Political Incorrectness: Adjective-Americans

The worst part about living in this culture of not wanting to offend anyone and to always be kind and respectful to different cultures is that many times we go too far. In our attempts to make sure that every reference in America is free from prejudice and harm, we lose the whole point of our language. One of the most blatant examples of this going too far attitude is the invention of the term, “[Adjective]-Americans.”

The only problem (which is, in fact, a huge problem) with the [Adjective]-American culture is that many times, we are completely off with the descriptors.

Over the years, the term for our dark-skinned, former slave friends has evolved into “African-American.” While it is a much better descriptor than “Negro” from days of old, it is far from being the most effective descriptor. Once upon a time, I was caught up in the hype of political correctness before a friend of mine pointed out to me: “You know, a lot of our ‘African-American’ friends never came from Africa. They have no ties to Africa at all. Therefore, they are not African-Americans.”

That statement has stuck with me ever since. In fact, most of my black friends can’t even describe in what part of Africa their ancestry lies. The only people I know that is a true “African-American” isn’t even technically American; I had a roommate this year in college from the country of Kenya, and while technically he is here on a student visa, he would never call America home. “I am African, through and through,” he has told me.

This same concept goes for all of the other [Adjective]-Americans out there: Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Arab-Americans, etc. Unless you know for a fact that they were born and raised for a time in that geographic region, and then came to America, those are not true descriptors of that group of people. Granted, most Hispanic people are Mexican-Americans if they’ve gone through the proper legal channels. But I have only met a few true Asian-Americans, and have never in my life met an Arab-American, though I have met plenty of people in America with Arab ancestry.

The thing that strikes me as the strangest of all is that there is no similar [Adjective]-American for people not of minority status. If I wish to identify myself as a “German-American” or an “Irish-American” or a “Norwegian-American,” I should be able to do so. But because my skin lacks some essential pigmentation, I am merely “white.” It’s a strange sort of racism that tries its hardest not to be racist, and it isn’t working.

In fact, thinking about it, I’ve met more Norwegian-Americans, Italian-Americans, Canadian-Americans, and French-Americans than I have African-Americans, Asian-Americans, or Arab-Americans. The whole idea of an [Adjective]-American culture is ridiculous. Is there a problem with describing people the way they are?

My black friends are black, and they identify themselves as “black people.” My Asian friends identify themselves as their heritage: Vietnamese, Laos, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, etc. My Mexican friends are Mexican, my Indian friends are Indian, and my white friends are trying to figure out what exactly is the right thing to say, lest they become forever black-listed as “that racist guy.”

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One Response to “Political Incorrectness: Adjective-Americans”

  1. My classmates and I @ DMACC were just discussing this the other day. We have a kid in our class named Matt. He is half black half white mix but looks black. People call him an African-American. He was like..I’m from Kentucky! I don’t even know anyone from Africa! Its so true. I hadn’t really thought about the German-American thing but that is true..I don’t hear that. We were also trying to understand the whole Caucasian thing..Caucasia? What? It doesnt make sence to me!

    –Also..this is kinda related kinda not…why are we called Americans when that is the name of our continent not our country?!? Shouldnt we be United Stateians or something. WE DONT OWN THE CONTINENT!!! Can someone please explain this to me?

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