Days Black People Not Re-Enslaved By Trump

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

RE: Why “African-American” is a Patronizing, Even Racist Term

RE: Why “African-American” is a Patronizing, Even Racist Term or Why M.G. Piety might be an idiot.

In another of a series of “why did Counterpunch publish this?” articles, M.G. Piety explains why she is uncomfortable with the term “African-American” as applied to “blacks” who are the descendants (at least partially due to that one drop rule thingy) of Africans from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade (AKA Maafa).

I do not like the expression “African-American.” It’s patronizing, condescending, and racist
Patronizing! Condescending! Racist! Oh my!

I expect M.G. Piety will soon click her heels three times and wish herself away from here.

It was coined, rumor has it, to help counteract the corrosive effect of racism on the self-esteem of black Americans. But how is that supposed to work? In practice, I would argue, the effect is unavoidably the reverse. White Americans are never referred to as “European-Americans,” so to identify black Americans as “African-American” is to suggest that they are only half American.
I suppose it would have been too much work for M.G. Piety to look up the reasons rather than go on rumor and innuendo. It's not as if the term took hold hundreds of years ago. Matter of fact the folks that came up with it are still alive and reachable. But I'm not going to spend time on how and why the term came into being because Piety has given us a great falsehood in the form of what white Americans are referred to.

Lets suppose for a minute that white Americans are not identified on a regular basis as “European-Americans”. The question one has to ask is why not? Is it because that, as Piety suggests, the African is a “half-American”? Absolutely not. Well in reference to what an American is.

I have long argued that American denotes citizenship status. America being one of the few countries not created by its indigenous species of humans. One can equate French with whiteness because France grew out of those Europeans that arose there. Similarly it is quite correct to equate British with whiteness because the British also arose from their native population.

America on the other hand is a country largely populated by those who came from somewhere else. Hence, rather than a polity that grew out of a native population and bound together by a common ancestry, America is a polity created by a common set of rules. Ye Rule of Law. American is a constitutional creation. Each and every European that is in America is identifiable by his or her name.

When we say “Danny Fitzpatrick, head of the so and so police department.” We need not say “European-American” because his very name denotes his country of origins. It identifies his racial origins as well (unless other circumstances ,to be discussed later, apply).

When Todd Williams is identified, so too is his racial and ethnic origins on display. So when we speak of a European-American, there is no need to explicitly identify that individual because their very name identifies them as such. It is understood. In fact it is understood at a subconscious level. No one has to even think about it.

Now let's take a look at the African. When the African was brought to America the African was stripped of his name (among other things) and therefore the connection with his land AND people of origins. Let us be clear there are no Fitz-anything in Africa. There is no Williams, Thomas', Baldwins or any of that in Africa. Every African with a European sir name that did not marry into a European family is carrying a slave owners name or a slave name forced on them by Europeans. This is why there are no African in America descended from the Maafa with the names Yu, Xe, Li, Ping, etc. No Chinese named Africans in the 16,17 and 1800s.

And so the African, unique among the American citizenry has nothing to identify himself as connected to a nation or ethnicity of origin except his black face. That, Mr. Piety is “racist”.

Some of us have decided that since we are free people and unashamed of our origins and collective cultures, to removed our European names and have taken on names from the general geographic area to which most Africans were traded from. Some of us have been able to actually trace out lineages back to a specific people, but that vast majority of us cannot do so and must consciously choose a place to tie ourselves to. This Author has decided upon the Yoruba. Persons such as Molefe Assante have attached themselves to the Assante. Other African-Americans have take on Islamic names. I won't go into that other than to say while it's their business, with the history of West Africa during the Maafa, that's not necessarily the best choice.

When Molefe Assante changed his name he made it clear why he was doing so. Paraphrasing, he said that when he was looking at books and such he saw that it was clear by looking at the names who was writing the books. However when he picked up books by black authors he was unable to identify them by name. Hence he felt that their work could be “assumed” European. Baba Assante did not want to have his contributions to history and scholarship to be “mistook” for the work of a European and that, in part, informed his decision to change his name.

Clearly anyone who picks up a book by Molefe Assante will not assume that the author has origins in the British Isles. That is a good thing.

So having dealt with the issue of origins, let's deal with the other half of M.G. Piety's remarks:

Most black Americans do not identify with Africans and most genuine African-Americans (i.e., people who recently emigrated from Africa to the U.S. or who divide their time between two continents) do not identify with black Americans.
I would suggest that the fact that “most black Americans do not identify with Africans” is a part of the problem. But let's be clear. To say that “black Americans” do not “identify” with Africans” is like saying that the British do not identify with the Italians or that the French do not “identify” with the Polish.

No shit sherlock.

This is where ethnicity comes into play. People can belong to the same racial categories but not identify with each other because their customs are not the same. This is the difference between race and ethnicity. I sure hope that M.G. Piety is not suggesting that Africans and African-Americans are so unintelligent as to not see that they share a lot of traits with each other that they do not share with Europeans of any nationality.

Simply because I choose to identify as an African doesn't mean that I automatically become a Yoruba by ethnicity. Nor do I or Molefe Assante become a Assante by ethnicity simply because he chooses to identify himself with that group. We don't need to, because our racial identity super-cedes chosen ethnic affiliations.

That is known as Pan-Africanism. Look it up.

Let's look at Piety's discussion of “real African-Americans”.

At what point does an “real African-American” become an “American”? How many generations? Grand children? Great grand children? Eventually the recent African immigrant comes to understand that their children or grand children will be indistinguishable from the “black American” they have studiously attempted to avoid and disassociate themselves from. I'm quite certain that when Amadou Diallo was shot up in his vestibule the NYPD officers involved did not say “Well fellas, this is a REAL African-Americans and not those piece of shit home grown niggers.”

The one thing that the children of recent African immigrants will have to their advantage is that provided they do not marry a European (or other ethnic group) they will have names that connect them to their homelands like every other American. At that point there will be no need to refer to them as “African-American” because it will be self evident, just like with Europeans.

So really the only thing patronizing and condescending here was the piece M.G. Piety wrote. Perhaps M.G. Should have spent her time talking to people who don't mind identifying with Africans before penning the piece. At least she would have given us food for thought rather than diarrhea of the pixels.