According to Think Progress :
Today on his radio show, Glenn Beck wanted to discuss the census. “Apparently the census has come out,” he said. Beck’s co-host then chimed in, “Yeah and there’s a little confusion because there’s three boxes you can check if you’re a certain race. … I don’t know what the race is because there’s three different terms for them. Black, African-American, or Negro.” Instead of having any consideration to take issue with the term “Negro,” Beck launched into a tirade against “African-American”:
BECK: African-American is a bogus, PC, made-up term. I mean, that’s not a race. Your ancestry is from Africa and now you live in America. Ok so you were brought over — either your family was brought over through the slave trade or you were born here and your family emigrated here or whatever but that is not a race.
Technically, Beck is right. The term African-American does not describe a race. That was never the intention. What I take issue with is Glenn Beck calling the term “bogus” or “politically correct”. Mr. Beck, it goes way deeper than your shallow perception of the term:
There has been an longstanding discussion about Blacks calling themselves, “African-American”. I am an older “Black” citizen of this country. My “coming of age” period was the 60′s and 70′s. That was a time of turbulence (Viet Nam War), resistence to the status quo (we could be drafted at 18 but couldn’t vote until we were 21), cultural awareness (we could be called off to defend our country, but return to a country that still tolerated Jim Crow laws and defacto practices.)
Black SELF awareness was the catalyst that pushed for an end to the word “negro” or “colored”. It was also the impetus for James Brown’s I’m Black and I’m Proud to become a number one best selling record and was frequently called The Black National Anthem. “We identified the word “Black” with the word “proud” because it was an era of change and we would no longer be defined by others, but by ourselves.
This was a time when the Civil Rights movement appeared to have been too passive and too concilliatory. Conversely, the Black Panthers and their movement was too violent and extreme for most of my peers at the time. There was a middle road, and we were reading people like poet Nikki Giovanni; poet and publisher Don L. Lee, who later became known as Haki Madhubuti; poet and playwright Leroi Jones, later known as Amiri Baraka; Maya Angelou; and Sonia Sanchez. These were the voices of cultural change in my coming of age period.
Black cultural and political awareness came in the 1970′s. This was the time when we were curious about OURstory, not just HIStory. Political awareness came to us by way of Jesse Jackson, and the formation of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971. Black Studies programs were created on many college campuses. Students were allowed for the first time to get a “Black perspective” of history.
The origin of the term African-American and the reasoning behind it is best described in this statement:
The Alternative Orange: Politics, Deconstruction, Critique:
“The shift in our self-concept that results from calling ourselves
African-American” declares Ramona Edelin, “could be the beginning of a
serious cultural offensive.” The struggle over the (cultural) meaning
of “African-American” is far reaching since, according to Edelin,
“When a child in a ghetto calls himself African-American, immediately
he’s international. The change takes him from the ghetto and puts him
on the globe. It helps us realize that we are not just former slaves
living in the U.S. and makes it easier to change our children’s
dwarfed perceptions of themselves.”
Wikipedia further describes the cultural movement of the 70′s here:
Another major aspect of the African-American Arts Movement was the infusion of the African aesthetic, a return to a collective cultural sensibility and ethnic pride that was much in evidence during the Harlem Renaissance and in the celebration of Négritude among the artistic and literary circles in the U.S., Caribbean, and the African continent nearly four decades earlier: the idea that “black is beautiful.” During this time, there was a resurgence of interest in, and an embrace of, elements of African culture within African American culture that had been suppressed or devalued to conform to Eurocentric America. Natural hairstyles, such as the afro, and African clothing, such as the dashiki, gained popularity. More importantly, the African American aesthetic encouraged personal pride and political awareness among African Americans.
Finally let me say this. Yes, I am a Black woman living in America. Let me be clear, I love this country, it’s the place of my birth. However, my ancestors were not from America. Just as Italians, Greeks, Armenians, and others hold on to their ethnic heritage by using the ancestral name of the country they came from as well as their current nationality, Black people in America should be allowed to do the same without question. The only reason why we say AFRICAN-American as opposed to Liberian-American or Guinean-America is because slave records for our ancestors were ill-kept and we, as a people had no idea which African country we came from, hence the term “African American”.
Sometimes I call myself Black. Sometimes I call myself African-American. Either way, it is the way I choose to describe myself.
Deprecating the history of the slave experience in America will not make one immutable fact go away: African-Americans are a proud people and a person like you only shines a light on the ignorance that still exists in our country regarding Blacks. Mr. Beck, defining me or people like me is unacceptable. You have no right to tell me WHO or WHAT I am. I am a SELF-DEFINED PROUD Black woman. I am An American. I am an African-American. Perhaps learning more about the African-American culture which you so frequently demonize, may just give you a broader perspective of who and what we are as well as what we have contributed to our country.
I believe it was Abraham Lincoln that once said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”