when should I say 'african american' and when 'black' ?
November 16, 2007 5:48 PM   Subscribe

when should I say 'african american' and when 'black' ?

when I use "african-american" I feel as if I am being overly politically correct and when I use "black" I fear I'm just being rude. to me, a non-native speaker, this whole area feels murky and based on an implied understanding that I just haven't picked up on.

so when is it appropriate to use which term in a verbal conversation and/or writing?

for the record: krautland is not looking to offend. krautland is seeking information so he doesn't accidentally do so.
posted by krautland to Human Relations (71 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've always thought that using the term "African-American" was very presumptuous. There are many black people in America whose ancestors are not African. Lumping every black-skinned person together under the umbrella of "African-American" is just as wrong as assuming all Hispanic people are "Mexican-American."
posted by amyms at 5:58 PM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


I've only every seen 'African-American' is formal documents and articles. In casual conversation 'black' is what's generally used in my experience.
posted by jonmc at 5:58 PM on November 16, 2007


My first girlfriend was a native Ghanaian and hated being called African-American. She was either African or black.

It also got her really annoyed when people referred to traveling to Africa as if the entire continent were one country. So there's some extra empirical evidence.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:02 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ask the person what they prefer.
posted by cashman at 6:03 PM on November 16, 2007


I think if you explained the situations you were trying to use it in, you could get better responses and explanations that would not only help you with not offending people, but also give you the background to start to learn to pick up a feel for when to use what.
posted by cashman at 6:04 PM on November 16, 2007


It's better to be safe than sorry, say "African American" unless you get cues from the people you are communicating with (I'm assuming in conversation with the people in question) that using "black" is ok.
posted by SoulOnIce at 6:07 PM on November 16, 2007


What amyms said (and also maddox, for what it's worth).

Anecdotally, I'm half black and no one on either side of my family uses African-American.
posted by danb at 6:09 PM on November 16, 2007


There are many black people in America whose ancestors are not African.

Such as who?

In the American context, "black" doesn't mean "dark-skinned." It means "of African ancestry." People from India, no matter how dark their skin, are not black in American English. Nor are Arabs or north Africans, no matter how dark their skin. If an old-line racist wouldn't call you a plain old nigger with no modifiers, you're not black.

I would follow jonmc. "African-American" is for more serious and official settings. Otherwise, black.

Frankly, I would think that any person who prickles at being called "black" instead of "African-American" in casual conversation is the sort of twit who's going to find *something* to be annoyed at no matter what you do.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:17 PM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's a no-win situation. Some (black/African American individuals) prefer the term African American, some prefer black. Generally, I go with African American, because at least in that case the minus points you get are for being overly politically correct.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 6:22 PM on November 16, 2007


It's better to be safe than sorry, say "African American" unless you get cues from the people you are communicating with (I'm assuming in conversation with the people in question) that using "black" is ok.
Actually, I think the opposite is more correct. As has been mentioned above, not all Black people in this country have their origins in the U.S. I think it is presumptuous to refer to everyone who seems to be of some kind of African descent in a way that generally only applies to descendants of American slaves (and I certainly do not mean that to be disparaging).

I think "Black" covers all potential bases of the African diaspora until you are able to ascertain what a particular person prefers. In my experience, using "African American" often just PCspeak, and what some Blacks, in the vernacular, would consider "talking proper".
posted by fuse theorem at 6:34 PM on November 16, 2007


It's a no-win situation.

Sure is. Unless you ask. The metafilter solution for personal interaction questions on AskMe seems to almost always be "did you talk to the person?!?" Why all of a sudden is this a no-win, untenable situation?
posted by cashman at 6:43 PM on November 16, 2007


Sure is. Unless you ask.

That would be even more sort of condescending, if you ask me.
posted by jonmc at 6:57 PM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe asked Such as who? when I said There are many black people in America whose ancestors are not African.

Haitians, for example, as well as many other Caribbean islanders. Lots of people identify as "black-skinned" without being "African."
posted by amyms at 6:58 PM on November 16, 2007


Ask the person what they prefer.

that is not always an option. it also does not address the issue of what word to use in a conversation between two white people.

