I have a friend on Facebook whom I originally met on WordPress. We’ve had many wide-ranging conversations on various topics, so yes, I feel comfortable calling her a friend.
This lady is what is commonly referred to as “African-American”. Notice the quotation marks around that label. Had her origins been say, Japan, she’d be called (by others, not me) Japanese-American, or if she were from perhaps Germany, she’d be German-American.
Africa is a continent made of many separate and distinct nations, so why, why, why do people insist on the term “African-American”? They wouldn’t dream of calling that German-American “European-American”, or the Japanese-American “Asian-American”, so can anybody explain to me the reason behind lumping emigrants from countries like Kenya or Botswana or Cameroon into the vague category “African-American”. What that shows is that the person using the term considers the country of origin inconsequential – it doesn’t matter what it’s called, its in Africa, so that’s close enough.
I believe part of the problem with this inaccurate label is Hollywood. Hollywood movies tend to depict that whole continent as one humungous country, when such is not the case. This is also reflected in some photo galleries. They’ll have a photo taken in Kenya for example and place it alongside another photo taken in Ghana and label them both “Africa”. Hello!! Never mind the fact they are two separate countries, one is on the Indian Ocean and the other on the Atlantic. There’s a whole continent separating them. And they don’t seem to understand why people from those respective countries get upset with the mislabeling. A comparable error would be a woodland scene from North Carolina and one from Northern Ontario, both labelled with the generic “North America”. Don’t you think both Americans and Canadians wouldn’t get upset over the obvious error? So why should people from Africa not get upset over similar ignorance?
I view it as a sign of disrespect for the person and their country of origin to refer to them as “African-Americans “. As I wrote above, it indicates the speaker (or writer) either has no consideration for the person they are addressing; views the country of origin as some backwater, or is just too lazy to find or use the proper term. For those who may consider many of the African nations little more than uneducated tribes, remember that at the same time Egypt was flourishing as a centre of learning, so were many cities in the interior of Africa. In some cases, it was the Europeans from various nations that destroyed so many of the libraries and centres of learning because in their view (and probably based on nothing more than skin colour) the people they were conquering were simply savages. They weren’t. From what I’ve read and from what I’ve seen on some of the educational channels, in some instances these African nations were more advanced in areas like mathematics and science than the so-called conquerors.
And, a final question: If, as an American president once stated, America is a melting pot, why is the distinction necessary? Why not just call everyone unhyphenated “Americans”?