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African American or black

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

Our new son is half African American.  I was told that African American was the pc term these days but I get the feeling that black might be more common or correct.  I truely don't know but I was wondering what others had to say. 

post #2 of 27
It's not simple. Some blacks dislike term AA, some AAs dislike the term black. But I think for the most part either is OK. I would use whatever feels most comfortable to you until your son is old enough to choose how he identifies.

Congrats on your adoption. Very exciting.
post #3 of 27

personally, I say black.  I personally know black people who aren't African so I stick with a more general term.  Not to mention, no one calls me anything other than white hehe.  I figure people who want to be called African American can just tell me as such.  It seems kinder to use a more generic term if I need to talk about skin color at all than to assume all black people must be of African descent (of course, ignoring the fact that humans are all meant to have come from Africa hehe)

post #4 of 27

I usually say black unless i know others prefer a different term. My daughter, who was raised in same-race families and usually went to all-black schools refers to herself as black. I think either term is fine.

post #5 of 27

I say black. DS is biracial (black and white), DD's and DH are black.

post #6 of 27

I use both because I think they mean very different things.

 

African American refers to my child's heritage.  His birth family is part of a rich cultural heritage, with a unique culture that developed in the U.S. during and after slavery.  His heritage is different than that of his good friends who were born in Ethiopia and immigrated as babies, or some of my students whose family came to this country a generation ago from Trinidad. 

 

Black refers to his race.

 

So, if I was making a comment about something cultural, e.g. referring to African American food, or African American music, I'd use that term, unless I truly thought what I was talking about was universal to the African diaspora.  Just like I wouldn't refer to Spaghetti or Chinese opera as "white food" or "Asian music", I'd put them in the context of a culture, Italian food, Chinese music.

 

On the other hand, if I were referring to something racial, such as caring for his hair, I wouldn't say, "I'm looking for good products for African American hair?".  I'd also use the word black to refer to organizaions such as HBCU's that are formed for all black citizens or residents of the U.S. regardless of their origins.

post #7 of 27
Thread Starter 

Thank you all so much!  Our agency said to use African American but I was getting the vibe that at least around here black is more common.  Although we don't have that many black people where we live.  My DS is biracial too.

post #8 of 27

Funny, I had the same question a while ago so I asked a friend who I consider an expert because her father is a professor of African American history. She told me that it's up to us. I prefer the term black or black American because it's more inclusive and better represents the real issue: skin color. But I've noticed that it makes other people more uncomfortable than the term African American.

 

Likewise, people are uncomfortable when I identify as white. They prefer the term Caucasian (I hate that term).

 

There's a similar issue with the terms Hispanic and Latino. I prefer the terms Latino or country-specific terms (like Mexican) rather than Hispanic, because hispanic implies the language one speaks, not their skin color or ethnic heritage, but lots of people seem to prefer the term Hispanic.

 

I dislike the term "biracial" because it implies distinct categories of race separate from social context. Basically, virtually all African Americans are "biracial" if you test their DNA. But we tend to only refer to light skinned black people as biracial, very rarely do people use the term to refer to people of other types of mixed heritages or even dark skinned black people who have some European ancestry.

 

But... my views on race are not necessarily representative of the mainstream nor are they the views most likely to lead you to a successful transracial adoption. In my view, many people still like the colorblind approach and feel more comfortable if you express colorblind views on race than if you have a more current/educated view.

post #9 of 27

Any one know where the word caucasian comes from? What is the root that makes it mean "european"... just curious. I might have to research that. I think it is a dumb word too. :-)

I am having to get comfortable with the word "black". For one, "black" people aren't black... and white people aren't white, and that has always bugged me. But like many stated it is our word in reference to a racial group.

 

I've usually said African American, but that is honestly only because I fear offending someone, and that is silly. 

Haha... just being completely honest. 

 

I might just call our new kids, either Black or Ugandan... but I know that might not be a good solution either... but that is what they are. Hum... very complicated.

post #10 of 27

I knew the answer but I googled it to get a more formal sounding answer hehe:

 

"Caucasian means 'resident of the Caucasus', a mountainous area formed where the European tectonic plate is making contact with the Arabian tectonic plate. This place is believed to be the ancestral origin of White man, which is why whites are called caucasians."  (It's from wikianswers or whatever)

 

As for saying 'black,'  My friend's husband is from the Dominican Republic.  They look black.  Calling him and his children 'African American' might be what many would first think of but it would be incorrect.  He isn't African American, He is Dominican.  Sure, black... but not African.  Unfortunately, he experiences a lot of racism, including a neighbor not allowing their kids to play with his.  I guess it really isn't the African bit, but only the skin pigment bit that makes people so hateful.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcimama View Post

Any one know where the word caucasian comes from? What is the root that makes it mean "european"... just curious. I might have to research that. I think it is a dumb word too. :-)

I am having to get comfortable with the word "black". For one, "black" people aren't black... and white people aren't white, and that has always bugged me. But like many stated it is our word in reference to a racial group.

