Are Your Children African American or Black?

Posted on Posted in Blog, Parenting's Not Easy, Raising Children of Color

Are Your Children African American or Black?

What do you prefer your children to call themselves, African American or Black?  Until about eight years ago I was under the naive illusion that everyone born at least by the nineties only had two words in their vocabulary to define people of African descent: African American or Black.  That is until one day I was teaching and an eighth grader referred to the slaves (as we were studying the Civil War) as “Colored’. 
Did he just say what I think he said? was the question I took a minute to ask myself.
Yep, he did. Once I was able to move my tongue again I reminded the student that they may want to remove the term ‘Colored’ out of their vocabulary.  It wasn’t even five years later when I had to make the same suggestion to a college student. I then went on to inform the class of pre-service teachers at the time that they did not have to take my advice, but I would suggest that in any future parent-teacher meetings that they may not want to use the term “Colored’ when speaking to any of their African American or Black parents. Just a suggestion…
I came up during a time when African American was a fairly new term.  Some people didn’t like it then, and I’ve met others who still do not like it now.  It doesn’t matter either way to me.  As along as African American, person of color or Black are the only three terms used – the others I feel are demeaning and work up a whole host of memories that have yet to be resolved - by not only me, but society as a whole.  Plus, the term ‘Colored’ takes me back to a ‘… Color Purple’ frame of mind when oppression was as visible as the sun and moon.
Sometimes I think about how will our three decide to label themselves? Of course they could claim, ’no label’, which seems partly ridiculous since everyone looking at them will.  Furthermore, a study released this month reveals that racial labels can impact how others see them.   The study found that:
Stereotypes for the label Blacks are more negative than in the stereotypes for the label African-Americans.
The African-American racial label may call forth a mental representation of Americans of African descent (AADs) with relatively higher social class and status (e.g. AAD doctors or lawyers), whereas the racial label Black may evoke images of AADs with lower social class and status (e.g. AAD janitors or welfare recipients.
Personally, I have issues with claiming any kind of ‘good stereotypes’.  No one swift mythical generalization about a group can come of any good.  I have known that I will need to prepare our three for the possibility of running into someone who may label them as “Colored’…or worse.  Still I wasn’t quite prepared to explain that someone may think more of them if their participation in such a group as the Future Black Engineers of America (made up name) was labeled African American instead.


What label/term do you prefer, African American or Black?


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