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African american,irish american.why not just american ?

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by craig g, Mar 17, 2008.

  1. Huntsman

    Huntsman Well-Known Member

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    There are three issues here: nationality, ethnicity ("race"), and culture. It's the last that gains clarification from the hyphenates. "Asian-American" only describes the nationality of a few with dual citizenship, and it's meaningless as an ethnicity, since "American" is meaningless as an ethnicity. Asian-American culture, however, is distinct from both Asian culture and American culture. The same applies to all the other hyphenate-Americans who have any connection with the cultures of their forebears. Yes, all these subcultures are part of the greater fabric of American culture, but they can be"”and frequently are"”discussed separately.
    That was beautifully put and I couldn't agree more -- the subcultures of American culture is what defines it most strongly, and any discussion of American culture will require greater specificity at times. If the discussion ended there, I don't think there would be any serious argument about the matter.
    There are also many who find the terms "black" and "white" historically, socially, and politically problematic, since we don't generally refer to other ethnic groups by color except when being derogatory. (It would not go over well to call a group of Chinese-Americans "yellows," or Mexican-Americans "browns.")
    True; however, I'd claim that the persistence of "black" and "white" descriptors are less a legacy of those 'historical, social, and political' roots than the simple reality that humanity falls into 'more or less Black' and 'more or less White' categories. Chinese people really don't look yellow in tone, nor did Native Americans really look red. But there are darker 'white' people who are still white, though not nearly as white in tone as whole populations in Russia and the former SSRs, just as many 'black' people are really a mid-brown in tone and not nearly as black in tone as many Nigerians or Ghanans. Yet those two descriptors fit most of humanity well and thus will probably always persist.
    Using the terms "African-American" and "European-American" can help raise the level of the dialog about race. Awkward and annoying as it may be, the benefits outweigh the detriments.
    Divorced from the comparatively minor role as a cultural descriptor, I think the hyphen-American terms actually lower, if not merely the the level of dialog about race, but the manner in which racial relations are practiced in America, by reinforcing the mindset of a distinct separation other than cultural. Instead of it merely being, "I'm Black, he's White, we're both Americans, both humans," this awkward artifice builds a temple to the notion of The Other, and the more that notion is glorified in such a manner is the more it will serve fear and mistrust and hate, and the less open we will all be to the glory and joys of difference. Regards, Huntsman
     
  2. Coho

    Coho Well-Known Member

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    Honestly, I'd prefer this just "American" thing too. However, WASP Americans and Jews, the two groups that run this country, will never let you forget where you're from. For example, I am of mixed heritage, so I am technically X-Y-American and I really hate this label. I'm sure Tiger Woods' kids are going to have the same problem.
     
  3. Etienne

    Etienne Well-Known Member

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    Yeah. You just put all your immigrants into the ghettos, deny them educations and jobs, and then constantly remind them that they're not Europeans. They're North Africans, Arabs, Turkish, etc.
    You seem incredibly knowledgeable about Europe, as well as being a very nice guy who never gets unduly aggressive. Can I be your best friend?
     
  4. RJman

    RJman Well-Known Member

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    You seem incredibly knowledgeable about Europe, as well as being a very nice guy who never gets unduly aggressive. Can I be your best friend?

    Can I be your ghetto best friend?
     
  5. craig g

    craig g Well-Known Member

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    There are three issues here: nationality, ethnicity ("race"), and culture. It's the last that gains clarification from the hyphenates. "Asian-American" only describes the nationality of a few with dual citizenship, and it's meaningless as an ethnicity, since "American" is meaningless as an ethnicity. Asian-American culture, however, is distinct from both Asian culture and American culture. The same applies to all the other hyphenate-Americans who have any connection with the cultures of their forebears. Yes, all these subcultures are part of the greater fabric of American culture, but they can be"”and frequently are"”discussed separately.

