Memoirs of a Black Student

Plant Editor Jamie Floyd continues his assault on mindless stereotypes and overall ignorance.

(Overheard stupid girls conversation)
Girl 1: I think I’m crushing on this guy in my Cal. class.
Girl 2: Oh yeah? What does he look like?
Girl 1: Well, he’s tall, super handsome and like umm… an African American,
you know.

African American! Ahhh, to say I hate this term would be an understatement, so let me start by saying that I loathe this term.

I would like to take the combination of these two words and smear grease and filth on them, throw them in a dumpster, take them out of the dumpster only to drive over them with an 18-wheeler truck. Then, turn them into an attractive jailbait girl and drop them off at R.Kelly’s house for some unwanted bump and grind sexy times.

I cannot begin to count the times that I’ve been called an African American or that people have implied it with regards to mentioning my race. Yes I’m black, no I’m not African American. Aside from describing my skin colour, black is also used to classify a group of minorities called “black.”

Even though theoretically and biologically the notion of black as a race is defunct, socially, ethnicities are still classified as races. Nevertheless, the word itself is clouded with confusion and controversy due to all the various meanings that it once had. As we know, in the past “negro” was not just the Spanish word for black, but it was used to categorize an entire population of people.

However, the problem that arises is that we never call a Japanese man “the white guy,” but instead the Asian guy (even though his skin colour is white) we almost always no matter what ethnicity refer to dark skinned people as black. Basically, black refers to the skin colour, while simultaneously the ethnicity.

“Brown” isn’t an ethnic group and Latino as an example, doesn’t explicitly mean brown, but black means black. This in turn, brings me back to the term African American. I’m mostly annoyed by it because I’m not American and to say I’m African is also untrue.

The term refers specifically to those born in the USA and while Canadian African does exist, it is rarely if ever used likely due to American culture being more dominant and, sadly better known than others. Furthermore, to say I’m African is also a falsity, of course my ancestry is African, but in my case that’s about it, and this is the case for many others. If you feel the desperate need to categorize me, then Jamaican-Canadian would be the most appropriate term.

Pursuing this further, this argument is much more than just the use of African American, but it relates to the general lack of awareness, which plagues people. The real problem isn’t so much the words and terms as it is their misuse.

A lot of us continue to stereotype and generalize, whether in regards to misused racial terms and conceptions, like calling all Asians by Chinese, assuming all Muslims are Arab and vice versa, and even more banal ones like all Africans are black and so forth. The lesson here is an old one but clearly a very important one: get informed. We are after all in a learning establishment, teachers can’t teach us everything, therefore we have to do some of our own work and as a result hopefully eliminate the dreaded A and A words. One last point, I do admit it is hard to classify people and describe them in terms of ethnicity so let’s simply not.

Sincerely yours, African a-freaking-merican.


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