I wonder what I should use in writings as well as conversation and can't merely provide one example. I am looking for a general principle I can use for orientation.
posted by krautland at 7:01 PM on November 16, 2007


Haitians, for example, as well as many other Caribbean islanders.

whose ancestors came from Africa, unless all the history I've ever read is wrong.
posted by jonmc at 7:01 PM on November 16, 2007


cashman: I don't believe that this is a personal interaction question. That is, krautland appears to be asking for guidance on how to speak and write about third parties. The answer to whether you should refer to Michael Jordan a black or African-American athlete, for example, is probably not one you can just call him up about.

krautland: as you can tell, there isn't unanimity of opinion among native speakers of American English. I vacillate, myself, for reasons so subtle I'm not aware of them. Do you have an accent? If so, I'd bet you could get away with African-American in more circumstances that native speakers, since you might be assumed to have a more academically-grounded understanding of Americanese.
posted by mumkin at 7:01 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sure is. Unless you ask. The metafilter solution for personal interaction questions on AskMe seems to almost always be "did you talk to the person?!?" Why all of a sudden is this a no-win, untenable situation?

Because the question isn't limited to direct spoken communications with black people. And what jonmc said.
posted by mullacc at 7:03 PM on November 16, 2007


I think you should say African-American once at the begnning of the conversation to estabish politeness, and then all subsequent use can be 'black'. That's what I observe many americans doing. But what do I know, I'm no American,
posted by markovich at 7:03 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think African-American sounds dated and forced these days. As you say, trying too hard to be politically correct. Plus, it's not accurate. There are plenty of black people in America who don't trace their ancestry to the "African-American" experience of descent from slavery. They are more recent immigrants, or they come via the Caribbean. In point of fact, a bunch of blacker-than-thou activists recently argued that Barack Obama was not African-American because he wasn't descended from slaves. He is, however, undeniably black.

I also agree that asking someone how they would like to be referred to is even more patronizing and cloying.
posted by Dasein at 7:05 PM on November 16, 2007


If born in africa, and now an american citizen (white, black, asian, etc) then african-american. If born in america then black.

One of my friends is white, jewish, born and raised in kenya, and now an american citizen. He is african-american if anybody is. But not black.

Lets be honest, most people use this term in most conversation to denote skin color. There is nothing wrong with being concise and using the word black or white.
posted by Bob Dobbs at 7:05 PM on November 16, 2007


Haitians' ancestors are overwhelmingly African. Ditto for other black Caribbean islanders.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:08 PM on November 16, 2007


A few black people I've known have talked about how much they hate the term "African-American" and would prefer just "black." I've never met anyone who was offended that I used "black" over "African-American", for that matter.

That would be even more sort of condescending, if you ask me.

I agree. I'm not black, but I always hated it when people would stop the conversation and be like "Oh, would you prefer if I called you Asian or Oriental?" It kind of puts an unnecessary highlight on your ethnicity, you know?
posted by pravit at 7:12 PM on November 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


Even though you are a non-native speaker, I don't think you're alone in feeling murky about this. A lot of Americans have the same uncertainty and nervousness about using the wrong terms.

In my experience, either is fine. Some people may prefer one term over the other, but rarely to the point that they would find the other offensive. Although jonmc is correct in that "African American" is a little more appropriate for formal settings.

Honestly, asking every black person you meet which term they prefer, and then trying to keep track who prefers what seems a little silly to me, and is more likely to create an awkward exchange than using the "wrong" term. Its a lot more important that you treat other people with respect.
posted by jpdoane at 7:15 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


One of my friends is white, jewish, born and raised in kenya, and now an american citizen. He is african-american if anybody is.

That's simply not what the term means. It doesn't mean "Someone who is American who is also, in some way, from Africa." It means "people that racists call niggers," and it follows the same form that many white Americans use to refer to their own ethnic heritage.

