Not African American.
African and American.
True African American (from Ghana).
African plus American (with Irish and Ethiopian parents).
Double African American.
White African American.
Hispanic African American.
Afro Latino American.
West Indian not American.
West Indian African American.
Pure African American.
Kobina Aidoo, who filmed the one-hour documentary “The Neo-African Americans,” asked 13 people to describe themselves and got 13 different answers.
Why is the name so important? Is it because of the tension between the American-born blacks whose ancestors were slaves, and the new immigrants who speak English with exotic accents?
The monthly “Continuing Conversations on Race” has been postponed from Monday, March 6, to Monday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m., on the second floor of Princeton Public Library, The discussion, “What’s in a Name,” will focus on resolving the conflicts of the naming controversy. All are welcome to this discussion in a safe and friendly atmosphere.
In Aidoo’s film, the participants dscribe the relationship between the immigrant and native-born groups as “strained,” “conflicted,” and “contentious.” There is “resentment” against the “newcomers to this country” who distance themselves from the black community and consider themselves better, i.e. “not that black.”
Meanwhile it’s been proven that immigrants are more likely to get the good job and be admitted to college. Aidoo interviews Princeton’s Douglas Massey, who notes that – of the 12 percent of blacks admitted to colleges he surveyed – an unusual percentage, 25 percent, were immigrants. That is out of proportion to the population, and for the selective Ivies, the percentage was even higher, 40 percent.
American blacks point out that they have always lived in a country where they were the minority and had to fight for their rights, whereas African or Caribbean blacks had the opposite experience. “We’re always reminded of our place here,” said one, “but in their countries, they are the doctors, the lawyers, and the politicians.”
In this documentary, the immigrants sometimes agree. “Folks need to change their attitudes,” said one immigrant, suggesting that those who come from another country don’t understand how American blacks have “made sacrifices that make our lives more comfortable.”
In contrast to American born blacks who “have the unique sense to transform American society,” immigrants don’t want to talk about, or think about, racial issues. “I would like to have holistic conversations about everything – including race,” said one.
So how do they want to be called? Rather than a variation of “African American,” most chose “black,” because it is inclusive. It can encompass and unify people of all backgrounds.
Still, as one woman said, “I prefer being called by my first name.”