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African American v. Black

Ebony Turner, Opinion Editor

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I have always been a fan of all things politically correct. I think the best way to avoid unnecessary confrontation is to approach any conversation you have from a respectful angle that says everything without saying anything at all. It is mature, it is classy and shows some self-control. The only time there is no room for such passive aggression is in the realm of race relations. I don’t think the peace act is always the best approach when it comes to issues involving race, especially when the issue is within your own culture.

Black people always show some kind of gripe with being called ‘African American,’ especially if they have no known tie to an African country. I mildly understand where they are coming from. Who wants to associate themselves with a place they have no real knowledge of? But what I don’t understand is the lack of wanting to become knowledgeable of a place all Black people come from. This is not even an opinion, it is fact. All genealogy from Black people leads to a country in Africa. All West Indians and Black Cubans have ancestors that arrived in those regions due to slavery or migration from Africa. So to then say that you do not want to be called ‘African American’ because you are not African isn’t valid at all. We are all African, we just do not all know where in Africa we originate from. For Black people, the best we can do is state the truth rather than spew ignorance because we have been educated on slavery for too long to not know what we truly are. There are cultures within the Black race that still keep us within the race but more culturally enriched due to the islands, countries and regions we forcibly lived in.

The real issue I have with the term of African American is not because I don’t identify with it. Technically, that is the perfect combination of words that describes my heritage. I am African thanks to my Igbo mother and American thanks to my father who is from Louisiana. ‘African American’ embodies exactly what I am, but when I hear it used by people who are not Black, I can tell they are saying it as a way to tip-toe around the fact that I am Black. It is equivalent to taking the scenic route home rather than the highway. It’s an excessive and roundabout way to call me Black. They say ‘African American’ not because they know it is my heritage, but because they don’t want to insult me. What is so insulting about calling someone what they are? Black may be dark and negative in its literal definition but not in its cultural application. There is nothing to be ashamed of, but when you choose the politically correct way to say something, you’re doing so to protect the individual’s feelings as if being called ‘Black’ is shameful.  The main reason for that is because the term ‘African American’ is not a description Black people created. African American has evolved from what we used to be called by other races which ranged from ‘Negro,’ ‘Nigger’ and ‘Colored.’ Black, I presume, is a little too honest for mainstream use. When you say the word it can feel a little harsh as it exits your mouth. Our culture would rather be coddled by dishonesty than confronted with the truth of what we are. What we fail to realize in our attempt to not offend is that Black people are exactly that – black.

Being afraid to call us Black out of fear of insulting us is equivalent to the media using euphemisms like ‘the N word’ instead of ‘nigger.’ You can’t decorate or dress up our culture with a politically correct label that most Black people do not feel they even relate to. Our people were never called ‘the N word,’ we were called nigger. It was normalized term used to address us, belittle us and berate us, so if we are going to talk about it than we need to be honest in how we do so. Whether we are knowledgeable of our roots is a gripe we must deal with, but part of being honest about where you come from is being honest in how you discuss your culture. I am not ashamed of what I am, and I see nothing negative enough about my culture that I should be ashamed of it. My responsibility is me, and how I choose to internalize and express my Blackness. I will never refer to myself as African American on the sole basis that I would never want to use a term to describe my heritage that my heritage did not even create.

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