Friday, August 09, 2013

basic black

i'm not using the stupid term "african-american".  i'm just not.

for a little while i was because i think any group of people gets to be called by THEIR preferred term, but it's a sweeping generalization to think that black people in general prefer it, and i have two very good reasons NOT to use it.

reason one:

it is a piece of US- arrogant claptrap.

this man is not an african american.

this man is bob marley.

this man is not an african american.

this man is thierry henry.

this woman is not an african american.

this woman is miriam makeba.

this man is not african american.

this man is alexandre dumas, père.

this man is TOTALLY not african american.

he is, in case you live under a rock, nelson mandela.

so just in case you're counting, that's jamaican, french, south african, french, and the FREAKING MOST FAMOUS AND DISTINGUISHED PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA EVER.

they are none of them anything-americans. they are all, however, black people.

but let's just go with the idea that we wish to discuss only black people in the united states.

ok, fine.

here's reason two not to call them african-americans: white people are not required to carry around an awkward sign indicating our ancestral geography. we are not norwegian-americans or turkish-americans or latvian-americans.

we are just americans. it is the default value and default value is a position of privilege. so let's just stop making black people carry around the extra baggage of having to be some other kind of american that needs qualification.

you know, not the real kind.

some secondary kind that needs extra labeling.

and you know what? i didn't even know until a couple of weeks ago that eric holder is a black man. you know, the attorney general of the united states?

because i only ever hear him on the radio.

and quite frankly, unless i am trying to describe his appearance or maybe understand something about his personal life and experience, i don't NEED to know he's a black man, not any more than you need to know that i sunburn easily and that my family is typical of early 20th century eastern european immigrants.

my appearance and my family history may come up in conversation and may even be relevant information, but you do not need this information to qualify my citizenship in the united states. when you marginalize people and you call them "other", their problems are somebody else's problems.

if we just take all americans and call them "americans" regardless of ancestry, then we're all in it together. we might consider the specific concerns of inner city youth or rural poverty or women's equality or racial bias but i think it will really help if we can look at these issues as things that affect americans. these are things we all (citizens of this country, citizens of the world) need to address and maybe not put up so many dividers about some mythical "us" and "them".

so that's why i'm not using this "african-american" nonsense.

black people are not necessarily american, and black americans don't need to have a physical trait labeled in such a way as to continue the systematic marginalization of thirteen percent of the population.

sometimes we need to discuss skin color and how that makes life different for some of our citizens. it is not ok for even the identification of that skin color to signal a different, inherently lesser citizenship.

we may talk of race. we may talk of citizenship. unless we are prefixing ALL of our citizens with a racial identity when we talk of them, we oughtn't do it to any of our citizens.

if i say "race relations", "gender studies", or "sexual orientation", you think of black people, women's issues, and gays, right?

it is easy for dominant groups to be so entrenched in their privilege that they forget white people have race, men have gender, and straight people have a sexual orientation.


i will not be using the term "african-american" unless i am talking of  specific concerns unique to immigrants to the US from africa.

oh, and by the way:

do you know what these people have in common?


mozambique, kenya, south africa.


suppose any of them had emigrated to the united states.

that'd make them african-american, right?

1 comment:

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Excellent point!

And Whoopie Goldberg who is black said she was not African American but American.


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