It seems really unlikely to me that people are really confused by this, unless they're so dense that hamburgers that were made in Dallas, instead of Hamburg, honestly confuses them. It annoys me that people seem so intentionally obtuse about this.

About the only point where I'd agree it gets stupid is when it's used to refer to people who are not American.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:16 PM on November 16, 2007


"I agree. I'm not black, but I always hated it when people would stop the conversation and be like "Oh, would you prefer if I called you Asian or Oriental?" It kind of puts an unnecessary highlight on your ethnicity, you know?"

Exactly.

Although, as far as Asian v. Oriental is concerned, I believe that "Asian" is much preferred over "Oriental".
posted by jpdoane at 7:20 PM on November 16, 2007


Um..I'm a fully grown woman of African origins and I prefer black, but guess what? In America, you get to decide what you'd like to be called. Say black and do something revolutionary.

Listen to how the person describes him or herself and follow those cues. And as for those who say this is a no win situation .... I truly hope you have bigger problems in your life than how to address a black person.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 7:22 PM on November 16, 2007


ROU_Xenophobe said: Haitians' ancestors are overwhelmingly African. Ditto for other black Caribbean islanders... [and subsequently]... It annoys me that people seem so intentionally obtuse about this.

But, the question is about what's "correct" in terms of a "label"... And I am absolutely certain that Haitians and other black Caribbean islanders don't call themselves "African"... If you're wanting to go back all the way to the beginning of time, then we're ALL "African" because that's the scientifically-established cradle of humanity. But that's not what the questioner is asking.
posted by amyms at 7:24 PM on November 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


I am looking for a general principle I can use for orientation.

In formal business or governmental contexts, use "African-American," or at least start using that and then switch to "black" if you prefer. Unless there's some nontrivial chance that you're referring to people who aren't American, in which case "African" or "of African origins" or just the broader catchall "people of color" might be preferable.

In less formal settings, "black."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:25 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


As a social worker I'm in the black community about 80% of my day and I never call anyone African American, nor have I ever encountered someone who asked me to. The black mena and women that I've worked with, clients I've served and community leaders I've met are totally comfortable with their blackness, in fact quite proud of it and will tell you so, quite vocally. The only time I use African American is abbreviated "AA" in ethnicity question boxes on city paper work.
posted by The Straightener at 7:29 PM on November 16, 2007


But, the question is about what's "correct" in terms of a "label"

No, it isn't. The question is "Which terms should I use when to appear a normal person who is sensitive to racial matters but not a loopy PC prig about it?"

And I am absolutely certain that Haitians and other black Caribbean islanders don't call themselves "African"

I don't disagree with that. But the first thing you said was "whose ancestors are not African," and their ancestors indisputably are, and not in any goofy "we are all African" sense.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:31 PM on November 16, 2007


Um..I'm a fully grown woman of African origins and I prefer black, but guess what? In America, you get to decide what you'd like to be called.

Thank god. I thought it was just me. It's like, how dare you respect how the person self-identifies.
posted by cashman at 7:32 PM on November 16, 2007


ROU_Xenophobe: I've met a Haitian American who did not want to be called African American, because that is not where they are from. I've also met a first generation Liberian who didn't like decendents-of-American-slaves being called African Americans. People can and will get insulted about things like this, especially on the touchy subject of race. However, I agree with other posters; African American is generally more formal and Black is more informal.
posted by fermezporte at 7:39 PM on November 16, 2007


For a cross-border comparison, I rarely hear the term "African Canadian" and I'm a bit surprised to see the term used at wikipedia entry on Black Canadians. Canadian newscasts seem to use the phrase "who is black" when relevant to the story (see the last paragraph).

(I know my point may be irrelevant because I'm not in the United States. If so, my apologies.)
posted by philfromhavelock at 7:48 PM on November 16, 2007


"African-American" always seemed a bit presumptuous to me because you're assuming that someone is, well, American. What if they're from Canada, or the UK, or Kenya, or anywhere else in the world? If you were being asked to describe someone and didn't know their nationality, I don't see how you could use anything other than "black" (or the more cumbersome "of African descent"). So if anything, "African-American" could only be a subset of "black," just like "Asian-American" would be a subset of "Asian," etc.