    There are also many who find the terms "black" and "white" historically, socially, and politically problematic, since we don't generally refer to other ethnic groups by color except when being derogatory. (It would not go over well to call a group of Chinese-Americans "yellows," or Mexican-Americans "browns.") Using the terms "African-American" and "European-American" can help raise the level of the dialog about race. Awkward and annoying as it may be, the benefits outweigh the detriments.


    thank you.

    Yeah. You just put all your immigrants into the ghettos, deny them educations and jobs, and then constantly remind them that they're not Europeans. They're North Africans, Arabs, Turkish, etc.

    For all our faults, we try to integrate people into our society (not always perfectly). Please let your governments know that they should do the same. Thank you.


    who took the jam out of your doughnut ?

    What was defensive about it? I also forgot to add that us Americans appreciate European far right parties increasingly gaining influence and flipping out about Polish plumbers stealing jobs. I believe that Vegas odds makers are currently taking bets on which country will have the most riots over the next year.


    your joking right [​IMG]
     
  6. Southern-Nupe

    Southern-Nupe Well-Known Member

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    There are three issues here: nationality, ethnicity ("race"), and culture. It's the last that gains clarification from the hyphenates. "Asian-American" only describes the nationality of a few with dual citizenship, and it's meaningless as an ethnicity, since "American" is meaningless as an ethnicity. Asian-American culture, however, is distinct from both Asian culture and American culture. The same applies to all the other hyphenate-Americans who have any connection with the cultures of their forebears. Yes, all these subcultures are part of the greater fabric of American culture, but they can be"”and frequently are"”discussed separately.

    There are also many who find the terms "black" and "white" historically, socially, and politically problematic, since we don't generally refer to other ethnic groups by color except when being derogatory. (It would not go over well to call a group of Chinese-Americans "yellows," or Mexican-Americans "browns.") Using the terms "African-American" and "European-American" can help raise the level of the dialog about race. Awkward and annoying as it may be, the benefits outweigh the detriments.

    Great post, I couldn't agree more.

    I'm not trying to be a jerk, but it seems those that get most upset about hyphenations are likely not in the minority sect. Ironically, these are the same people that believe in strong ethnicity based stereo-types, and seldom venture outside their own culture, unless it's to get Mexican food on Wednesday and Chinese food on Saturday.
     
  7. haganah

    haganah Well-Known Member

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    You seem incredibly knowledgeable about Europe, as well as being a very nice guy who never gets unduly aggressive. Can I be your best friend?
    I appreciate your comments. Please be careful during the next set of riots not to use hyphens when you refer to immigrants in your country. I will now refer to you as mon ami! [​IMG]
     
  8. Dakota rube

    Dakota rube Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure Tiger Wood's kids are going to have the same problem.
    I can't imagine a scenario under which Tiger Woods' children will have any problem in life.
     
  9. Piobaire

    Piobaire Well-Known Member

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    My wife actually dislikes being referred to as an "Asian-American". She says that, for instance, the differences between Japan and VietNam are so great, that to lump them together is silly. Oddly enough, I have always felt the same about the term "white", that to lump the typical phenotypes and cultures of say, Nordic and southern Italian is silly.

    I think that really, most attempts at such catch-all labelling is just to give some general indication of a person's physical appearance. It does not always work, i.e. Nordic vs. Mediterranian, but IMO, that is the point of the catch-all.
     
  10. dkzzzz

    dkzzzz Well-Known Member

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    I always use "Canine American " when referring to dogs in my neighborhood.
     
  11. CTGuy

    CTGuy Well-Known Member

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    There are three issues here: nationality, ethnicity ("race"), and culture. It's the last that gains clarification from the hyphenates. "Asian-American" only describes the nationality of a few with dual citizenship, and it's meaningless as an ethnicity, since "American" is meaningless as an ethnicity. Asian-American culture, however, is distinct from both Asian culture and American culture. The same applies to all the other hyphenate-Americans who have any connection with the cultures of their forebears. Yes, all these subcultures are part of the greater fabric of American culture, but they can be"”and frequently are"”discussed separately.

