Why I Am Black, Not African American - Article Analysis Essay

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The article Why I am black, not African American by John H McWhorter raises a fundamental question concerning the issue of race amongst colored people in America. Importantly, the author states that African Americans should reevaluate their identity, retrace their roots, and embrace blackness. Moreover, the writer asserts that adopting blackness by Americans of black descent is more beneficial than the status of being African American. As such, this definition of being black is more meaningful than the previous classification of being African American.

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When Was the Term African American First Used?

Originally, the African-American term was advanced in the early 1980s and it was thought that it would bring equality to Americans of African descent (Ferro 270). This was because there were other references to people of other descents, for instance, the Italian-Americans, German-Americans, and so on. It was an ethnocultural term that became synonymous with race and the regular black people as it was used exclusively in reference to the Black people in America. Its popularity then got to its peak in the 1990s and 2000s. However, the term in the present society has been perceived as carrying political correctness that is self-conscious. Also, the term is ambiguous and at the same time limiting. Many people of that descent think that this referring to them by this term is unnecessary in contexts that are informal. They prefer being called black in informal speech and they rarely find it offensive.

Definition of African American

First, the term African-American is self-serving to some blacks. There are other Americans who come from other countries like the Caribbean and other countries. This is a way of putting them in a box because there are also whites who come from South Africa which is in Africa. They too should be called African-American. A census conducted in America in 2010 on households and families showed that 5.3 marriages were interracial showing a shift in the ancient and narrow views of the society in America (Renne.). This is a step closer for society. They can now be able to recognize African-Americans as blacks as it is not mutually inclusive for every person of color to be black and African-American.

Definition of Being Black

Additionally, being Black invokes some sense of bold pride. Black connects Americans of color to their struggle. It also connects them to other people around the world who are like them. The Black Power Movements and the Black consciousness throughout the 60s and 70s used the term Black to identify, redefine and embrace themselves (Muhammad.). Earlier on the name had been associated with despair and inferiority. The term gave people a spirit of self-love, self-pride, dignity, and resistance as they began opting out of the terms that had been imposed previously on them such as the Negros or colored.

"Why I Am Black, Not African American” Article Analysis

Notably, the article puts perspective on the use of the term African American since it uses several aspects to define that particular identity. Typically, Africans, who are descendants of slaves in America, consider themselves more American than African immigrants. In addition, the discourse aptly captures the argument by Allan Keyes, a Republican politician, when he claims that African Americans should only define themselves as the ancestors of the African slaves. For instance, he opines that he is more American than President Obama since his genealogical roots come both from African slaves and white immigrants (McWhorter 327). This is in contrast to a person whose natural heritage is African American. Nonetheless, this position is shallow since it depends on the experiences of African immigrants who have also suffered from harsh conditions within the country and continue to do so. Consequently, African Americans should adopt a more inclusive identity, that is, black.

In essence, the term African American is ambiguous since it strikes a middle ground between being African and white. This notion has gained prominence with a presentation by Rev. Jesse Jackson on the same topic. Most importantly, the categorization of African Americans is not mainstream but a form of protest by the community regarding the injustices done to them. Thus, the author urges African Americans to shed the tag African and fully embrace black since their heritage is now more American. Nonetheless, the writer cautions against using this term, which he claims has been carefully crafted to drag them down (McWhorter 327). Again, McWhorter proudly states that four generations of his working-class American relatives support his claim of being American. Moreover, the author details several incidences in history when blacks have been successful, for example, the thriving of commercial districts after the slave trade was abolished. Similarly, he uses civil rights movements to show that blacks can provide a moral anchor for the nation.

Difference Between Black and African American

Finally, McWhorter has explained that the representation of black nations is special because it still contains relevant variables like pride and remembrance that are synonymous with factors that encompass African-American heritage. Moreover, he has used two comparisons to show that the term "black" is more meaningful than the definition of an African American. To illustrate that, the author uses a symbolic analogy where he equates the use of the term to the practice of splashing the bride with rice - since everybody does that (McWhorter 327). However, he asserts that he is going to identify himself as black and does not accept another categorization that everyone considers as a norm. The significance of the article is that it analyzes the underlying issues concerning self-awareness in the African American society in the wider black context. It is clear that the use of black as the basis of the interaction between African Americans and the larger society is of more value than the parochial classification that has been adopted by sociologists.


In conclusion, the article Why I am black, not African American raises valid arguments on the benefit of using the definition of black in referencing the colored percentage of the USA society rather than African American. Moreover, the writer states that this will increase the pride of black people in the US. Ultimately, it expands the scope of blacks in America since they have their own identity.

Works Cited

"I'm Not African American...I'm Black - News & Views." EBONY. N.P., n.d. Web. 5 May 2016. http://www.ebony.com/news-views/im-not-african-american-im-black#ixzz47jXO4MgZ"I'm Not African-American, I'm Black: Why Racial Labels Matter." Elite Daily. N.P., n.d. Web. 5 May 2016.

Ferro, Enrico. Handbook of Research on Overcoming Digital Divides: Constructing an Equitable and Competitive Information Society. Hershey: Information Science Reference, 2010. Internet resource. Read more.

McWhorter, John. "Why I'm Black, Not African American."Blair Reader: Exploring Issues and ideas. Ed. Kirszner, Laurie G., and Stephen R. Mandell. Boston: Pearson Education, 2014. McWhorter 327-29. Print

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