It does make me wonder if other countries even attempt to use their own politically correct terms, or if this is just one of those uniquely American concepts.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 7:57 PM on November 16, 2007


Black works unless you're trying to bend over backwards to be polite.

And no, do not ask for a preference unless the topic comes up naturally. Otherwise it'll basically just come off as "OH HI I'M GOING TO MAKE YOUR RACE THE SUBJECT OF OUR CONVERSATION NOW", which is... slightly unattractive.
posted by Smallpox at 8:09 PM on November 16, 2007


I've met a Haitian American who did not want to be called African American, because that is not where they are from.

Sure. Lots of black Americans who are not descended from slaves brought to the US-and-precursors prefer some other term. For that matter, lots of black Americans who *are* descended from slaves brought to the US prefer "black" to "African-American."*

But, amyms didn't write "There are many black people in America who don't want to be called "African-American," even if that's what she meant, and I responded to what she did write.

*Which is still sort of moot. The more relevant question is probably "What does corporate America use a signifier of sensitivity?"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:13 PM on November 16, 2007


And no, do not ask for a preference unless the topic comes up naturally. Otherwise it'll basically just come off as "OH HI I'M GOING TO MAKE YOUR RACE THE SUBJECT OF OUR CONVERSATION NOW"

Yeah.

If, like krautland, you're not a native speaker and haven't been learning American racial codes by osmosis your whole life, I'd guess that you probably shouldn't be the first to bring up anyone's race, or race in general, at least at the workplace.

See also, Queen Latifah.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:21 PM on November 16, 2007


It doesn't mean "Someone who is American who is also, in some way, from Africa."

Which is why it was so lame when John Kerry's (white) wife introduced herself to black crowds in 2004 as an "African American" because she grew up in Mozambique.

I too feel that black sounds more natural. BUT - and this is key - it's an adjective, not a noun. To me, (white urban chick), "the black people in the crowd" is fine but "the blacks in the crowd" sounds wrong and icky.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:23 PM on November 16, 2007


I am not black, but I live in a majority-black city. I always use the term black -- with black friends, neighbors and virtual strangers -- and nobody has ever taken offense. Fact is, the only people I have ever heard use the term African-American are white. I've read it, too, but as far as actually hearing it -- only white people. And the vast, vast majority of black people I knew use the term black when describing themselves.
posted by bunnie at 8:30 PM on November 16, 2007


I think either term is fine but it's probably more appropriate to say "black person" as opposed to African-American if that person was not born in the US or Africa.

ROU_Xenophobe, your argument is correct only if it's appropriate to call (random example) mathowie a German-American--despite any protests to the contrary. I mean at some point his ancestors came from Germany, right? After all, it doesn't matter what he prefers, it matters as to how you choose to identify him. Your remarks are deliberately obtuse.

(I find that behavior odd in someone who claims to understand/appreciate Banks' Culture novels.)
posted by who squared at 8:30 PM on November 16, 2007


Say "black". The only people who will give you a problem about this are PC whites. If you're dealing with a PC hotbed like a university, major corporation, or government functionary, then say "African American", but otherwise, don't be uncomfortable saying "black" and "black people". There's nothing offensive about it.
posted by evariste at 8:44 PM on November 16, 2007


ROU_Xenophobe, your argument is correct only if it's appropriate to call (random example) mathowie a German-American--despite any protests to the contrary.

That's correct, because in the setting that krautland described, you'd almost certainly *not* be talking to mathowie.

If you're talking to your boss about mathowie, and for some reason his ethnicity comes up, then you would be smart to use terms that your boss, or the larger corporate/business environment, thinks are appropriate. Even if those are not the terms that mathowie, who is not there, would use to self-identify.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:46 PM on November 16, 2007


I stopped ever saying "African American" the year I realized the only black students in my class were citizens of Canada, Jamaica, and Nigeria.

