17 January 2010
"Negro", "Black", or "African-American"?
This blog of mine generally focuses on issues relating to Australia and Indonesia. However, the whole point was that the blog was to be a place that I could write about anything that piqued my interest or that I wanted, or felt the need, to pass comment on.
Politically correctness and racism are issues that pique my interest. They do so because I sometimes feel that the drive towards politically correctness is a hindrance to full, frank, and open debate about issues. In this case, the issue is race. Race is an issue that is highly emotionally charged, and is one where there are quite divergent opinions amongst those who are subject to the terms that politically correctness generates for us.
This brings me to the substance of this post. I read an interesting article today over at Slate today. The article was discussing when the word "Negro" became taboo. The taboo came soon after the book Black Power: The Politics of Liberation was published in 1968 (cover of the 1992 version is above).
The purpose of the Slate article seemed to be exploring the drive to political correctness in making the term "Black" taboo in preference to the use of the term African-American. I would encourage those with an interest in this sort of subject matter to read the article.
The parts of the story that I found most interesting related to how organizations deal with the changing dynamics, and the drive, to replace certain words with new words while simultaneously stigmatizing the previous term. Also interesting to me was that the move towards the term "African-American" does not have universal support as a majority of people are seemingly non-plused one way or the other with respect to African-American or Black.
With regards to organizations, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has not changed its name but uses the word 'colored' in very limited contexts. The United Negro College Fund tends to go by the initials, UNCF, rather than the full name. Seemingly, this is an exercise in re-branding a familiar and ongoing concern that helps a lot of young people achieve their goals. Indeed, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.
Bringing this back home for me got me to thinking about how we refer to Aboriginal Australians. There was a time where the were referred to as Blacks. There was also a time where the preferred term was Aboriginal, and seemingly of late there has been a move towards the term "Indigenous Australians". I am sure organizations in the Australian context would encounter similar considerations in relation to names. For example, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) before it was dissolved.
I do not know about anyone else, but I find this sort of 'stuff' interesting.