FRIHOSTFORUMSSEARCHFAQTOSBLOGSCOMPETITIONS
You are invited to Log in or Register a free Frihost Account!


Racial terminology...






Which term(s) are neutral (or closest to neutral) for the modern description of a person of African descent born in America?
African-American
45%
 45%  [ 15 ]
Black
48%
 48%  [ 16 ]
Colored
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
Negro
6%
 6%  [ 2 ]
Total Votes : 33

quex
EDIT: Thank, folks. The terms supplied to the teacher in response to his question were "black," with a note that "African-American" is also widely used in sensitive situations. Additionally, I am very, very glad that as of this edit, nobody has voted for "colored." It is indeed offensive, and was only included as it was used commonly in the MLKJr texts and the larger Civil Rights Movement.

Disclaimer: The following thread is not intended to offend or criticize any person of any ethnic background.

That said, here we go.

I work in a school in Japan where I assist in the instruction of English and American society. While doing research or Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a teacher asked me exactly what the correct, neutral term for "people of that skin color" is among Americans.

Now, I tend towards "African-American," but I almost wonder if that is too politically moulded to be neutral. The term "black" is used relatively widely on television and the radio... but that's television and the radio. In his most famous speeches, Dr. King often used the word "negro," but AGAIN, the conditions of the Civil Rights Movement meant that "negro" and "colored" were common terms on both sides.

THE QUESTION:

Which term(s) are neutral (or closest to neutral) for the modern description of a person of African descent born in America?

African-American
Black
Colored
Negro

...or any less-offensive words that I may have blatantly forgotten.

Please help me figure this one out. Thank you.
reddishblue
Black and African-American, Black especially, they themselves use it
Captain Fertile
I remember when it was acceptable to call them black, then it was classed as offensive because many said, "We are not BLACK!" so it then became colored but now it seems to be black again more and more.

It is kind of tricky when you aren't too sure what is the acceptable term. I used to say colored but now use black because it seems the most widely used by the people themselves in polite company, outside of polite company it seems to be the 'N' word but that they seem to use most but that may just be the kinds of TV and movies I watch and I know that word is not acceptable for a white person so say so wouldn't use it.

I find black to be the safest until I hear otherwise.
HoboPelican
reddishblue wrote:
Black and African-American, Black especially, they themselves use it


While I tend to agree with your choice, I would be careful about your reasoning. It is not unusual to hear blacks use the "N" word amongst themselves, but I wouldn't suggest that as a proper way to refer to them.

Not being black, I can't in any way say what is the most neutral. It does seem that there is some variation among blacks/african-americans about which they prefer (and don't forget "person of color"). Some of my friends get sorta riled at being referred to as African-American, since they consider themselves to be "American" and not a sub set of Americans.

I think, in general, it's best to use any non-derogatory term (if you have to use it at all) and if offense is taken, apologize and ask what their preference is.
Captain Fertile
Quote:
I think, in general, it's best to use any non-derogatory term (if you have to use it at all) and if offense is taken, apologize and ask what their preference is.


The problem is, what is a non-derogatory term rigth across the board. I don't get offended by white (even though I am a pinky white colour) I understand it is just how I am defined (if I am being defined in that manner) so I don't see what the problem wuld be with black.

It sure is a minefield, the racists have it easy, they don't have to think of the vogue in-word of the time.
T3k-Ni9e
I think its different depending on where you live.

African-American just makes you sound as if your to scared to say Black.

Black in some rare cases can be "offensive"

Where i live (Augusa, GA) i would say 90% of my classmates were black. ALL of my friends were black and they personally didnt care what i called em.
meet in rio
'Black'. It's not strictly accurate, sure, but nor is 'white'. It's no more offensive than 'blonde' or 'tall'.

'African-American' is so painfully politically correct that it draws attention to what should now be a non-issue, as far as I can see. It's also arguably less accurate than 'black': if a white Zimbabwean family had children in America, you would hardly refer to them as 'African-American', although that might be exactly what they are.

Physical description should be exactly that: representative of physical characteristics. It shouldn't serve to define anything else about a person, such as their nationality.