(Yes, I know that Canada is in North America, but both U.S. and Canadian English speakers use "Americans" to mean people from the United States. Black Canadians do not call themselves African American.)
posted by mbrubeck at 8:59 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


What if corporate is wrong? Is someone a Gypsy or Romani when I'm talking to my boss? He might not recognize the latter term but (at least according to Wikipedia) it's a better word than Gypsy.
posted by who squared at 9:02 PM on November 16, 2007


What if corporate is wrong?

They still hold your career hostage, and they're almost certainly going to err on the side of perceived politeness to PC-speak.

Is calling people "black" instead of "African American" really worth making a stink with your employer over?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:32 PM on November 16, 2007


It is not whether you refer to them as "black" or "African American." It's whether you speak of them respectfully. If you speak of them respectfully, nobody can reasonably have a problem with you referring to them as black or African American.

Think of the converse situation. Is there anything offensive or inappropriate about referring to someone as "white"? Yes, you could call them "caucasian," but that sounds stuffy.

The problem is not the people who refer to them as "black" or "African American." That's like debating whether to address someone as "good fellow" or "my dear sir."
posted by jayder at 9:35 PM on November 16, 2007


According to my AP style book:
African-American: The preferred term is black. Use African-American only in quotations or the names of organization or if individuals describe themselves so.See black.Black: Preferred usage for those of the Negroid or black race.Use Negro only in names of organization or in quotations. Do not use colored as a synonym.See the colored entry.colored: In some societies, including the United States, the word is considered derogatory and should not be usedIn some countries of Africa it is used to denote individuals of mixed racial ancestry. Whenever the word is used, placed it in quotation marks and provide an explanation of its meaning.
Granted the AP style book is used by journalists, but I tend to defer to it for most questions of usage and style.
posted by wfrgms at 10:07 PM on November 16, 2007


Fact is, the only people I have ever heard use the term African-American are white.

This is true. Black people tend to call themselves black (or use words that you can never, ever use). Politicians say African-American (some fun black fringe groups might say hue-man, as in people of hue). Marketers say "urban." Never say "urban."
posted by Bookhouse at 10:22 PM on November 16, 2007


ROU_Xenophobe: "I've met a Haitian American who did not want to be called African American, because that is not where they are from.

Sure. Lots of black Americans who are not descended from slaves brought to the US-and-precursors prefer some other term. For that matter, lots of black Americans who *are* descended from slaves brought to the US prefer "black" to "African-American."*


My understanding is that calling someone "African" when you know they weren't born there is denying that person their cultural heritage.
posted by who squared at 10:32 PM on November 16, 2007


Black!
All the time. If they're black.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:06 PM on November 16, 2007


There really is no good answer to this. Personal and cultural identity is a pretty volatile topic. However, it is ironic to me to read so many posts by non-black folks about what the preference for what black folks should be called is.

First, the ridiculously obtuse evasions about black people of non-African descent (Haitians, Jamaicans, etc.). . . come on now, all of these people are directly descended from Africans. To say otherwise is either disingenuous or historically incorrect.

Second, the term African-American is an attempt to place a cultural meaning to the description of black people in America. There is a lengthy historical reason for this and if it is not apparent to most of the posters on this board why there would be a push to link culture with description as regards to black folks, then you really need to read up on U.S. history.

To answer the OP's question, I would ere on the side of African-American. It doesn't cost anything and it might actually make a difference to some people. This is not to say that there are not self-hating folks out there who will bristle at the presumption that they have anything at all to do with Africa. However, that's their issue and you will have done nothing wrong. If someone informs you that they prefer to be called black, then call them black. As I said identity is a personal issue.
posted by anansi at 11:51 PM on November 16, 2007


This may be an appropriate place for the Kris Akabusi anecdote (it may be apocryphal. Lazy quick-Google c&p from here so I avoid hated typing):
Further to my point, I am reminded of a television interview I saw many years ago. A reporter from one of the major US television networks (I forget which one) was interviewing black British athlete Kriss Akabusi after being a member of the 400 meters relay team that took the gold medal at the 1991 Athletics World Championships. The interviewer started off with:

“So, Kriss, what does this mean to you as an African-American?”

