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By B. Hutson

Sometimes, people make comments that cause us to take a step back and ask, “are they serious?”

That comment appeared in the blog of Phillip Milano, a columnist for the Florida Times-Union. It came from Tom, a 58-year-old white man from Jacksonville, who asked to know who qualifies as African American. He wrote, “Is an African-American limited to people who are black, or are white people from Africa also African-American? It seems to me that white people who are from Africa (mostly South Africa) and whose families have been in Africa for many generations are more African than the black people in the US who have never been there.”

Then, there was Dot L. from Los Angeles who felt compelled to add, “I would suppose that Charlize Theron considers herself more African than Denzel Washington. Isn’t this just sort of common sense?”

It looks like its time for a brief history lesson. Just like Polish Americans, Italian Americans and Japanese Americans, the country that precedes ‘American’ dictates where your line of descent originated.  In the case of white South Africans, their line of descent, in reality, comes from Europe—the same continent where Africa’s colonizers came from. Ultimately, white South Africans could not be more African than someone like Denzel Washington.

Need more evidence? In response to Tom’s question, Milano wrote “it should be noted that the U.S. Census Bureau does define someone who is black or African American as a person ‘having origins in any of the Black race groups of Africa…’

At the end of the day, regardless of how far it seems we have come in terms of race relations, it’s misplaced thoughts like these that continue to set us back.

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