Not that I think it's bad to say 'African-American'; just unecessary.
rhathar
I think 'Black' is the most commonly accepted term. I'm of Swedish descent, called 'white', and even someone as pale as me isn't even close to the color 'white'. It's just a name, people.

meet in rio wrote:
'African-American' is so painfully politically correct that it draws attention to what should now be a non-issue, as far as I can see. It's also arguably less accurate than 'black': if a white Zimbabwean family had children in America, you would hardly refer to them as 'African-American', although that might be exactly what they are.


Not only that, but it's used for anyone that looks 'black', regardless of where they may ACTUALLY be from. Personally, if I was born in Africa and was 'black' I would take offense at being called 'African American'. Because I wouldn't be! I'd be African!
David_Pardy
African-American is not going to be true in 90% of cases anyway.

I don't know that Negro is technically the correct term as I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that it is actually a South-American term for black, so not inherently an African adjective or any such thing.

Most people whom are typically referred to as Afro-Americans in the US are to my knowledge, descendants of the black slaves from England a couple hundred years back anyway, so who knows what sort of mixing of blood there can be in a lot of them by now anyway?

I mean, I'm an Australian, but I don't even know if any one of my ancestors goes back to one of the Convicts from England in 1788...
{name here}
I have a black friend, and if I need a word to call him in racial terms, it's okay if I use black. It's probably not the best thing to call strangers though - you just don't know who will explode at you these days.
Marston
reddishblue wrote:
Black and African-American, Black especially, they themselves use it
By that logic, the term n*gger would also be acceptable (which it is not).
reddishblue
Marston wrote:
reddishblue wrote:
Black and African-American, Black especially, they themselves use it
By that logic, the term n*gger would also be acceptable (which it is not).

I have not heard that phrase be used in real life...ever.
Anyways my reasoning is not a catch all it applies only to "Black" not to any other, in my opinion it is best to ignore their skin colour completely, I would be pissed off if someone kept on calling me "White"
tribe
I have a problem here. First off I am not racist and many of my closest friends are black, but lemme state my issue.

African Americans seem to be offended when you call them blacks. Well who cares, Caucasians aren't offended when you call them whites.

Blacks can call their own race whatever they damn well please, but it's racist for a White to call them Black or Negro or colored.

Doesn't make that much since to me, but I don't care. They are what they are, and their black. They are good people and should stop this racial crap, because nowadays, the KLAN doesn't rule America.
meet in rio
reddishblue wrote:
I would be pissed off if someone kept on calling me "White"


Why? How is it any different from 'blonde', 'female', 'short' or 'wearing a green tee-shirt'?
Captain Fertile
meet in rio wrote:
reddishblue wrote:
I would be pissed off if someone kept on calling me "White"


Why? How is it any different from 'blonde', 'female', 'short' or 'wearing a green tee-shirt'?


A very good point from both people here and a good reason why this is a problem hard to overcome because it is so hard to define;

I think maybe I understand why some would be upset if the first thing that defined me ALL of the time was my skin colour. I mean I would rather be defined by my stunning good looks, my athletic prowess, my stamina in bed or even my huge collection of train timetables. But it must get you down to know that no matter what you achieve the first thing used to define you is the colour of your skin, just like it would get you down if you people focused on your fat belly, your large ears or your large front teeth and crossed eyes. But then, wouldn't it only get you down if it was a flaw of some kind rather than something you claim to be proud of like the colour of your skin.

There may be fault on both sides of the racial divide;

The fault of me the ‘offender’ (whether intended or not) if, and only if, I define someone as black first and foremost no matter what other attributes he possesses and the fault of the offended minority for feeling that when I use the term black it is some form of affront against him personally and others of his minority.

That said, I am quite comfortable with how I approach this in my own life. For years I worked in an office full of white people with one black member of staff, a tall guy we shall call him Todd.

Whenever a stranger came into the office and asked me which person in the office was Todd I used to say the big guy with the yellow toy car on his PC monitor (he had a model car on top of his PC).

Now any of these terms could be called just as offensive as black - big (heightitst - defining Todd by his height) guy (sexist - defining him by his sex) or even hobbyist defining him by his love of motor cars.

