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Volume 70, Issue 79, Thursday, January 27, 2005

Opinion

Racial terms split up humanity

Emily Kelsch
Opinion Columnist

Lots of white people are not Caucasian, nor are they Anglo-Saxon. Many, like me, are born with light skin and blonde hair, but their ancestors weren--t from the Caucasus Mountains nor the Anglo or Saxon tribes of ancient Britain. These two terms erroneously describe these individuals -- these people are white. Are you African-American? Chances are that you're not; even if you're black.

Why are we still clinging to this politically correct euphemism that is, in reality, wrong? Most of the black people I know aren't African-Americans at all; more specifically, they are not immigrants from Africa, as the term should read. There are a number of countries where black people could and do emigrate from, and, check the map, they're not all in Africa.

Africa is a huge, diverse continent that includes people of several races, and let's not forget that race is what we're trying to convey in the first place. Thus, we are really not specifying much at all when we say "African-American." A white person from South Africa, a Moroccan, an Egyptian who has citizenship in both his home country and America -- these people don't check the "African-American" box when asked their race, and yet they qualify to be termed so.

And do we really need this euphemism anyway? And truly "African-American" isn't really a euphemism at all; it's not standing in place of a bad word or sugar-coating something offensive. What's wrong with "black"? If "white" is acceptable, where's the problem?

If you're offended by "black", then watch out, because there's a worse word out there. On Jan. 12, the humor newspaper The Onion satirized the word by reporting on a fake election in Zambia in which a black president, Bilikisu Adewale, was elected. The Onion's referred to him, tongue-in-cheek, as an "African-African." Commentary aside, the meaning was that he's both African and a black man. We can't say this in America? It's not allowed? Is "black" offensive? The point is that we sometimes verbally walk on eggshells when it isn't necessary at all; indeed, at times a frank stating of the obvious would suffice -- or even be better.

Let's put this all in perspective, though, before we lose ourselves in nomenclature and classification. We may not be all American, but we're all African. Thousands of years ago, modern man's distant ancestors walked the earth from their starting point, Africa, and spread all over the world. With time we evolved different characteristics that give us the races we have today, but essentially we've all got 46 chromosomes organized the same way. We're an inefficient and weak species, taking nine months to produce usually only one offspring, surviving in a very narrow range of temperatures, and have little protection save our ingenuity -- and yet we--ve survived and even taken over almost the entire planet, as a species, not just different races. 

We made it, as a human race. How about we just concentrate on that?

Kelsch, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu

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