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Black vs. African American: The effects of terminology

By Mintoy Tillman
On November 15, 2011

Much confusion is caused when individuals choose to use the word black to identify those of African heritage. What is the difference between the word black and a person who is African-American?

Black describes a color, which is not the physical appearance of an African-American person.

Usage of the word black can be viewed as ignorant and insulting to some people.Of course the first excuse for using the word black to describe African-Americans is that it is a shorter and more convenient term, but is saving a syllable worth the harm it causes?

This difference between terms sets us up for subconscious judgements and assumptions of character. When individuals use words like black or white  to define people this just shows a lack of understanding. If the use of skin color is acceptable why aren't other colors such as orange, yellow, and red used as often and loosely as black?

Throughout history it has been implied that fair skin is not only better than darker skin, but is more beautiful and sought out. This puts a subconscious insecurity in most African-Americans, and it is worsened by media and other establishments.

To this day it is still a difficult task for darker skinned women to find beauty products, and other things based on skin color to accommodate them. Adding to the problem, being called black is just another reminder to not only women but also men, that they are sometimes perceived as less beautiful.

When filling out job applications an applicant is asked to mark the ethnicity they identify with. Usually there is a box labeled as black. African-American is a term used to describe a person who comes from African descent but is born in America. But in the dictionary the word "black" is synonymous with African-American.

If a person is born in America they are considered an American, just like if one were born in Japan her or she is considered Japanese.

Black should no longer be used to describe race or nationality and the phrase African American should be re-evaluated and improved to a more modern and realistic term.

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