Now I could just as easily have said the black guy over there, it would have been quicker and easier because Todd was indeed the only black employee in our office.

It just happens black was not one of the things that jumped into my head when describing him so I didn’t define him as that. (this shows more about my inability concisely describe someone rather than any racial stance I hold). I could just as easily have chosen to call him black first every time, it just happens I didn’t.

Just because I did not do that it would not be right for me or anyone else to label someone else as racist because he defined Todd by black rather than by mentioning the yellow car on his computer.

As a side point, I even laughed about it once when we had a discussion about race in the office canteen and my long-winded description of Todd was brought to my attention (by Todd himself). It was then I realised how little colour really means to me and I suddenly lost all the guilt I was made to feel at times for being white and therefore a racist until proven innocent (it does feel that way sometimes). If this had not been brought to my attention I would not have been able to even cite this example today.


I'm not too sure if I get my point across clearly or not but the problem will never go away until a few things happen:

1) We do not define others using skin colour as the essence of a person unless it is the most obvious way of defining them in a given situation (a ‘la Todd). They are black (or white or tall or male or Christian) but there is a lot more besides.

2) We do not instantly take offence at people like me who may sometimes describe you by skin colour first (because you aren’t particularly tall, you don’t have a yellow car on your computer or it is not obvious you have a large collection of train timetables). I’m not defining you as a human just making an obvious observation.

3) We all realise just as one black (or group of blacks) does not represent all blacks, one white (or group of whites) does not represent all whites. Each individual must be judged by his personal action not those of others of his own race (past present and future).

4) We don’t get so hung up on it, if there is clearly no malicious intent on either side let petty objections slide.

5) We remember the most important way of defining a person, if you really must, is by placing them into one of two categories – Good or Bad!

Phew! Here endeth the lesson, I am so sorry for going on like this. The topic just got a hold of me and I have strong feelings on this subject.
Billwaa
I guess black will be the terms, since in Chinese, we call white "white ghost" and black "black ghost"....
Liu
Black and White are pretty much commonly used.

But then would you call an Asian yellow?
niffer
amen to meet_in_rio and captain fertile.

personally, i find racial arguments really funny and not serious at all, because this is the only atmosphere in which skin colour should be discussed, really. i mean, number one, be mature enough not to make it an issue - with anything.

where i live, if you ask someone what race they are:
black: "I'm a f*cking ******, beyyytchh"
white: "I'm..white?"
chinese: "I'm a f*cking yellow chink. Got rice, bi*tch?"

most people know you mean no harm x3
what i find interesting is that, as a person of mixed descent (half chinese+half white), the things that people call me are very...diverse XD

i get whitey, chink, hybrid, half, heinz 57, halfbreed, mutt, traitor (from both sides), white girl...etc.

what's also amusing is that in cantonese, though "chinese person" is translated to "person of the centre of the kingdom", white person is translated to "ghost man" or "ol' barbarian" (besides the formal way of "western man"), and black person is translated to "black ghost man".

hmm.
Ray Gravin
Ok so "White" people have the technical term "Caucasian" is there not an equal technical term for "Black"?

Just curious?

I mean the only time something like this should be an issue would be when you need a descriptive word to use in relation to someone's skin pigment.

African American would be an accurate word to use if you were only identifying someone on a cultural level. Like say Swedish, Irish, Korean, African, Spanish, Indian, etc etc... Skin color does not always define someone's cultural association, so I don't think African American is right in the context of describing a particular skin pigmentation. In relation to the proper term to use to describe the people of African decent who helped found and shape the culture of the United States, I think its the most accurate term. You should get to know the person before you assume they are of African American decent though. There are a lot of other cultures who share the same skin pigmentation.
FaLLeN
Simplest way is to just call them whateva pops into your mind (within reason of course)

Only thing that irritates me, is how you see them constantly callin each other n*gger, but as soon as a white person says it, they knock the white guy out.
And then so they can be total idiots they might say somethin like "shut the **** up WHITE boy", its exactly the same thing, but we arent offended.
If you ask me it's them are the more racist, people only think whiter people are because we dont kick up a storm at someone stating our skin colour.
Jayfarer
black & African American are acceptable (note the capitalizations). The term black is more informal though.

