root term for "dead"), so "Negro" was taboo to them, because it meant someone wanted them dead. True or not, it didn't affect my use of the term, because I really never had used it.
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#35 G1223

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 08:22 PM

I have to admit I know I am of German and English mix. With a little bit of Scots blood as weel. I just consider myself to be American. While my ancestory is intersting. My heart has always been for America.
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#36 JchaosRS

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 09:12 PM

I for one never really understood why Afican-American came about and I dont like to use it. I say black and I am fine with it, in fact most black folk use the term "black". Being of mixed races I get the "What are you?" question alot. Depending on my mood I might answer "Im human" or "Im half black and mexican".

Although saying Mexican is incorrect because I am not a Mexican citizen, so Ill sometimes use hispanic. But my family always used Mexican so I tend to do so also. But over here (California) most hispanics of mexican descent call themselves mexican, and most black people call themselves black. In fact, the only people that use the term "African-American" are white folk.

Personally, I am just tierd of all the labeling.  You can call me anything you want, names dont bother me. I dont fit any particular stereotype and dont see the point in useing all these labels anyway.
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#37 QueenTiye

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 10:00 PM

Digital Man, on Oct 9 2004, 08:45 PM, said:

I never said that this sensitivity came out of the blue. But frankly, some people get too carried away with political correctness. I have very little patience for that. If my impatience alienates me from some folks, well-so be it. I'm not going to bow down to every Tom, Dick and Harriet just to get along. Respect is one thing-but I refuse to give in to hypersensitivity.

We are in agreement.  

Quote

Um-my opinion still is the same. It's a double standard to me. And if you're talking about the negative connotation the word Negro in English-why should that connotaion change just because it's spoken in Spanish? That makes no sense to me.  So, we'll have to agree to disagree on that.

Well. When English speaking people in this country used the term, the idea was not to call Black people black.  The idea was to use a term that perpetuated a strong ideological separation of races.  There were all sorts of scientific jargon specifying the differences between the "Negroid" and the "Caucausoid" races, and study after study being produced to further the idea that the Negros were inferior.  And there were plenty of southerners who adjusted "N****rs" to "Nigras," leaving anyone listening to wonder if they were trying to say Negros and falling short because of their accents, or if they were being funny.  In short, the word took on a lot of negative baggage, and was rejected wholesale with the black pride movement.  All of that history happened in an English speaking context.  What's interesting to me is to wonder how this was translated in spanish newspapers of the sixties.  LOL! I wonder how spanish papers translated controversial speeches stating the "so-called Negros" were really the "original black people."  :)  I understand the language issue, but the fact remains that in this country, the word evolved beyond its literal meaning. Languages do that all the time.

Quote

And yes-I find political correctness annoying and a bit upsetting. If that's not helpful, so what? You did say that "people have a right to their feelings." Politcal correctness can be taken to extremes, where it's hard to know at times what to say and what not to say.

Agreed again!

Quote

I know I'm coming off a bit blunt-but I assure you HM-no slam is intended. I'm just a very frank person by nature.

:cool:

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Well, I'll have to imagine you saying this with a loud angry voice or something, because nothing you've said seemed blunt or like a slam to me. :)

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#38 Nonny

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 11:40 PM

Digital Man, on Oct 9 2004, 07:07 AM, said:

I happen to be Hispanic. "Negro" is Spanish for "black." Hispanics use this word all the time. We have no problems with it. But used in an English context, the red flags of political incorrectness pop up. Why the double standard?!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I am thrilled to see you use "Hispanic."  Back in the days when I was still going to church, I had a verbal boxing match with a priest who objected to the word.  I am not Spanish, he said.  You speak Spanish, I said.  That's not the point, he said.  We never got to the point, so eventually I asked him what he prefered.  Latino, he said.  But you're not Latin, I said, and besides, I resent the reintroduction of gendered nouns to English.  So we brangled on and on, until he happened to refer to me as an Anglo.  Don't call me an Anglo, I said, with a name like Stuart, it's an insult.  But you speak English, he said.  And you speak Spanish, but you object to Hispanic, I said.  When I finally gave up and left, I left for good.  

I've lived in Southern California long enough to have given up on the fight against being called an "Anglo," but I doubt I'll ever get comfortable with it.  I mean, Scottish name!!!!!  Clue, perhaps?!!  Sigh.  

Good to know that "Hispanic" works for some.  

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#39 QueenTiye

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Posted 09 October 2004 - 11:51 PM

^^^ You needn't have worried about the gendered noun issue. Latino is widely used in place of Hispanic, but I've never heard any but spanish speaking natives use Latina!

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#40 Shoshana

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Posted 10 October 2004 - 02:19 AM

I keep trying to add something but my words keep tangling up!

All I know is that there are alot of people in the US who have ancestors from all over the world and some of the descriptions are kinda confusing.

Besides bein an American and a Texan ... I always falter if asked on a form what 'I am'.

They never have Texan or even American on the form. "Other" describe place usually has me puttin "Texan" in.

Maybe is a regional thing, but African Americans I know all refer to each other and themselves as Black.  And people visiting from Africa, Africans.

If you don't know someone or it's a formal situation or on tv and in print it seems that "African American" is PC but in day to day talking among friends Black is what is actually said.

And don't get me started on Hispanic, k? There are people who self identify as Hispanic and that's fine. Whatever makes em happiest. But I know too many people whose families had to get out of a bad situation in Europe, moved to a Spanish speaking part of the Western Hemisphere, had kids, moved to the US. They speak Spanish fluently. They get labled Hispanic Are they Hispanic? How?

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