FYI: "Black" doesn't mean "African-American"

A conversation on blackness, ethnicity, nationality, and identity. Not in strict chronological order - somewhat rearranged so the conversation flows more logically.

  1. When did Nelson Mandela become African American? He become a naturalized citizenship overnight? Or?
  2. Pro-tip: "African-American" is not a synonym for "Black."
  3. @graceishuman Sometimes I hear a fellow canadian awkwardly say someone is african american. Hey, maybe they are american but I doubt it!
  4. People are so squeamish about saying "Black." It's a perfectly and serviceable word. @GeekyLyndsay
  5. Perfectly *useful* and serviceable word, I meant to say. Editing tweets is risky business. RT @UnHipNic @GeekyLyndsay It really is.
  6. There's also this. RT @rebekahwsm I've been thinking about that a lot. I consider myself to a black American. Not African-American.
  7. I consider myself Black, African, and Nigerian American. Not African American. @OstensiblyA @rebekahwsm
  8. .@OstensiblyA @graceishuman the last family member that I know of came from Africa in the 1700s. At this point I'm an American.
  9. @graceishuman @iTAP_FLINTstone Cosign 100%. The "Oh, you're Nigerian? I thought you were just regular black" comment kills me.
  10. i prefer it. RT @graceishuman: People are so squeamish about saying "Black." It's a perfectly and serviceable word. @GeekyLyndsay
  11. Hah. So, about that... RT @stillicides I love it when US reporters fumblingly describe Black British folk as African American =/
  12. True story: Once heard a talk that was presented as a discussion of "African Americans" in medieval Europe. looooooool @stillicides
  13. It was amazing. I was like…really? Really now. RT @drcompton @stillicides I just literally laughed out loud.
  14. And the person who said this was a historian! It was something.
  15.'s not like saying "negro." RT @verethele Yeah. Saying "black" feels like saying "negro" to me. I have an innate discomfort with it.
  16. @graceishuman @verethele and here comes the "fun" part. For spanish speakers "negro" is the common word... since it means black in spanish.
  17. @graceishuman I for example Identify as Black American, mostly because I still don't know enough about my diaspora roots
  18. Well. That was an offhand tweet, but people have feelings about this, I see! lol.
  19. @graceishuman @verethele the way that language and imagery and white-supremacist culture rolls out, 'black' itself becomes epithet itself.
  20. @graceishuman @verethele ihe bizarre studiousness of british "african-americans" on the news is a result of that awkwarness around "black".
  21. I just can't even with that. LOL. It's also a roundabout form of American universalism/exceptionalism. @callmepartario @verethele
  22. Consider my tweet an intervention into the school of thought that would use the two interchangeably :) @Black_Jeezuz @TiporTiff
  23. But...why? MT @enterblisstonia white people are truly terrified to say "Black" to each other & even more terrified to say it to Black ppl.
  24. @graceishuman @enterblisstonia Think because some YT ppl instead of saying black ppl/Black.. they say the blacks as if it's shameful +
  25. @graceishuman @enterblisstonia + & Black ppl understandably response negatively to that subtle difference.
  26. -----> Yes. This. RT @isitis @enterblisstonia So instead of understanding reason for negative response, white people don't say Black at all
  27. I'm remembering that I tweeted about this a while back with a similar discussion - asking how many people personally ID as African American.
  28. Purely anecdotally - I don't think anyone IDed that way. RT @Persecuted23 what results did you get?
  29. Because the thing is, I don't think I know any Black people who ID as "African American" amongst ourselves, regardless of history/ethnicity.
  30. This. RT @isitis Say Black amongst ourselves & Black-American/African-American arnd other races but getting 2 point of just saying Black now
  31. @p2son @enterblisstonia well, I also think it's generational. African American is relatively new.
  32. @graceishuman There's a good documentary about this - The Neo African-Americans. Black immigrant filmmaker, Kobina Aidoo.
  33. @graceishuman I don't use AA that says I'm from another place when my culture developed in America, my DNA African,Native,British.
  34. @graceishuman @MandiHarris @p2son It would really blow their minds to learn Colin Powell identifies as West Indian, I guess...
  35. MT @KariODonnell interesting. I conducted a study on TANF recipients & it was 50/50 split self identifying as black or AA
  36. I came across similar numbers but it doesn't at all match up to my experience of how people identify. @KariODonnell
  37. Possible results affected by who conducted study/who was perceived as audience? As @isitis says, AfAm used w/ mixed audiences @KariODonnell
  38. RT @KariODonnell I'm thinking it was presentation for a white researcher asking about TANF....telling me what they think i wanted to hear
  39. My feeling is: most Black USians ID as Black, Black immigrants often ID by ethnicity and/or nationality. I also ID as Yoruba. @KariODonnell
  40. MT @KariODonnell true. then there is phenomenon of someone is told they are a person of color in US when in country of origin they are white
  41. @graceishuman Husband is Venezuelan of African, European, native South American ancestry. Not considered black in Venezuela.
  42. @graceishuman Here, acts as human rorschach test. Often misidentified as being from India or the Middle East.
  43. MT @GeeBrunswick also those amongst us that just consider ourselves holders of American passports but not Americans. Marinate on that.
  44. @GeekyLyndsay @graceishuman Someone once asked me if there were a lot of African Americans in Australia. Not even African Australians.
  45. @graceishuman @KariODonnell Or when I am majority-race in my (SEAsian) country, with all the attendant privileges, but become WOC in US.
