Leslie Cook

Am I or Am I Not a Negro?

In Black America, In My Opinion... on March 21, 2010 at 9:59 am

To be or not to be, that is the question. I just read an article stating that some African Americans are offended by the use of “negro” on the census form. (http://www.thegrio.com/2010/01/the-word-negro-in-2010-census-form-offends-some-blacks.php). My first gut response is “you’ve got to be kidding me.” We’re still worried about the use of the word Negro? I’m not sure how the word is at all offensive. I just looked up the definition and it is as follows: of, pertaining to, or characteristic of one of the traditional racial divisions of humankind, generally marked by brown to black skin pigmentation, dark eyes, and woolly or crisp hair and including esp. the indigenous peoples of Africa south of the Sahara. Not that bad of a description, right?

After reading the article, I pulled out our Census form to see what it actually said. And there was question 9 “What is person 1’s race”. What was the choice for those of us of African descent? Black, African-American, or Negro. It’s not like it says just “Negro.” It even lists Negro as the third in the sequence. Why isn’t anyone objecting to being called Black? I’ve never met anyone that was really black. Dark brown, yes. Black, never. If anyone has a beef, it’s white people. They just get that one word,”white,” like you can actually group all of the pale skinned races into one category. And what I said about blacks goes equally for whites. I’ve never met a “white” person. I’ve known some pretty pale people, but most of them were at least light beige.

What’s my point? Honestly, I think people get bogged down in the minutia of things. The Censes form doesn’t call anyone a “nigger” (it hurts me even to type that word). They’re including a racial label that some African Americans feel comfortable with. My grandfather refused to be called Black or African American. He preferred the term Negro. And no, he didn’t have a slave mentality. It’s just what he felt comfortable with the term, end of story.

What do I prefer? I have no real preference. The bottom line is that the U.S. government is taking a head count so that they can fairly distribute resources. But I think it’s time that Whites started a movement to expand their identification on the form. How about “White, European American, or Caucasian,” as the new description?

  1. I think the attempt to define a person’s race is a tricky subject in general regardless of the person’s origin. Personally, I do not like to be called African American because I don’t know anyone in Africa and a majority of Africans do not consider “black Americans” to be African at all, we are considered a totally different race (this is based on personal experience). I also do no like to be called a Negro because of its meaning (beyond the dictionary definition) and also its connotation. In Spanish negro means the color black, or niger in Latin which also mean black (which is a little close to the word nigger if you ask me lol). Older blacks prefer to be called negro because that was the more respectful term for blacks during the transition from simply being called a nigger. I consider myself to be black (which now that a think about it is an incorrect description of me) because I am not white, Mexicans are considered the “brown people”, so I guess the closest I can get is being to be called black. I’m glad that they did not use the term nigga alongside negro, because sadly some people prefer to be called that too.
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    • Thanks for your comment! What I like to be called depends on the day. Sometimes Black is good, Negro’s fine. Both are basically calling us the same thing…black people. Since I’m pretty light-skinned, that description doesn’t seem to fit very well. I’ve never felt comfortable with African American because my heritage is a long way from Africa. Mostly, I’d just prefer American. It’s where I was born and what I associate myself with. Of course most people like to put more labels on use, and a lot of people don’t want us to be Americans. Other seems to work pretty well too. Mostly, when asked what my racial background is (and I’m asked more than I should be), I give a general breakdown of my families past. I’ve learned over the years that simply saying that I’m Black doesn’t seem to satisfy most people, so I throw in the American Indian, Irish blend and that seems to make them happy.

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