Monday, November 14, 2005

Saying what you mean

Our current cultural obsession with attempting to classify races by region when discussing America is leading to laughably predictable results when used in other contexts:

- CNN anchor Carol Lin referring to the two French teenagers of Tunisian descent whose death sparked the Paris riots as "African-American."

- a description of the black Vulcan bridge officer on the old "Star Trek Voyager" TV show was once described in a review article as an "African-American Vulcan." That gets funnier the more you think about it.

- During the last Olympics, one of the network airheads referred to black athletes as "African-Americans from all nations..."

Honestly, all we're doing is substituting one set of words for another without changing the definitions or connotations that accompany it. Most Americans view race as an ontological status, so when they say "African-American," they mean "black." Otherwise they wouldn't be applying it to people who are obviously not American (and could apply it to people from Africa who aren't black).

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