What’s in a Name: Should Black in America Stops Calling Themselves Black or Should We Stick With ‘African American’?

black man shaking hands

*As if being a person of African descent living in American doesn’t give us enough to contend with, now we are seriously entertaining the whole black vs. African American “comparison” and what this means when it comes to describing ourselves with how white people feel about it in mind. Seriously? We get the whole reality about black-sounding names like LaKisha Jones or Shanequa Brown and how those names vs. Patty Smith may lose you an interview, and now, because of this, people are (supposedly) giving their kids less black-sounding names. As if that’s going to put an end to the latent racism that rears its ugly head at any available opportunity — no matter what you do.

Yet the “studies” continue. This latest one done by Emory University shows that whites reacted very differently to questions posed about how people of color describe themselves. And what they came up with is that being identified as “black,” as opposed to “African American,” brought about vastly different responses. Negatives one. Responses that highlighted the harsh reality that it’s not just visual cues that can activate latent racism.

Since when does ignorance start with what you see?

But in a study conducted by Erika V. Hall, a professor at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology a group of white participants from across the country were asked a series of questions about scenarios relating to people identified as “black” or “African American” and the results are supposedly pretty startling.

In the case of a job applicant, when asked to speculate about education, ability and income, whites believed that the “black” applicant was less educated and estimated his income as about $29,000 a year. But the candidate labeled “African American” was thought to be more educated by white respondents, and making about $37,000 a year.

In another experiment, a suspect in a crime was labeled “black” or “African American,” and whites consistently had more negative emotions and were more likely to label the “black” suspect as guilty. In fact, throughout the experiment, “black” always lost out to “African American” among white respondents. But don’t get it twisted, the study shows that whites did not think better of African Americans, they simply appeared to like blacks less. In the study, they didn’t necessarily hold more positive feelings toward African Americans compared with other groups—just compared with blacks.

Kind of makes you wonder what the educational level and income of those being questioned was. Also, had they asked a black (or African American for the sake of this study) person the same question, who is to say the same answers wouldn’t apply)?

So what does this mean for the modern black American in the workplace, applying for a loan or in any other serious interaction with white America?

The same thing it has always meant.

Should we all start to employ the term “African American” more than “black,” in some vain attempt to curry favor with potential white employers asks the writer of an article at The Root who says that’s about as practical as the NAACP’s attempting to bury the word “nigger.” The writer adds the black/African American community should foster a discussion about how these terms are used in relation to each other.

This writer says this should happen if you have absolutely nothing else to do. 

6 thoughts on “What’s in a Name: Should Black in America Stops Calling Themselves Black or Should We Stick With ‘African American’?”

  1. I’m kinda confused here. Why should I worry about how someone else thinks about me? Shouldn’t I be worried about how I think about myself? Fanteeking

  2. I refer to myself and my race as black. I don’t use the African American term.

  3. I refer to myself and my race as black. I don’t use the term African American.

  4. I don’t give a rats ass what whites think about black or African American! When are we going to stop worrying about what they think. Black or African American — it doesn’t matter to them because they only think of us as the “N” word. How do they feel about being referred to as white or Caucasian? We’ve all got bigger fish to fry than worry about something like this.

  5. Why would someone even entertain such a survey?! This is yet another reason why racism continues to exist…blacks or African Americans are so caught up in pleasing the man or worrying about their feelings. Worry about your own damn feelings. Take care of you and yours and stop giving them another thought.

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