The term Afican American has been around for quite a while. I have never used it consistently to describe myself and definitely not my children. I have some friends who are staunch users of the term to describe themselves. I find it amusing to have conversations with people who say African American while I say black. I am sure they are wondering why I am not progressive and will not use the term they prefer. But I refuse. I’m sure they have wondered why I’m not conforming and why I will not follow along with their part of of the herd.
One of the things I tell my children is do not use words or phrases if you don’t know the definition. For me, I didn’t know the origin or the reasoning behind the change from black to African American. I prefer not to identify as either, it’s obvious when you see me why do I need a label? If you are going to label me as anything how about child of God?
I have questions. When the term is used, which America is being referenced? Is South America included? What about Canada? Is the term solely for certain people living in the United States and if so, why?
A year ago I decided to do a little research on the Internet to determine the origins of the phrase. There are a few different versions of how the term came to be. One is attributed to a poem (I Can) written by Johnny Duncan. Jessie Jackson says he is responsible for the migration to African American. Did you know that there is or was a dividing line drawn to determine who the term references? There is the school of thought that the only people who should use the term are people whose ancestors were slaves. Hhhmmmm… Leaders in the black community wanted to differentiate between descendants of African slaves and everybody else. The term black encompasses everybody, whether you want the label or not. Granted, black is based upon your skin tone or somebody’s perception. Did you know that President Obama is not the first African American president, according to popular definitions? Just take a moment and let that soak in. His father is from Kenya and his mother, while American, is not a descendent of slaves. How nonsensical. How divisive. To my friends who were frustrated with me for not conforming, how you like me now?!?
I refuse to accept a label that, according to some, does the very thing I don’t personally embrace. I don’t like creating division or putting people in boxes.
Don’t we know by now that if there is a movement of some sort then it is going to financially / politically benefit someone? Why was there a shift? What was the long term plan? There is always an agenda.
At the beginning and end of the day I would rather be referred to as my given name but if I must self identify I choose black.
In America there has been a frequent shift in what to call us. Just look at the birth certificates. When I pull up 3 generations of birth certificates in my family, there are three different “labeling titles”. I personally say black for a variety of reasons, but check African American when that is the only identifier option presented. Besides, if I was a dog, I’d be considered a mutt.
Yvonne, it seems like an identity crisis to me. Who keeps changing the name and why? If we could just settle on something that is positive, uplifting and inclusive.
“How you like me now?!?” … that made me laugh out loud. Nice to get a little nudge of humor in on such a serious subject.
Not having stood in your shoes I cannot comment on the issue, however I have to say that the ongoing momentum of “political correctness” is ridiculous. Why can’t we just be polite and courteous to others? Why must some anonymous person create guilt in people for being not aware of the most recent “correct” term. We are all striving for the same things in life. And life is hard. Added guilt for something meaningless, like calling a waiter a waiter instead of the current term, waitperson? Really?
I know this is not to the same depth as what you are speaking of, but it is part of the same party and I am sure the same motivations exist in both scenarios.
Keep being black. You are beautiful the way you are. And I love how you hold your head high and are teaching your children to do the same.
I understand what you are saying with the waiter/ waitperson thing. We have so many titles and categories that it’s intimidating because you don’t want to unintentionally offend anyone.
And why should they even be offended in the first place, that’s my question. There is nothing offensive in being a waiter or a waitress. If those terms are offensive then maybe find a job that does not offend you? I don’t know the answer, I just think it is way too much.
I’m wondering if at some point we can just drop all the adjectives, sometimes they feel like a disclaimer, like some sort of awkward explanation. I certainly wouldn’t introduce friends and say, “this is my gay friend Frank” or “this is my Asian sister, Brittany”.
I look forward to a time when we stop hearing about the first woman …” or “the first Latino…” or “the first African-American…” when our diversity becomes ordinary.