Why #Black is better than #AfricanAmerican and #Of-Color is not better than #Colored In this scenario, there is no bright future of racial equality. The “dream” has become a stagnant excuse for failure and continued fear and mistrust by us of them.
WHY “BLACK” IS BETTER THAN “AFRICAN AMERICAN”
“OF COLOR” IS NOT BETTER THAN “COLORED”
By Frankie Valinda Ghee
Unlike some people who share with me similar skin tone and facial features, I realize that I am in no position to speak for all or even most of us. However, it is my very personal opinion that in order for the United States to significantly reduce stereotyping and racial prejudice, and for black people to be judged without regard to skin type in all areas of life, we must first abandon the double standards that allow completely racist things to be done and said on behalf of black people. It is time to accept the past and move forward into a new, more idealistic era. I believe that we need to begin living as if in a world where physical appearance is not presumed to tell the story of an individual’s intellect or upbringing. We must stop confusing culture with physical appearance.
I believe that black people in the U.S. will continue to need special protection in education and the workplace as long as we continue to accept the charity of good intentions, entitlement and always one more push up the ladder to self-esteem for our people from them. As long as a loud enough percentage of black people continue to advocate clinging to the victimhood begot of the atrocities in our county’s past, and only a few of us ask, “Can we please get beyond this?” lynching and Jim Crow will remain at the forefront of our dialogue, and we will always be treated as the victims of historic crimes. In this scenario, there is no bright future of racial equality. The “dream” has become a stagnant excuse for failure and continued fear and mistrust by us of them.
Here’s a test. Take any strategy which is being used to help black people cope with being black in America, and try doing the same thing for white people. See how you feel about it. If your instinct is “We can’t do that!” or “That is completely racist!” Rethink the strategy. For example, try advocating that a slightly less qualified candidate should get a position because she is white, and the company needs more white people to balance all the black people working there. Yikes! That’s completely racist. Right? We should rethink that strategy.
Start talking about white people with reverence as people “of no color.” If you see a group of white people having a meal or discussing a topic, say something like, “This restaurant is frequented by ‘people of no color.’”
Announce and/or count every time a white person achieves something lofty. For example, “This is the 105th white lawyer in this district to win the award.”
Create a channel called “White Entertainment Television,” and have music or film awards that exclude everyone except white people. Racist. Right?
Try this phrase, “Leaders of the white community gathered today to discuss the Ebola crisis.”
What comes to mind when you hear, “white leaders,” or “the white community?” If you are white, ask yourself, who is qualified to speak for your community and say what white people are thinking about any given topic?
I can’t even think of what you could say to sum up all of white Americans in the same condescending, generalizing (I know you are all the same and have the same culture and background because you share certain obvious physical features), way that black Americans are continually lumped together by use of the descriptor “African American.”
A person who has white parents and white grandparents but who looks darker, has a broader nose and curly hair will be referred to as African American and own the history we are pummeled with each February. They will be lumped into a very specific us (or them depending on what you look like) based solely on physical appearance.
If you are an “African American” in the public school system, you will become a project for student teachers looking for a multicultural experience. It will be assumed that your culture and the culture of the well educated people hired to teach you cannot be the same culture even if you were born and raised only blocks apart. You will have excuses made for any social or intellectual short comings you may demonstrate, or crusaders will pat themselves on the back for holding you to a high standard. The system will count how many of you there are in each school in the same way they count the number of students who live below the poverty line, have learning disabilities, or don’t speak English. They will use the number of your “African American” peers as a factor in estimating your potential for success in your neighborhood.
Make no mistake, “African American” does not say “Respected.” It does not say, “Just as good.” It says, “You’re not from here, and there is another place to which you might someday return.” It says that in this country, you are one of the
Try on these phrases. “White children in American need to learn to take pride in their race.”
“White children need to know where they came from.”
“White children in American need white role models in government, education and athletics.
Take any famous white person who commits a noteworthy crime, and pole white people to see how they feel about it. Be absolutely sure that everyone knows the effect that the crime is having on the “white community.
The quest to foster white racial pride and unity is not more racist than the quest to foster black racial pride and unity. Both are extremely racist. When you speak of being proud of something there is an implication that everything else is somehow less worthy of pride. If I am proud to have achieved my African American genetics, then I have to feel glad that I am not white because being white would somehow be less. To be proud, African America must be better than regular America.
When someone describes a person as “white” or “black,” I start to get a visual image of that person, and that is all. I can absolutely use the descriptor “black” without skipping a beat before moving on to eye color and body type. What does he look like? He is black, medium build, five feet nine inches tall…
If, however, you tell me that someone is “Asian American,” “Irish American” or anything like that, I feel I am being told something about that person’s background and lifestyle.
The phrases “African America” and especially “person of color” sound to me like an attempt at saying “not white” while elevating the person being discussed. I believe it is a failed attempt to bolster the victims of American history that segregates the person being described into a subset of people with some deeper experience or connection than mere physical features can speak to. In reality these descriptions are just another way of lumping “us” away from “them.” Either you are of color, or you are not. Either you are African American or you are regular American. Which are you?
As long as we continue to refer to white people as “white people,” referring to black people as anything other than “black people” will require just enough effort to keep us all uncomfortable with describing someone who looks the way I do. The more we try to dress it up, the more being black will feel like it needs to be dressed up.
I think it’s silly to call all black people living in the United States “African American” and refer to black people in other countries including Africa as “black.”
Of course, there are actually African Americans in the same way that there are Italian Americans and Mexican Americans. These people have migrated from Africa, and they bring with them a diversity of language, fashion, food and relationship structures. They bring with them aspects of their truly African Culture. The funny thing is that some African Americans are white.
I on the other hand, have never been to Africa. No one I know well has lived in Africa. I speak only English fluently. I buy my clothes based on my own personal taste and not based on any efforts to appear extra ethnic or tribal. I choose my friends based on location and common interest, and I feel no more connected to a black stranger than to a white one. I do not seek nor do I avoid people of any color based on their shading or the shape of their noses.
I can’t imagine any set of circumstances in which I would Answer the question, “Where are you from?” with “I am from Africa.” I was born in Wyoming and raised in Montana. Yet I am no less physically black than if I had been born and raised in the south eastern region of the U.S.
My life is here. I am from here, and the only family I need to connect with is here. I do not have duel citizenship. There is no African America.
Further, while my skin is a rich brown of which I am quite pleased, I have never met a person of “no color,” so the descriptor, “of color” is meaningless and condescending while trying to sound reverent.
As far as I know, there isn’t any evidence to show that the widespread use of the phrase “African American” or the phrase “people of color” has done anything at all to reduce prejudice in the United States? I wonder how long we will wait for the practice of stereotyping and division to yield the desired unity and equality we claim to seek. If the goal is for all of us to be us and for none of us to be them, we need to start living the dream.
It is my very personal opinion that, as a quick shorthand to describe the physical features of people with darker skin tone, fuller lips, broader noses, and higher cheekbones, “black” is a much better choice than “African America” and the phrase “of color” should be terminated with extreme prejudice.