    There are also many who find the terms "black" and "white" historically, socially, and politically problematic, since we don't generally refer to other ethnic groups by color except when being derogatory. (It would not go over well to call a group of Chinese-Americans "yellows," or Mexican-Americans "browns.") Using the terms "African-American" and "European-American" can help raise the level of the dialog about race. Awkward and annoying as it may be, the benefits outweigh the detriments.


    Good comments.
     
  12. pstoller

    pstoller Well-Known Member

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    I'd claim that the persistence of "black" and "white" descriptors are less a legacy of those 'historical, social, and political' roots than the simple reality that humanity falls into 'more or less Black' and 'more or less White' categories. Chinese people really don't look yellow in tone, nor did Native Americans really look red. But there are darker 'white' people who are still white, though not nearly as white in tone as whole populations in Russia and the former SSRs, just as many 'black' people are really a mid-brown in tone and not nearly as black in tone as many Nigerians or Ghanans. Yet those two descriptors fit most of humanity well and thus will probably always persist.

    Divorced from the comparatively minor role as a cultural descriptor, I think the hyphen-American terms actually lower, if not merely the the level of dialog about race, but the manner in which racial relations are practiced in America, by reinforcing the mindset of a distinct separation other than cultural. Instead of it merely being, "I'm Black, he's White, we're both Americans, both humans," this awkward artifice builds a temple to the notion of The Other, and the more that notion is glorified in such a manner is the more it will serve fear and mistrust and hate, and the less open we will all be to the glory and joys of difference.


    Regarding color as a way of identifying people, the problem isn't merely, that the colors aren't Pantone-accurate (even the whitest "white people" are pinkish, even the blackest "black people" are very dark brown); the problem is, as you put it, dividing people into "more or less white" and "more or less black." This creates a sort of ethnic scale that puts one group of people on each end and distributes everyone across the middle. There is a strong tendency for people who look at ethnicity this way to attach values to where people fall on the scale.

    It also casts race relations in"”both literally and figuratively"”black and white terms. That is, it implies that the "real" issues are between black and white, and everyone who is neither is of lesser significance in the dialog, being more or less empowered or oppressed according to how close they are to one end or the other of the spectrum. Ultimately, in reducing discussions of ethnicity and culture to a matter of skin tone, it diminishes everyone in the discussion. There will probably always be contexts in which we lapse into the colloquial shorthand of "black" and "white," but I think we can at least be conscious of how different contexts are affected by that choice.

    I understand your point about the "temple to the notion of the Other," but, since the hyphenates are primarily cultural, I don't see how they "reinforc[e] the mindset of a distinct separation other than cultural." Rather, by saying, "I'm Black, he's White," you make a distinction that is far less clearly cultural. And, again, how is the Japanese-American to enter this discussion?

    In the broadest scheme of things, all distinctions drawn between groups of people can be regarded as divisive: "American" itself separates people one group of people from, for example, those called "Chinese," and a host of assumptions"”many accurate, many not"”are heaped upon each group and its individual members. (Likewise, it implies a connection between people within a given group who may in reality be no more connected than those in different groups.) Nevertheless, we can't celebrate the glory and joys of difference without acknowledging difference. That acknowledgment requires a terminology as unladen with bias as possible, so as to give minimal service to fear, mistrust, and hate.

    I maintain that hyphenation, while awkward, is otherwise the best of the flawed choices on the menu. It's no more artificial than any of the other methods of distinguishing cultural groups, clearer, and less prone to hierarchical interpretation.
     
  13. pstoller

    pstoller Well-Known Member

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    My wife actually dislikes being referred to as an "Asian-American." She says that, for instance, the differences between Japan and VietNam are so great, that to lump them together is silly. Oddly enough, I have always felt the same about the term "white," that to lump the typical phenotypes and cultures of say, Nordic and southern Italian is silly.

