Black vs. African American: Do You Have a Preference?

February 13, 2012  |  

In AJC, Mary Frances Berry, a University of Pennsylvania history professor and former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recalled the 1988 fight by black people to be called African Americans. She said since slavery, every time black was used it meant something bad, except for when the word was reclaimed during the black power movement.  Even then, professor Berry said African American wasn’t meant to eliminate those who preferred black.

“It was an attempt to start a cultural offensive, because we were clearly at that time always on the defensive.

“We said, this is kind of a compromise term. There are those among us who don’t want to be referred to as African. And there also those among us who don’t want to be referred to as American. This was a way of bridging divisions among us or in our ideologies so we can move forward as a group.”

At the end of the day, this is clearly a to-each-his-own issue, but I think people who are adamant about the omission of African American should be honest about what their dislike for the term is really based on and not be defensive about the use of a term that is likely applicable.

Do you have a preference for being called black or African American? Why do you choose one word over the other?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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