Everyone wants to belong1. And, even more so, everyone wants to belong to a group. So, why not “African-Americans?”
People have separated themselves based on religion for eons; we have Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. Then, it seems, “Christian” got to be too big of a group, so some folks broke it down to Catholics, Lutherans, etc.
“American” seems to have become too broad of a group, as well. We have Asian communities … political pundits often discuss the Latino or Hispanic voting block … and around the country you can often find Greek, Italian and German festivals, for example.
What do all these people have in common? Well, they all came from ancestry that did not originate here; their ancestors came here of their own volition and were not shoved in a boat & sold here.
So, what do we call “them?” Yes, they are Americans, but they want a name for their group, as well. And, honestly, people cannot describe a Black person w/o using skin color to describe them. Try it!
Ask someone you know to describe someone you both know by name, who is Black. Something like, “I want you to describe David to me as if I’ve never met him, but he crossed my path a few minutes ago as we were walking from <some store> to <another store> and you thought there was something about him I should’ve noticed.”
Again, what do we call “them?” There are many brown folks who don’t like being called “Black.” Remember, many brown/black folks around the world are Jamaican or Haitian or Dominican or … well, not from Africa.
And, please, don’t tell me “all Black people originated from Africa!”
The cradle of life IS Africa – WE ALL ORIGINATED FROM AFRICA!
What we know is that “they” are not “Colored” (even though someone will be quick to point out that the NAACP is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
So, before you say you want African-Americans to stop referring to themselves that way “because we are all just ‘Americans’,” remember that everyone wants to be part of a more precise group.
Who‡ is to make the official decision and what do we call “them?”
‡ Before you really answer that last question, make sure you can say who is the spokesperson for all Caucasians in the USA.
1 Baumeister R. F., & Leary M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497-529.