usingtherightwords

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Let’s Get to the “Roots” of the Problem


I love Netflix (despite the incredibly high price increase from last year) because I can go back and watch movies, television shows or miniseries that I missed the first time around. I’m currently watching the last disc of  “Roots,” which I didn’t watch when it premiered in 1977 because I was too young.

Anyone who has watched “Roots” knows the various names (today we’d call them epithets) white people called the slaves and what the slaves called each other. By today’s standards, the words are incendiary, insulting, rude and racist. Unfortunately, that’s the way it was.

It’s not that way today. Now, we have the terms African-American and black. Which do you use? Whatever the person prefers. But be careful. Technically speaking, only people who can trace their ancestry directly to Africa can be called African-American. President Obama is a prime example. He was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and an American mother.

I once knew a white woman who could make the same designation. She was born in South Africa and became an American citizen later. I remember her telling me the looks she got when she (correctly) listed herself as African-American on job applications and then met hiring officers for interviews.

If ancestry can’t be determined, and if you can’t reach the person to find  his or her preference, use black because that is the skin color.

Happy Black History Month! Happy Lincoln’s Birthday (a day late)! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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February 13, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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