So What Do They Call You? or What’s in a Name?


Time changes all things: there is no reason why language should escape this universal law.
-Ferdinand de Saussure, linguist (1857-1913)

The way words change over time has always been interesting to me.  On a homeschool forum that I occasionally visit, I spied a discussion about who decides which terms are politically correct.  It’s something I’ve wondered, too.  For instance, at one time “Negro” was the preferred term, then that was replaced by “Black,” and then one day we woke up to realize that the media only used the term “African-American.” 

Who decided that needed to change, and why?  If you look at it from a purely language-oriented view, Negro and Black are equivalent.  It’s just that one is Spanish/Latin and the other is English.  So who decided that one was offensive and the other wasn’t? And then the term African-American…  Does anyone but me see problems with this one?  What if you’re not from Africa?  Is it still okay for people to call you African-American?  It’s like saying that Africans are the only dark-skinned people who matter.  Some dark-skinned Americans, like our president for instance, are truly African-American, but most would have to go back many, many generations, and many never could trace their ancestry to Africa.  In fact, they may have their origins in Australia or on a Pacific Island somewhere.  So why the emphasis on Africans?  Another problem with that one is that most “African-Americans” are no more African than I am German or my husband is Irish.  Sure, that’s where our ancestors came from, but does it really have any bearing on our daily life?  Is it important?  Not unless I want make it important, which I haven’t.  I’m American.  Period.  Wasn’t that one of America’s claims to fame?  To be the “melting pot?”

It’s just too confusing to make all these separations. The woman who posted the question that originally got my attention is light-skinned and married to a man who is dark, and she often gets criticized for using the wrong word.  I know of another married couple who have identical skin tones, but he is identified as Black and she as White.  Says who?

I guess all this gets back to my core belief that political correctness is a bunch of hooey.  People need to relax.  Skin color should be no more sensitive an issue than hair color.  Do we have to tiptoe around calling someone a redhead?  Is that offensive?

And actually, like hair color, it should hardly even be worth mentioning except perhaps when trying to point a person out in a crowd.  Like a tattoo or a mole, it’s just an identifying characteristic.

Okay, yeah, I’m an idealist.  I’m just thankful that to God, there are no “races” except for the human one.  Which, by the way, is what I write in the blank whenever I’m asked. 

Race:  __HUMAN___

Yup.  People may look at me funny when they see it, but hey, what can they say? 




About dayuntoday

I'm a wonderer. I spend a lot of time mulling, pondering, and cogitating. This is just a place to park some of those thoughts.
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One Response to So What Do They Call You? or What’s in a Name?

  1. quilt_cats says:

    It’s just one big human race, after all, isn’t it?  (I’m an idealist too, I guess)

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