“I’m not American, I’m British”

“Yes, but as a British African-American …”

“I’m not African. I’m not American. I’m British.”

This went on for some time before the reporter got so flustered that she gave up and went to interview someone else. I guess more than anything else it demonstrates the potential absurdity of political correctness — this reporter was so tied-up with the idea that the “correct” term for someone of afro-caribbean ancestry was African-American and not Black that she couldn’t cope with the fact that many black people are neither African nor American.
posted by Abiezer at 1:28 AM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


i'm not entirely sure how this comes into conversation. I'm black, mainly because I don't make enough money to be African American. (that was a joke, BTW). In formal settings use African American. If you need them, us black. if you know the dude really well, call him Negro (as in Negro Please)

simple, enough. my brother is half white and goes by african american. but he's also jerk.

More importantly, you should avoid either at all costs. As a black man married to a white woman, i've never needed to mention her whiteness. I live in SC, so trust me, its always an issue here. Our school districts separate test results by race even though it has nothing to do with education: the children wont be separated into black and white... so what's the point of the statistic? no one has an answer for that. But why even mention a person's race at all? And to throw a racial jab: why are white people so hung up on race. in corporate environments, non-blacks spend all day doing a social dance routine. It's not necessary as I certainly dont dance for them. sometimes, I feel as though EVERYONE has negative opinion of blacks and THATS why they struggle so hard with using any term of respect.
posted by Davaal at 2:49 AM on November 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm in South Africa. Here you're either white, black, or coloured (other / mix). I can't tell you what a relief it is to have the terms in the common dialect and not have them carry a stigma or any of that anxiety about political correctness.

The history behind it is ugly, but I think the fact that they've come this far shows how much opportunity there is here.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:37 AM on November 17, 2007


I dont describe myself as an Anglo-Scandinavian, neither does anyone else I know (or any derivitive of Anglo- etc). And Anglo-African is a term I have never heard in my life.
I live in London, and in a very culturally mixed estate and I dont think Ive ever used the word black, even though alot of my neighbours would describe themselves so.
Personally, unless Im giving a detailed description of someone to someone else (in which case I guess I would say said person is dark skinned or something) I woundnt refer to this because in my eyes its not really an important thing, i prefer to 'see no colour'.
Why is it necesary to even use terms like 'African-American' etc? I think it can seem like another degree of seperation from white Americans?
posted by Neonshock at 4:04 AM on November 17, 2007


krautland, if you find this murky and want to know how people decide which to use, you may at least find it a comfort to listen to this NPR story in which the two reporters apparently decide by flipping a coin repeatedly (you can see somewhat the same schizophrenic effect in the article on the web page). If you just pick one and stick to it, you'll do better than that; and 'black' is the better choice in every colloquial/conversational situation I can imagine. If you find yourself in the sort of institution where "African American" is preferred, you'd be aware of it very quickly.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:18 AM on November 17, 2007


I'm black and american. Lets leave it at that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:43 AM on November 17, 2007


There is simply no good answer. Some people will hear "black" and think "Wow, he just came out and said it like that, what's his deal?". Some people will hear "African-American" and think "Okay, we know you actually mean black, way to be overly PC".

Personally, I do everything in my power to not have to refer to a person's skin color, even in situations where it might make things a bit easier on me. It sounds silly to have to do so, but it avoids potential ill feelings being formed towards you. If I absolutely have to reference it, I'll tend to say "black" around anyone who knows me well enough to know there is no possible negative connotation there (friends, family, etc), and "African American" around everyone else.

Complex? Yep, a little. But as someone who strives to avoid unnecessary conflict, it works for me.
posted by mjgrady at 5:50 AM on November 17, 2007


"Black," mostly.

