African-American Africans

I've never liked the term "African-American." The term "black" is sufficient for its intended purpose, as skin color is one of - if not the only common factor connecting such a large and heterogenous group of people as black Americans. Further, what do we call black people who are not American? African-American Africans?

One of my white friends in high school was born in South Africa. We used to joke about how he should claim to be African-American when applying to college on the grounds that he is more of an African than most black Americans.

Now, via Eugene Volokh, I learn that some kids thought of the same thing:

A small group of Westside High School students plastered the school Monday with posters advocating that a white student from South Africa receive the "Distinguished African American Student Award" next year.

The students' actions on Martin Luther King Jr. Day upset several students and have led administrators to discipline four students.

The posters were removed by administrators because they were "inappropriate and insensitive," Westside spokeswoman Peggy Rupprecht said Tuesday.

Rupprecht said the award always has been given to black students. . . .

The petition criticized the practice of recognizing only black student achievement with the award.

One of the school's students, Tylena Martin, said she was hurt by the posters and the backlash she said it caused. . . .

Westside has fewer than 70 blacks out of 1,843 students this year. . . .

[Karen] Richards said her family moved to Omaha from Johannesburg six years ago. Trevor, she said, "is as African as anyone."

My first reaction to this was agreement with the administrators; it does seem pretty insensitive to do this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But after giving the matter further thought, isn't it more offensive that the school recognizes only black student achievement with this award? To me, MLK's greatest message was racial equality: people should be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.

Which is more incongruent with MLK's memory: an award based on racial discrimination, or a smart-aleck kid who is not afraid to point out the absurdity of the term "African-American" when it is clear that it refers to skin color and not country of origin?

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Micha, your conclusion

Micha, your conclusion correctly points out the absurdity negating MLK's real dream of the color of an individual being of no matter what-so-ever.

If you go back far enough,

If you go back far enough, aren't all Americans "African-American"?

I mean, if you believe that the human race originated in Nubia, and all...

A few years ago, just after

A few years ago, just after she became a naturalized US citizen, South African-born actress Charlize Theron hosted Saturday Night Live. In her monologue she talked about how great it was to be an American, etc. Tracy Morgan (the black comedian and then a cast member of SNL) came out partway into the monologue and began smiling real big at her. He told her how great it was to have one of "his own" on the show, started offering her Kool cigarettes and Colt 45 malt liquor, and playing up all the other stereotypes, because she was now African-American. It was a funny toss-off bit to start the show but the point had been stuck in my head ever since. It made such an impression that when I hear "African-American," I think of that skit.

I went to church with a guy

I went to church with a guy who was naturalised after being born and raised in one of those tiny countries inside South Africa (Lesotho?). He was a kindly gentlemen in his 50s who very forcefully insisted he was an African-American and proved it by being fluent in slightly less than a billion different African languages. It never ceased to crack me up to see him and the naturalised black African from our church chatter back and forth in some variant of Swahili.

- Josh

OBTopic: MLK Jr. was a

OBTopic: MLK Jr. was a communist fellowtraveler and supported affirmative action and state-mandated preferential treatment for blacks.

- Josh

Josh, True, MLK had his


True, MLK had his faults, but he still did much good and was vital for this country. His misguided beliefs don't detract from his well-guided ones. After all, both F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman advocated a partial welfare state, yet all but the most dogmatic libertarians recognize their important contributions to liberty.

Jason--same here.

Jason--same here.

Micha, Hayek and Friedman


Hayek and Friedman support(ed) a much lower amount of state power than they opposed. By contrast, King supported a different kind of state power. My comment was also directed at those who thought King was a color-blind visionary: he wasn't.

- Josh

I have not read enough of

I have not read enough of his work to be certain, but from what I can tell, King believed that the end-goal should be a color-blind society, but that the government may need to impose racial discrimination (Affirmative Action) for a period of time in order to achieve this goal. If my understanding is correct, we would agree with King on the ends but disagree on the means.