Black vs. African-American

I am 3/8 black, 1/8 Hispanic, 4/8 Caucasian, and 0/8 African-American.

How can you be 3/8 black and 0/8 African-American, Lena?

I’ve heard that question lots of times. The answer is that my father is an immigrant — and not from Africa, which would make me African-American in a different sense, like President Obama. My father is Jamaican. I’m sure that if you went back far enough you’d find a place where my dad’s family history intersects with African-American history. Since we’re descended from the Moors of Spain, I don’t have a clue where that intersection point is. But that intersection point is nowhere near today.

African-American history is amazing. The black people living in the United States have, as a race, overcome many obstacles throughout the course of their history. They’ve developed a rich subculture, with its own music, styles of dress, and linguistics. African-American culture is part of the greater American culture, yet distinct from it.

My dad was mostly raised in New York City. Between him and my 100% white mother, my culture is very white American. I have too much respect for African-American history and culture to claim to be African-American just because it’s politically incorrect to call me black. I usually just choose “other” for my ethnicity when filling out paperwork, but that doesn’t address the gap in the ethnic classification systems. I mean, I’m 1/8 Hispanic, too, technically… but why would I officially claim that when everything I know about Hispanic cultures is stuff I learned in college?

2 thoughts on “Black vs. African-American

  1. I HATE those damn ethnicity things. I’m an American. My family has been here, at a minimum, 3 generations now. They came here to get away from that kind of crap, and even then they couldn’t hold respectable careers until Kennedy was president.

    I’ve had a lot of non-white friends who have told me that they hate affirmative action laws because it means that whenever they get hired somewhere, everyone assumes it’s because they were legally obligated to and that the person in question must be underqualified. They then have to work even harder to prove that they’re not a product of the system. It just sucks.

    UAF just made me fill out yet another ‘what ethnicity are you?’ questionnaire, which I also had to go through and review before I could even submit. There’s no point to it at all.

    P.S. Azn chicks are hawt.

  2. I’m not partial to affirmative action laws, either. I have a friend who is a black guy who grew up on the south side of Chicago, though, and he believes that they’re needed there. We had that conversation some years ago, so I don’t recall what all he said, exactly, but I know his arguments were convincing at the time. Affirmative action, its necessity, and its effectiveness are really clouded subjects. There’s really not a good way to measure them.

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