You should know that "colored", to anyone, is significantly offensive.
reddishblue
meet in rio wrote:
reddishblue wrote:
I would be pissed off if someone kept on calling me "White"


Why? How is it any different from 'blonde', 'female', 'short' or 'wearing a green tee-shirt'?

Because I am a human being with feelings and I am more then "White" these sort of descriptive words should be ignored
HoboPelican
Captain Fertile wrote:
.....
5) We remember the most important way of defining a person, if you really must, is by placing them into one of two categories – Good or Bad!
....


Whew. Speechless (almost). I really appreciate your writing down what is in my head better than I would have.
FaLLen wrote:

Only thing that irritates me, is how you see them constantly callin each other n*gger, but as soon as a white person says it, they knock the white guy out.
...

Think about this. A really close friend might call you a M*****F***er, just joking around, but if someone who wasn't that close did it, you would rightly be offended. The "N" word is NOT a description, but an insult like MFer.
Futile
Jayfarer wrote:
black & African American are acceptable (note the capitalizations). The term black is more informal though.

You should know that "colored", to anyone, is significantly offensive.


Being an African American or Black, which ever you prefer, I think that I can speak on this subject with a "little bit" of familiarity. Jayfarer is correct. But “Black” depending on how it is used can be derogatory and an insult.

tribe wrote:
Doesn't make that much since to me, but I don't care. They are what they are, and their black. They are good people and should stop this racial crap, because nowadays, the KLAN doesn't rule America.


I won’t get on a soap box about this but I will say that you are right the Klan doesn’t run America. But I was raised by my Grandparents and they were a generation that lived though Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in baseball, when lynching of black citizens was common and went unpunished and they weren’t allowed to vote. There was segregation and few public places for black citizens. They were in a generation that marched and fought for civil rights. I wish that I could “stop this racial crap”; I wish I could live with my guard down, but the moment that I “forget or stop” someone will write “n**ger on a school bathroom wall, or make fun of “ebonics”, or ridicule African religion (voodoo), or post a “n**ger joke online. These are reminders that though we have broken the canker of racism, it is doubtful that anyone alive today will still be living by the time the venom finally drains from America’s system
OutlawSpirit
its black.. not coloured haha, try sayin that bout here n u will find out that isnt acceptable
poiko123
Well, there are differences between black, African-American, colored, and negro. Black means simply that the skin is black. African-American means that they are of African background and are American. Color may refer to a Native American, African-American, or other minority people whose skin is not white. Negro means the person is African or of African descent. So depending on the context in which you wish to use the word, different words may be appropriate. I tend to side with African-American; in less formal situations, I use black.
HoboPelican
Futile wrote:

Being an African American or Black, which ever you prefer, I think that I can speak on this subject with a "little bit" of familiarity. Jayfarer is correct. But “Black” depending on how it is used can be derogatory and an insult.



I'm glad you stepped up, Futile. Obviously, you are in a better position to answer the question than most of us. I do agree that "black" CAN be used in a derogatory manner, but isn't that true of ANY word. Usage and inflection can really make a difference in how a statement is taken. The poser of the question was looking for the most inoffensive term to use, so I assume that his phrasing and inflection would be fairly polite. Would Black still be likely to cause offense? Would it differ in different situations and locations?
scimitarmoon
I almost always say "black". African-American only if I'm trying not to offend particularly-easily-offendable people, or am in some sort of over-formal situation that calls for uber political-correctness.

I guess I'm lazy. That and I prefer "white", "black", "hispanic" etc. to "European-American," "African-American", "Latin-American-American" (or "Hispanic-American") and so on. I like shorter terms. Besides, as far as I'm concerned if we all are citizens of the US we're all "Americans" and race doesn't really matter. Some of us have black or dark skin, some of us are lighter or even white skinned.
quex
Wow. This went a lot farther than I thought it would...

I see the points made that such labels should be ignored altogether (A) or accepted as accurate physical descriptions (B).

