What’s the Difference Between Black and African-American?

One definition of African-American is an American of black African descent. The term may also be written with a hyphen as African-American.  Please notice, black is used in front of African descent.  This is a very weak, in my opinion, way of associating the term with black people when the term would more accurately fit others.

What do you think about her?  Does she look African-American to you?  The Oscar-winning actress just became a naturalized American citizen in 2007, so where is she actually from?  Charlize Theron was born in Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa.  What do you think about that?  It would probably turn many people’s stomachs if someone referred to her as African-American – I’m sure she is referred to as a caucasian instead.  Why would that be the case when her ethnicity, her true ethnicity, wouldn’t change anything about her?  If she was referred to as an African-American it wouldn’t change her blond hair, but it would lower the public opinion of her for some.  Sad but true.

Another disturbing story centers around Trevor Richards, a student who went to Westside High in Omaha, Nebraska.  Trevor moved from Johannesburg, which makes him African-American technically.  He was booted from school for this poster.  A lot of hoopla surrounded this and one posting on an internet message board said, “I attend Westside and I am in support for Trevor. Trevor is one of only maybe one or two other people that are actually from Africa. Trevor is more of an African-American than any other “African-American” at Westside. It is also wrong that there is an award for only black students when every other award at Westside is for everyone and everyone has an equal chance to receive those awards if they try.”

I have another one for you.  David John Matthews was born January 9, 1967 in South Africa and is now a naturalized American.  That would make him African-American right?  Think about that someone mentions, or you are listening to the Dave Matthews band.

John H Mc Whorter wrote an article titled “Why I’m Black, Not African American” in 2004:

“Living descendants of slaves in America neither knew their African ancestors nor even have elder relatives who knew them. Most of us worship in Christian churches. Our cuisine is more southern U.S. than Senegalese. Starting with ragtime and jazz, we gave America intoxicating musical beats based on African conceptions of rhythm, but with melody and harmony based on Western traditions.

Also, we speak English. Black Americans’ home speech is largely based on local dialects of England and Ireland. Africa echoes in the dialect only as a whisper, in certain aspects of sound and melody. A working-class black man in Cincinnati has more in common with a working-class white man in Providence than with a Ghanaian.

With the number of African immigrants in the U.S. nearly tripling since 1990, the use of “African American” is becoming increasingly strained. For example, Alan Keyes, the Republican Senate candidate in Illinois, has claimed that as a descendant of slaves, he is the “real” African American, compared with his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, who has an African father and white mother. And the reason Keyes and others are making arguments such as this is rather small, the idea being that “African American” should refer only to people with a history of subordination in this country – as if African immigrants such as Amadou Diallo, who was killed by police while reaching for his wallet, or Caribbean ones such as torture victim Abner Louima have found the U.S. to be the Land of Oz.”

The term entered into usage largely starting in 1988, when the Rev. Jesse Jackson held a news conference to urge Americans to use it to refer to blacks. I missed the memo – who asked Jesse to speak for all of us?  I think this was a decision he felt empowered to make on behalf of the whole race and someone should have told him to pump his brakes and hold on!

From a scientific viewpoint, the term African-American makes absolutely no sense.  I hate to crush your spirit so hold on to your seat.  Most genetic evidence now supports an African origin for all humans on earth. Thus, everyone living in the Americas today is, properly speaking, African American.

Look people, this is just something else created by man, meant to separate us and keep us at odds.  You have to get something positive from this and hopefully this is what you take away: we need to start looking at people as equals regardless of the color of their skin.  There are so many people who have lost their life because of the color of their skin – I’m not just talking about black people either.  Senseless death because someone looks different is a ridiculous occurance and for that mankind should be ashamed.  Please, leave here armed with a little more understanding and don’t look upon another ethnic group with pity.  Look at them as other human beings who should have the same rights as you.

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