I’d like you to reconsider the phrase “African American."
It’s a term that, in my memory at least, gained prominence back in the 1990s as a catchall to denote any person in America with African ancestry. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines African American as “an American of African and especially of black African descent.”
But, I would argue that the term has come to define a narrower demographic: Americans of African ancestry whose families have lived in this country for generations. Americans whose ancestors were kidnapped from their countries of origin and dispersed throughout this territory in bondage. The people whose ancestors lived through the American Revolution, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Era.
These are the people I think of when I think of “African Americans.” I bet you probably think of them, too.
Me? I’m Black. I’m an American of African descent.
At first glance, these distinctions might seem semantic. But I assure you, they are not.
You may call me African American and think you’re being politically correct. But when I hear someone refer to me that way, I hear their assumptions.
I hear their discomfort with saying the word “Black.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a well-intentioned person choke on the “B” in “Black” as they frantically search the corners of their mind to find a “safer” adjective.
I implore you to consider all the ways a person with some degree of African ancestry might come to live in the U.S.
We’re Africa-born Americans. We’re South Americans of African descent. We’re American children born to African parents. We’re Europe-, Canada-, and Asia-born people of African descent living here.
We have histories that deviate drastically from each other…. (see pt .2)