  46. @graceishuman @KariODonnell Instead of understanding limitations of discursive category of POC, some USAmericans then say, 1/2
  47. @graceishuman @KariODonnell See, in your homeland POC are racist towards each other (no need for white oppression!). #smh 2/2
  48. Yes, I think that transition from being the norm in one country to "POC" in the U.S. is rough for many. @annesobe @KariODonnell
  49. @graceishuman @annesobe I'm just amazed by the classifications made by the majority/in-power group
  50. @KariODonnell @annesobe though POC is a political coalition term. Defined in reference to white privilege, yes, but not by whites.
  51. RT @chr0me African American came from Afro-American, which came from 60s & 70s U.S. black activism
  52. Yea, there's a lot of interesting stuff about movements for global black solidarity in 60s/70s I'd like to learn more about. @chr0me
  53. RT @rebekahwsm i also think white ppl are uncomfortable with black and white. i will call you white all day long. im not digging for roots
  54. Yes, I think the idea that "not seeing color" is the morally superior ground to hold definitely shapes this. @rebekahwsm
  55. MT @rebekahwsm ppl act like youre gonna start a fist fight if you say "this white dude" no i was dealing with a white dude so im saying it
  56. YES. RT @rebekahwsm Kate Douglas identifies her characters as white in her books and i love it. she doesnt label white as the default.
  57. I think this is so, so important. NAME WHITENESS. And yes, white people are often very uncomfortable with that. @rebekahwsm
  58. More on why some white people are uncomfortable saying "Black" because of how others say it.
  59. @graceishuman @enterblisstonia Came with a stage whisper ("her boyfriend? <w>black</w>") or bad grouping ("those blacks") from 1/2
  60. Such folks could make ANY label (coded and explicit) for Black people sound like a slur, frankly. @drbfg @enterblisstonia
  61. This reminds me of one of the funniest and most real moments in True Blood, with Hoyt and his mom… @drbfg @enterblisstonia
  62. "You don't like black people." "SHHHHH, That's a SECRET." I howled. So true. @drbfg @enterblisstonia
  63. @shereenTshafi @enterblisstonia lol. i had a very eye-opening experience in high school when two South Asian friends (1 my best friend!)...
  64. @shereenTshafi @enterblisstonia took offense when I asked what "tribe" their families're from. BC it's OK for Africans to be from tribes...
  65. @graceishuman @enterblisstonia I suppose some are if from some parts of the subcontinent but I'd just be rly confused if some1 asked me that
  66. @shereenTshafi @enterblisstonia I mean, I meant ethnic group. But that's effectively what tribe means, denotatively...
  67. @shereenTshafi @enterblisstonia but its connotation is very different from "ethnic group." "Tribe" = "backward."
  68. @shereenTshafi @enterblisstonia More accurately, "tribe" = "primitive", in how it's often used.
  69. @graceishuman @enterblisstonia yea I was about to say, that offends cuz it's been imbued with negative meaning
  70. @shereenTshafi @enterblisstonia yes. Like I said, it was VERY eye-opening. rxn made clear it was OK to say I was from a tribe but not them.
  71. @graceishuman there's an interesting history here insofar as in early 20th century, ethnic Am. whites were encouragd to detach frm ethnicity
  72. @graceishuman ... in order to become "white" (Italians, etc). then in 80s with rise of multiculturalism it became imp. to reattach to origin
  73. @graceishuman but an argument has been made that for Italians/Jews the reattachment to origin was possible bc they had become "white", while
  74. @graceishuman not everyone can become white in America, in fact whiteness can only exist when there is idea of blackness. so idea of...
  75. @graceishuman ethnicity or hyphenate heritage ("Italian-American") is possible because not everyone can become white & reclaim ethnicity.
  76. [Still thinking this part out, so it's in progress and might change!] I think there's something here about "ethnic" being implicitly understood as having some proximity or access to whiteness. Relevant context: the cultural annihilation that was and still is part of U.S. white supremacy and colonialism - robbing African-descended slaves of their history, language, customs. Black American cultures come out of that; there's a relatedness to African cultures of origin but they're uniquely American. Which I think makes it difficult to talk about the difference ethnicity and nationality make within blackness - to Black identity and experience - in an American context because there's this quite reasonable assumption of a certain history and experience that Black immigrants don't necessarily have or understand (and vice versa, Black immigrant histories and cultures are often not understood). To put it more concisely, there's not much space in dominant U.S. discourse on race to talk about the Black diaspora, culturally or geographically.
  77. @graceishuman all this is long way of saying that term African-American is part of multicultural turn in 80s, but question is whether...
  78. @graceishuman being African-American is the same as being ethnic, or if in America ethnicity is purchased in a sense by concept of blackness
  79. Whew, that's a lot. Part of what's being parsed out here is the meaning + utility of the term to diff grps/in diff contexts @fake_train
  80. Like @chr0me said African American has roots in Afro American - that history coexists w/ (white-centric) multicultural turn. @fake_train
  81. @graceishuman yes I think whites are more comfortable with "African-American" bc it implies that being black is same as being ethnic, but...
  82. @graceishuman in fact, in America all these ethnic groups became white bc blacks did not get to become white, so it's not true that 'there..
  83. >.> RT @GracieG I say "Black" in class b/c students from all over the world. Had a white girl write me a note asking me not to say that.
  84. <.< RT @GracieG To be fair, the same person told me the Civil Rights era made everyone equal already
  85. IN CONCLUSION: To echo what I believe @profblmkelley said some time ago. It's OK to say "Black." It really is.