(A) is illogical, as these labels are necessary in current society for reasons demographic, medical, and general. Until they cease to be such a dominating point of interest (in America, at least), racial demographics will always require accurate and politically innocuous titles. Medically, it is much more efficient and responsible for a physician, having discovered an inordinate amount of African-American persons of various national ethnicity coming to his clinic with a disease that is not generally prevalent in the randomly selected population, to issue a statement in the medical community alerting other doctors to his obervations among "black" people. And in general social matters, describing a criminal suspect as "5' 3", black hair, white male" is a much more understandable to the audience mind than "5' 3", black hair, lighter skin color, Eurasian frame, male."

(B) is satisfactorily refuted by the simple fact that the labels are often not specific enough to be correct, nor correctly applied. Black people are not black, but rather a wide variety of browns. White people are not white; they are many different shades of orange and yellow and pink. Persons of Indian heritage may appear African; persons of Asian heritage may appear Native American, and vice versa. Of course, offense taken by an individual in reaction to a mislabeling remains just that, an individual offense (which may or may not be so easy to absolve with a change of mindset), but for the larger purpose of the categorization of a population, offenses can be ignored; it is specificity of description that drives the title debate.

A new question:

Wouldn't racial labels, when they are necessary, be most appropriate and inoffensive when linked directly to one's nation of birth? That is, to align nationality and ethnicity? Anyone born in Canada is Canadian, anyone born in the USA is Unionian (or U.S. American, or whatever title can be used to replace the over-generalized American), from Mexico come Mexicans, etc? As national borders are largely established worldwide (with a few tragic exceptions), this method would surely be the most clear-cut. Persons born in international territory would be assigned the citizenship of their parents; persons of dual citizenship would be type1-type2.

BUT, of course, this would actually strip such titles of the ethnic qualities that we rely on them to assign to be of use in society at present... and ultimately, it's back to square one. Damn.
Futile
HoboPelican wrote:
Futile wrote:

Being an African American or Black, which ever you prefer, I think that I can speak on this subject with a "little bit" of familiarity. Jayfarer is correct. But “Black” depending on how it is used can be derogatory and an insult.



I do agree that "black" CAN be used in a derogatory manner, but isn't that true of ANY word. Usage and inflection can really make a difference in how a statement is taken.


You are 100% correct any word can be used in a derogatory manner depending on it's usage, inflection and intent in which it is used. I should have stated that in my post.

poiko123 wrote:
Negro means the person is African or of African descent.


I do not profess to know everything but just a quick etymology concerning "negro". In order to really understand the severity of "negro" you need to understand the connection between negro and n**ger. N**ger is traced to the Latin word niger meaning black. The Latin niger became the noun negro (black person) in English, and simply the color black in Spanish and Portuguese. In Early Modern French niger became negre and, later, negress (black woman) was clearly a part of lexical history. You can compare negre to the n**ger and earlier English variants such as negar, neegar, neger, and niggor - which developed into a parallel lexico-semantic reality in English. It is likely that n**ger is a phonetic spelling of the early white Southern mispronunciation of Negro.

The dictionary gives several definitions of Negro and being of African descent is just one and unfortunately that definition does not apply in this context.
poiko123
Futile wrote:
HoboPelican wrote:
Futile wrote:

Being an African American or Black, which ever you prefer, I think that I can speak on this subject with a "little bit" of familiarity. Jayfarer is correct. But “Black” depending on how it is used can be derogatory and an insult.



I do agree that "black" CAN be used in a derogatory manner, but isn't that true of ANY word. Usage and inflection can really make a difference in how a statement is taken.


You are 100% correct any word can be used in a derogatory manner depending on it's usage, inflection and intent in which it is used. I should have stated that in my post.

poiko123 wrote:
Negro means the person is African or of African descent.


I do not profess to know everything but just a quick etymology concerning "negro". In order to really understand the severity of "negro" you need to understand the connection between negro and n**ger. N**ger is traced to the Latin word niger meaning black. The Latin niger became the noun negro (black person) in English, and simply the color black in Spanish and Portuguese. In Early Modern French niger became negre and, later, negress (black woman) was clearly a part of lexical history. You can compare negre to the n**ger and earlier English variants such as negar, neegar, neger, and niggor - which developed into a parallel lexico-semantic reality in English. It is likely that n**ger is a phonetic spelling of the early white Southern mispronunciation of Negro.