    I think that really, most attempts at such catch-all labelling is just to give some general indication of a person's physical appearance. It does not always work, i.e. Nordic vs. Mediterranian, but IMO, that is the point of the catch-all.


    It's definitely a valid criticism of hyphenates that they are frequently over-broad, to the point of not just being meaningless, but creating a distortion (such as that Japanese and Vietnamese culture are fundamentally linked.) However, "Asian-American" is no more overly broad than "Asian" or "American." The question is, when using the term, what are you trying to say? Does the term really communicate your meaning, or would it be clearer to use another (or omit the distinction altogether?)

    Also, good point that the labeling is useful as a physical descriptive.
     
  14. pstoller

    pstoller Well-Known Member

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    I can't imagine a scenario under which Tiger Woods' children will have any problem in life.
    That's just a lack of imagination. Tiger Woods' children won't have any problems in life caused by a lack of family money or lack of fame. They will have problems caused by family money and fame, and, although insulated to some degree, they will still have problems caused by racial prejudice. They'll probably have better lives than most of us, but that's not the same as being problem-free.
     
  15. Southern-Nupe

    Southern-Nupe Well-Known Member

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    I always use "Canine American " when referring to dogs in my neighborhood.
    lol
     
  16. academe

    academe Well-Known Member

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    This may echo some of the other poster's points. I think because the US is a nation of immigrants (except for Native peoples), the "hyphenation" is a way to retain some sense of their cultural identity and way to remember where they have come from. I think it can be alienating for recent immigrants in America; they're separated from their "home," extended families, culture and traditions. The self-identification as an "XX"-American might also help them to easily identify others that might share similar experiences or cultural practices. By and large, I think the US is not necessarily as culturally homogenous as parts of Europe or smaller countries like the UK. Then again, there are very strong regional identities in the UK, e.g., one would never call a Welshman or Scotsman English, on pain of getting a fist in the face! [​IMG]

    It will be interesting to see how things change in Europe in the future, particularly in countries that now have growing immigrant populations. I understand that >10% of the Irish population is non-Irish born. There are many eastern European (Polish) emigres in Scotland now, and the numbers seem to be growing.
     
  17. academe

    academe Well-Known Member

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    Yeah. You just put all your immigrants into the ghettos, deny them educations and jobs, and then constantly remind them that they're not Europeans. They're North Africans, Arabs, Turkish, etc. For all our faults, we try to integrate people into our society (not always perfectly). Please let your governments know that they should do the same. Thank you.
    Haganah, I'm not sure why you're getting so bent out of shape. This isn't the case in all European countries. The UK has had relatively good history of trying to integrate recent immigrants into the broader fabric of social life. I just thinking these are the "growing pains" of countries that, up until recently, have experienced net emmigration, rather than immigration. They are still trying to figure-out how to deal with immigrants because they haven't had to in the past. The US itself had a pretty nasty immigration history in the past, with successive waves of immigrants and African-Americans being housed in ghettoes, suffering discrimination, lynchings, etc. etc.. There are many of these ghettoes in the US today; take a look at the westside of Chicago or east Oakland, for example.
     
  18. WestIndianArchie

    WestIndianArchie Well-Known Member

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    In country, it's important for many to distinguish.
    Even if you don't self identify, others will identify you as such.

    Outside of the country, we're all Americans.
     
  19. Southern-Nupe

    Southern-Nupe Well-Known Member

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    In country, it's important for many to distinguish.
    Even if you don't self identify, others will identify you as such.

    Outside of the country, we're all Americans.

    Very true.....
     
  20. Nonk

    Nonk Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps the world's best example of this, Conne, could answer?

    I too find it a rather amusing practice, especially this 'African-American' thing.

    Its even worse when US people start to use it to refer to black people who are not even from the US. (As has happened here before)
     

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