Musing on Identity: Are we African-Americans, Negros, or Black People

There are two responsibilities I work hard to fulfill. If you include doing my utmost to be your mom’s best friend, then three.

In the order of most to least important here they are. To start with, it’s my job to tell my friends no one gives a fuck about either their latest cleanse or diet. Next, I help people match the proper word when referring to “my people”, to the right context . As a matter of fact, there are some cases where the term “Black” will not do and a more colorful word is needed, like ‘expendable’. I am not a black person, I am an expendable person.

This a probably why Black History month is the shortest month of the year. This is also why whitewashed versions of popular leaders are so prevalent during February. I just so happen to be in love with the latest version of Martin Luther King. You know the one that has nothing to say about wealth redistribution and poverty.

A Heavy Burden


According to the NYPD, I am on borrowed time. So let’s get to it.

This responsibility is wearing me down. It comes though, with being many people’s token black friend. I should have seen it coming.

Generally speaking society, like your mom and I, we do our best to hide things you shouldn’t see. Socially we use vapid phraseology to hide the truth. There is no such thing as a black community. Instead, there are distinct groups comprised of people from different linguistic, ethnic, economic and social climes. Their skin color happens to fall within the range that allows aggregation. It follows that such a diverse assembly of people would have diverse thoughts on this issue. Martin Luther King favored the word Negro to refer to ‘Black People”. Malcolm X did not. He preferred “Black to Negro,” but also started using the term Afro-American after leaving the Nation of Islam.

Where does that leave us ?

Not everyone black person in the US is an African-American. I, for example, am Haitian-American. It turns out that where the boat stopped after it left Africa determines what adjective you put in front of ‘American’. Not every black person is a ‘negro’. For example rich, successful black people are “great neighbors” (to have). Unless they’re retired football players, who acted in comedies. Oh, and also have a penchant for marrying white women (OJ Simpson anyone?).

Let me offer you a tentative solution. I know that referring to “Black people” as “The Expendables” might be difficult. Especially since Sylvester Stallone’s created a movie series of the same moniker. Though if you think about it, one refers to a group of tired, jobless, people considered painful to watch, usually portrayed as hyper-violent. The other refers to the cast of the movie series.

Black Lite, just like Bud Light is toned down,  accessible to drink out in public with non-minorities, but just as 'filling'
Black Lite, just like Bud Light is toned down, accessible to drink out in public with non-minorities, but just as ‘filling’

We could avoid all problems if we officially became the “Other”. It sounds hip. Also biracial/mixed people use the other designation on forms. You may not see the genius of this plan. Statistics from online dating research have found something interesting. When people are allowed to select more than one race, combining “white” with another racial description always helps your rating! “In fact it goes a long way towards undoing any bias against you.” This might finally give us a chance to use all those episodes of plantation rape and sexual abuse for something more than what we are doing with them now:nothing.

3 thoughts on “Musing on Identity: Are we African-Americans, Negros, or Black People

  1. That was so wrong, yet so RIGHT; all in the same breath… I am a white, Hispanic, Latina, Puerto-Rican American (because I want people to like my comment). 😉

    I spent my entire childhood fighting the need of one side of my family to cleanse the ethnicity out of me. I’m like the reverse Juan Epstein – my mother is the Jewish one so they tried using that whole “You are what your mother is” against me; until my 13-y-o logic kicked in and it was all “Nah, man; NAH!” from then on.


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