Filed Under:  Letter to the Editor, Opinion

Re: What’s wrong with the word ‘Negro’?

14th May 2012   ·   0 Comments

The guy who wrote the letter saying that he still calls us “Negroes” displays amazing ignorance and insensitivity. First of all he ignores the principle or the right of a person or persons to be called by whatever name they choose. Secondly, he seems to have no clue as to why prominent Black scholars and activists jettisoned the word Negro.

Almost a century ago now, people like W.E.B. Dubois and Carter G. Woodson advocated that we as a people should have appellations reflecting some geographic regions having significance to us. Appropriately, they cited Africa and America for obvious reasons. What might not be so obvious for white folks like the letter writer is the fact that we were (and in my opinion currently) never fully accepted as Americans which is the reason why we cannot merely be called, “Americans.” Additionally, the abuse that we’ve endured in America led us on a quest for our identity which resulted in our renewed interest and identification with our ancestral home, Africa.

Some of us prefer the word “Black” which was popularly accepted before the term “Afri­can American.” But “Black” can refer to Africans from Africa as well as Jamaicans, Brazilians, etc. of African descent. So the term “African American” is more precise. The writer’s assertion that Charlize Theron has a better claim to being called “African-American” than I do is patently absurd unless one concedes that the colonialist whites who invaded Africa are somehow native to that land. We must remember that wherever people of European descent settled in Africa, they separated themselves from the real Africans and considered themselves as something different.

Finally, the writer probably doesn’t know that the word “Negro,” from Spanish, means black in the sense that in the English language it is tied to death, disaster, catastrophe and disease. Examples; “a black day,” blackball, blacklist, blackmail, black plague, etc. The other Spanish derived meaning for “black” is used in regard to people; “Moreno.” This is of the same root as the word Moor, which came from the country Morocco, which to Europeans at that time meant Africa.

Personally, I prefer the term “New African,” which is a term of choice of some of us. It distinguishes us from “continental Africans” while at the same time tying us to them and the homeland. It’s the same devise that some Europeans used to tie them to their roots, while at the same time denoting something different and new, hence; New Amsterdam, New York and of course, New Orleans.

– Muhammad Yungai

This article was originally published in the May 14, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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