"African American" if you are, in fact, talking about American citizens specifically of African descent. As a subset of "black" people, not all of whom are Americans, nor from Africa. There are probably people who still think "African American" is somehow more respectful, but it's presumptuous.
posted by beerbajay at 6:25 AM on November 17, 2007


Use African American where there is a definite article, black when there isn't. E.g. you would never say "the blacks" but you might say "the African-Americans".
posted by blue_beetle at 7:34 AM on November 17, 2007


[a few comments removed - take fighing to metatalk to email.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:50 AM on November 17, 2007


I only ever use Black.
posted by chunking express at 10:04 AM on November 17, 2007


I you are unsure about addressing black people in any way, you might need to do some soul-searching. But you got the point by now. IT"S BLACK BLACK BLACK.
posted by Student of Man at 10:53 AM on November 17, 2007


I watched the same interview that Abiezer's was talking about. Very difficult to watch.

Black.

We all bleed red.
posted by ducktape at 11:09 AM on November 17, 2007


look, it's no biggie, it's not substance, and it's equally acceptable form: the problem is elsewhere -- black, African American, it doesn't really matter. the problem is when people come up with some weird stuff and end up saying something that has an actual insensitive/racist content. Black or African American doesn't even start to be offensive.

(and yes, some people get offended way too easily -- their problem, in the end, not yours)
posted by matteo at 12:09 PM on November 17, 2007


example: saying "black"or "African American" is cool. reacting to a black person who says "I really love Gershwin" with a casual "really??? cool! I thought you only liked rap!" is not cool.
posted by matteo at 12:12 PM on November 17, 2007


what word to use in a conversation between two white people.

I have never had a conversation where all the participants were white in which ANYONE used the term "A-A" except in discussions about which term to use. And we talk about black people alot, because I work in theater, and teach at an urban sports facility.

Using the term A-A feels stilted and pretentious, unless you're trying to not offend someone, a laudable motive in and of itself. So do what feels right. People who are gong to get offended because you didn't mind-read about their preferred term are looking for an excuse.
posted by nax at 6:11 PM on November 17, 2007


Haitians, for example, as well as many other Caribbean islanders.

whose ancestors came from Africa, unless all the history I've ever read is wrong.


on a long enough timeline, we all came from africa.
posted by almostmanda at 7:36 PM on November 17, 2007


There is nothing wrong with being concise and using the words white or black

I disagree, if it's accuracy you're striving for, these words aren't concise enough, since if you're all grown up and sophisticated, you no longer see the world in simple white and black. And what about capitalization? If this ethnic is labeled Black, shouldn't the other team be labeled White? Oh right, there's many teams... umm, Latinos or Hispanics... are they White? (Along with the dot-Indians they used to be labeled brown but like yellow and red, these colors are now out of favor... and as for non-white, don't go there.) And how about people from Spain? To avoid confusion, as a WASP I prefer the label "Anglo" but my Asian pals call me Caucasian (which sound as dated to me as if I labeled them "Oriental").

And Anglo-African is a term I have never heard in my life.

And yet this term would accurately describe settlers of South Africa and Zambia.
posted by Rash at 2:48 PM on November 18, 2007


Well after anyone cares, but I read this editorial in the New York Times today and was put in mind of this question. The writer, a black American now living in London, opens by saying:
"I’M black again. I was black in Mississippi in the 1970s but sometime in the 1980s I became African-American, with a brief pause at Afro-American. Someone, I think it was Jesse Jackson, in the days when he had that kind of clout, managed to convince America that I preferred being African-American. I don’t."
Again, well after this question's been settled, but I figured I'd link to the article for posterity.
posted by dersins at 3:47 PM on February 27, 2008


For times sake, I refer to blacks in America as African-Americans because for now, it's what's seemingly preferred in academic black texts and scholars who study cultural trends. And my boyfriend insists I call him an African-American even though I know it's not correct to assume everyone is African-American but I do it just to keep on the safe side. My conversation with a group of young black women will go like this, "Yea, my boyfriend is African-American." They will say "It's ok, we are black too." Letting me know it's ok to use the word "Black."
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 9:21 PM on October 13, 2008


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