 

I've usually said African American, but that is honestly only because I fear offending someone, and that is silly. 

Haha... just being completely honest. 

 

I might just call our new kids, either Black or Ugandan... but I know that might not be a good solution either... but that is what they are. Hum... very complicated.

post #11 of 27

I have thought that African American was the only PC term, but one of our best friends said, "I'm not from Africa. I'm black."  Got it.  ;)


 

post #12 of 27
Honestly, I think the term "PC" is more problematic than either African-American or black. The term "PC" implies an excessive or inappropriate concern with avoiding possibly offensive language, and the idea that this is a question of "PC-ness" bothers me. I see it as a question of respect and politeness. When one needs to use a term to describe someone's race (and more often than not, it's not), I think it's respectful and polite to use the term that person prefers - and if that person is an infant, then the term others of that race prefer. In my experience that's most often been black rather than African-American, but it varies.
post #13 of 27

I just read a huge thing somewhere (hmmm, where WAS that?) where lots of black people were annoyed with the AA term.  I'm interested in this, too.  I don't care so much about PC.  I guess I kinda scoff that, but I don't want to be offensive to the people themselves.  I've been doing a lot of traveling and keep finding myself annoyed with myself for not knowing the correct terms.  Hispanic? Mexican? Indian?  Black? African American? Oriental? What?

 

Anyway.

post #14 of 27

I've heard American people refer to African people as "African American" on several occasions and it always makes me chuckle. 

post #15 of 27

I live in a very diverse university town. Black is usually the term that's generally used, in my experience, because there are just as many people who have no African background as people who do. In addition, there are many people who come here to study, or work for, the university and aren't American at all.

 

My daughter is half Mexican and I generally consider her to be Hispanic. Although many people here use the term Latina/Latino. More than when I lived in Miami.

 

post #16 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by erratum View Post

I've heard American people refer to African people as "African American" on several occasions and it always makes me chuckle. 



Yes, I remember hearing someone refer to Desmond Tutu as an "African American hero".  Ummmm, no.  He's African, and he's a hero, but that middle word surely doesn't apply. 

 

On the other hand, if you're distinguishing between Tutu and Mandela, and Malcolm X, and Dr. King, referring the the first two as "African heroes" and the latter two as "African American heroes" makes sense. 

 

post #17 of 27

I've wondered this too.  DS is so light black he almost looks white.  DD on the other hand is dark black.  The bios are white.  I usually joke that we have dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate in our family.  :)For us, "AA" isn't accurate to refer to DD's bio family.  They are African.  So I generally go with "black" for her.  For DS I joke that he's my white black baby.  When he gets older we probably won't use that joke any more, but for now it works.


 

 

 

post #18 of 27

Interesting. My son, who was adopted, is half white and half black, and I have no idea what his ethnic or cultural background is. He looks, to most people, Hispanic, but many people think he is white, or biracial, or even Arab. He can pass for almost anything. It's going to be hard for him, I think, to find a comfortable racial term or expression, because to so many he just looks white, but I don't want him to feel like he has to deny any part of himself. I am already nervous because my DD's school had them do a project on someone who matches their cultural background, and I can't imagine what my son will do for this project one day. :(

post #19 of 27


I think "oriental" is generally considered offensive. It is hard. I heard that older black Americans asked that the term "negro" be put back on the census, because they had positive associations with it. I guess it changes!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Just1More View Post

I just read a huge thing somewhere (hmmm, where WAS that?) where lots of black people were annoyed with the AA term.  I'm interested in this, too.  I don't care so much about PC.  I guess I kinda scoff that, but I don't want to be offensive to the people themselves.  I've been doing a lot of traveling and keep finding myself annoyed with myself for not knowing the correct terms.  Hispanic? Mexican? Indian?  Black? African American? Oriental? What?

 

Anyway.



 

post #20 of 27


Asian = people

oriental = things

At least, that's how I understood it.

 

Regarding "negro," I read that it was just a few among the older generation who wanted it on the Census, but not many younger people.
And it should be remembered that lables used on a Census form are not necessarily the same labels that ought to be used in spoken language when referring to each other. For example, on a Census form it might make sense to label me "adoptive mom" or "foster mom" but in conversation I don't want to hear that. I just want to be "mom."

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fuamami View Post


I think "oriental" is generally considered offensive. It is hard. I heard that older black Americans asked that the term "negro" be put back on the census, because they had positive associations with it. I guess it changes!



 



 

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