How is racism ever going to end in this country if the people who are accusing others of perpetrating it keep changing the rules?
I started with that question because my daughter, in the 5th grade, came home and told me that a black student had it out with her teacher because the teacher used the term “black” instead of “African American”. Apparently, the teacher was discussing a lesson that involved Blacks and didn’t call them AAs so the little black girl told the teacher that she was racist for saying that. The teacher corrected the student by telling her that Blacks are a group of people in this country in which the little girl, again, called the teacher a racist. According to my daughter, this went back and forth a few times before the teacher sent the little girl to the counselors office. Upon her return, the little girl then passed around a sheet of paper asking the class to sign it if they thought the teacher had been racist.
My daughter told me, “Mom, I didn’t sign it. She wasn’t being racist.” And based on the story I was told, I don’t think she was either.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of situations like this happening.
Throughout the last few decades, the preferred terms used to describe anyone not considered “white” have changed many times. Most of us have tried to be politically correct so as to avoid offending anyone. We’ve gone through Negro, Person of Color, Black, African American, Latin American, Hispanic,etc, in an effort to keep in line with the latest preferred terminology. Now, in a time when racism is supposed to be all but gone, we are faced, again, with accusations of racism if we don’t use the right word.
I, personally, don’t see a problem with my daughter’s teacher using the term “black” when discussing black people or “white” when discussing white people. I am identified as “white” all of the time. What is wrong with “black”? Are people like this little girl’s family actually teaching her that any term but African American is racist?
Let’s look at “African American” for a minute. When using a region before the word ‘American’, we are referencing that person’s place of origin. For immigrants from Asia, they’re Asian American; Mexico, they’re Mexican American, Italy, they’re Italian American, etc, etc, etc. I have no problem referring to people who have immigrated from other countries as “that location ‘American'” if that’s what they want but for anyone who was born in this country, I don’t see a point in using any other term than American. When discussing things such as skin color, how is it representative of any color, whatsoever, to say African American? Is ‘African’ a color? Is ‘American’ a color? By the way, Blacks and Whites are the only people referred to by skin color but that’s a whole other issue.
So, any ‘African American’ who demands that they not be referred to as “black” is saying that it is not okay to refer to them by the color of their skin¹. They would like to be associated with a place that they were not born in, did not reside in, and, in most cases, will never even visit; all because they may be ancestors of someone who was, possibly, brought here as a slave, from somewhere in Africa (assuming), hundreds of years ago.
Okay. I’ll go along with that if anyone who refuses to be referred to by skin color also agrees to never refer to ‘Caucasians’ as white people and only use the proper “Location American” combination such as Irish American or Italian American. In my case it would be ‘Irish Puerto Rican American’. I didn’t even include the other references to earlier ancestors in my family history such as Indian or English. That’s just the most prominent origins in my immediate family. Sounds a little silly and lengthy, doesn’t it?
Can you imagine trying to describe a mugger to police by referring to them as an “Indian Irish Mexican Italian American guy” and not use any color in the description at all?
I really think people need to lighten up and stop looking for racism where there is no racism. I’ve said this before but I’m saying it again. A white person referring to you as black is not, necessarily, racist² just because you want it to be. If a teacher is standing in front of her class teaching and uses the term ‘black person’, I’m pretty sure she isn’t looking to offend or portray her blatant racist attitude like you think she is. This is the same in the case of a black person referring to me or anyone else as white. Of all the white people I know, I’ve never met one who got angry when they were called white. Not even when they were called honkey or cracker. But somehow the color black is now code for racism?
I suggest, for those that are using their skin color against others, to point out racism, while demanding that those they are accusing stop using skin color, look at the irony of what they are doing. The majority of this country is very ambitiously and happily moving forward, away from racism. Meanwhile, a few try to keep racism alive in order to guilt others into special treatment of them. Fighting to be equal, by definition, is a fight to be the same as everyone else in this country. If you are arguing that Blacks or Hispanics or any other race deserves some special treatment based on this country’s history, you are fighting against equality and demanding to be held to a different standard than all other Americans. That is not equality.
Oh, and a side note to people like Chris Matthews of MSNBC, racism isn’t only a white on black crime. Racism is treating ANY other race differently based on the color of their skin or race. It is racism no matter who the perpetrator is whether they are white, black, brown, or purple.
¹ I acknowledge that using the color black does not accurately describe the actual skin color of most ‘Blacks’ but for some reason it is what has been adopted by the majority of the country, including black people.
² I do not deny that there are real cases of racism in this country still happening to this day. However, real racism is being minimized by the overuse of the word and the accusation which only leads to ignorance about true racism.
- Why “African-American” is a Patronizing, Even Racist Term (counterpunch.org)
- Did You Know? Ancestry is Not So Black and White (23andme.com)