On the term "African American"
|Above: G.K. Chesterton, not an African American. "We give to the European, whose complexion is a sort of pink drab, the horrible title of a "white man"—a picture more blood-curdling than any spectre in Poe."|
I am sceptical of many of the forced, politically correct new terminologies. I seek always to be polite, but exonyms are not always by design offensive. Inuits do not mind being called Eskimos, and many Native Americans prefer the label "Indian" with good reason. There is nothing wrong about referring to the Chinese capital as Peking; which is closer to the Cantonese pronunciation anyway - the global enforcement of the Mandarin version is a Communist Party demand I will not kowtow to.
But despite criticism of the term "African American", primarily among right-wingers, for being too politically correct, I think it may actually be a progressive use of language. The terms "white" and "black" are far too racialistic. They force people to this day to judge one another by skin colour and tone, which can lead to some horrible anachronistic discourses. As an example, after referring to herself as a "person of colour", a lady I follow on Twitter has engaged a firestorm of left-wing racialists who consider her complexion too light.
This sort of thing is shrill, outdated and dangerous. Rather than "white", we should be European. Rather than "black", we should be African. We shouldn't need to refer to skin pigmentation when describing someone's ancestry; pointing out the continents from whence their ancestors originated seems to me far gentler and less divisive. If we finally want to move beyond the racial theories of the Victorians, then we have to stop talking like them. We have to break down these pseudoscientific concepts, not only in our actions but in our everyday speech. That applies to the left as much as the right.