The dictionary gives several definitions of Negro and being of African descent is just one and unfortunately that definition does not apply in this context.



Regardless of etymology, the term negro simply means someone of African descent, although it is normally used in the context of referring to a "black person". I personally do not use the term (due to its association with a racial slur), but I do not see why you say my definition does not apply. I said nothing regarding the connotation surrounding "negro", strictly its denotation.
standready
I actually perfer to use someone's given name. I do not like any one race being called out. After all, I believe we are all humans.
Back to your question - really depends upon where you live in the country.
on national level, I would say African-American is the politically correct choice.
Lessien
i must admid this discussion did make it alot more clear for me since i, as probably other people too, keep wondering what to call them (in case you don't know their name or anything else to to use, like the big guy with yellow car).
but for someone in europe it gives an extra problem, atleast that is how i see it. at my workplace there are alot of black people and on other places too.
i can call them black but if they are offended by that name, i have honestly no idea what to name them.
any suggestion? can't really can them africans either since a lot of them prob already life here for some generations.
Futile
poiko123 wrote:
Futile wrote:
HoboPelican wrote:
Futile wrote:

Being an African American or Black, which ever you prefer, I think that I can speak on this subject with a "little bit" of familiarity. Jayfarer is correct. But “Black” depending on how it is used can be derogatory and an insult.



I do agree that "black" CAN be used in a derogatory manner, but isn't that true of ANY word. Usage and inflection can really make a difference in how a statement is taken.


You are 100% correct any word can be used in a derogatory manner depending on it's usage, inflection and intent in which it is used. I should have stated that in my post.

poiko123 wrote:
Negro means the person is African or of African descent.


I do not profess to know everything but just a quick etymology concerning "negro". In order to really understand the severity of "negro" you need to understand the connection between negro and n**ger. N**ger is traced to the Latin word niger meaning black. The Latin niger became the noun negro (black person) in English, and simply the color black in Spanish and Portuguese. In Early Modern French niger became negre and, later, negress (black woman) was clearly a part of lexical history. You can compare negre to the n**ger and earlier English variants such as negar, neegar, neger, and niggor - which developed into a parallel lexico-semantic reality in English. It is likely that n**ger is a phonetic spelling of the early white Southern mispronunciation of Negro.

The dictionary gives several definitions of Negro and being of African descent is just one and unfortunately that definition does not apply in this context.



Regardless of etymology, the term negro simply means someone of African descent, although it is normally used in the context of referring to a "black person". I personally do not use the term (due to its association with a racial slur), but I do not see why you say my definition does not apply. I said nothing regarding the connotation surrounding "negro", strictly its denotation.


Sorry, been out of pocket for a week. Negro does mean of African descent. But as stated there are about 11 different meanings and usages of the word negro. The context in which we are using and discussing negro is its racial usage and interpretation not it’s anthropological usage.
catscratches
Here in Sweden you may not say anything that has with origin to do at all if you're swedish. If you're from aboard it's ok. but if you're swedish and say it (you don't even have to say it, just you're swedish) then you're a racist. If you're white, you're a racist no matter what you think or say. If you're black, you can't be a racist, even if you discriminate swedish people.
Related topics
Racial Equality
Inuyasha
A Bit of Data Size Terminology
Black ACLU official accuses black troopers of racial profili
What is the usefulness of religion?
Huck Finn
What do athiests believe?
Do you have a right to be offended whenever you feel like it
FOR WAR OR NOT
England to be bombed again?
Stop hosting vBulletin forums! This is strictly illegal!
GTA: San Andreas PC (OFFICIAL THREAD)
Ausse Minister Brendan Nelson to Tony Blair:
Credit card offer sent to ‘Palestinian Bomber’
Reply to topic    Frihost Forum Index -> General -> General Chat

FRIHOST HOME | FAQ | TOS | ABOUT US | CONTACT US | SITE MAP
© 2005-2011 Frihost, forums powered by phpBB.