In the more than two hundred years that this "Union of States" has existed, there have been a number of terms used to describe the different people that inhabit the land. However, the terms used to refer to black Americans have been probably the most divisive.
I use "black Americans" because most other terms are not acceptable to me for various reasons. "Negro" is a valid term that has fallen out of use. "Afro-American" never made sense to me. Iím as white as a sheet, being a redhead, but I had really curly hair as a teen-ager and had an afro for a couple of years. So I discount this term. In the 1700ís and most of the 1800ís blacks were referred to as "Africans." This term attempts to deny blacks their rights as Americans, which history shows happened a lot. We are all Americans. The current popular term "African-American" suggests some kind of dual citizenship, which isnít possible because there is no "African citizenship." African-American is probably the most divisive term yet used for blacks in America.
When have you heard the term "European-American" used for whites? Granted, you hear "Asian-American" and "Latin-American," but these terms infer that there is a lack of full citizenship of the people referred to. These terms are not used to define a group so much as to inflame the respective groups. The term "Southerner" has tended to be used to describe whites that live in the Southern states. "Southerner" includes much more than this, just as "Yankee" describes more than just whites that live in the Northern states.
I have friends who are Southerners who also happen to be black. They look on themselves as Southerners who are black, not blacks who happen to live in the South. Whoopie Goldberg once said she didnít like the term "African-American" because she was an "American" who happened to be black. In fact, time and again you can find articles in various periodicals that are written by American blacks that travel to Africa "searching for their roots." The one common thread in the articles is that, after seeing the living conditions, they are all glad they live in America. Granted, they are sorry their ancestors may have had to go through slavery, but they are now glad to be Americans and not Africans.
"African-American" is a term used by liberals to divide people who otherwise would pull together and leave the liberal elites out of business. This term seems to be applied by the politically correct crowd more in the South than elsewhere. What if ALL Southerners pulled together? Study after study shows that whites and blacks in the South tend to share common values on faith, family and freedom. If we did not have outsiders re-defining us into groups as they see it, how much stronger would the bonds of Southern citizens be?
As Southerners we need to reject these politically correct terms. I never use "African-American" at work, preferring to say "black," and have never been reprimanded about it. We need to define ourselves, rather than let others define us. All Southerners need to embrace the idea that we are Southern first and black, white or brown second.
May 25, 1999