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xuechengfeng

Hyphenated Americans

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xuechengfeng

Can you even include the character for black if you're going to say African-American? What if a white kid is born in America, but his family immigrated from South Africa? The kid would be an African-American, no?

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tony1343

xuechengfeng,

Many people in America ask similar questions and there is really no good answer.

A white kid whose parents are from South Africa might just not call himself by a hyphenated American name. He could call himself African-American, but he'd get odd looks, since he isn't black. What American call black people has changed throughout time. Terminology in the past was "negro," "colors," etc. Those are now disfavored and would often be considered racist. It was then just simply black, but now that is disfavored by some who prefer African-American. So typically when someone says African-American, they probably really have in mind descendants of American slaves. Of course, this terminology fits others, such as those who have recently immigrated to the U.S. from Africa. However, just as a white South African kid wouldn't use the term African-American, I'd also say it is only used by those from sub-Sahara Africa. I do not think an Egyptian-American would call himself an African-American (since their skin is not black) (but maybe they do, I don't know many people of this ancestry to know for sure).

Also, I could argue that white kid with parents from South Africa isn't even technically an African-American. His ancestry is not that originally of South Africa, but of England or The Netherlands (or wherever). Of course, the white kid would probably disagree with that. But still he is more likely to call himself South African-American than simply African-American. For example, I will sometimes refer to myself as an Italian-American (or Italian-German-American), but almost never as a European-American. However, African-American is used because descendants of slaves wouldn't typically know which country they are originally from (plus I guess many of these nations are arbitrary lines drawn up by white colonial powers and not necessarily meaningful).

Of course then you have the dispute with Mexicans and South Americans that anyone from the Americas is an American (which I guess is technically true, but damnit it's the only thing that really works with the name of our country).

I guess this can be confusing for those from more homogeneous populations. Much of it is essentially arbitrary.

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lemur
I will sometimes refer to myself as an Italian-American (or Italian-German-American),

An Italian friend of mine (a real Italian born and raised in Italy) finds the label "Italian-American" fairly funny seeing as people using it are often not Italians in any sensible sense. (This is not to pass judgment on whether or not you should call yourself Italian-American but just a note on how it may look from outside the US.)

I guess this can be confusing for those from more homogeneous populations.

Where on Earth would that be?

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tony1343

I can definitely see the ridiculousness of all the hyphenated American names. I'd be interested in knowing if Americans have always done this or if it is recent. I'm not exactly sure what your friend means or if he misunderstands how Americans use it or what you exactly mean by "sensible sense."

However, I don't think Italian-Americans are trying to say they are Italian. Not at all. Those who use the phrase are proud Americans (my grandfather having no problem fighting in World War II with Italy on the other side). Though maybe it does make sense more for the generations closer to Italy, such as those who still speak the language, but I don't know about that. African-Americans aren't really African in the same sense. They don't speak African languages or share much of a culture. Really we are all Americans, but its something we say maybe in order to divide ourselves or maybe in order to keep touch with our roots even if too a small extent. Many are against the use of hyphenated Americans, but I think it is part of America. Anyway, I'm rambling now. But to reiterate one last time, we don't see ourselves as Italian, but as an Italian-Americans, and the American part is much more important.

Though I do have to say because of Italy's odd jus sanguinis nationality act, I believe that I might technically be an Italian citizen even though my last ancestor left over 100 years ago. Not that I'd try to get the paperwork or anything.

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simonlaing

they would say South African-American,

or Zimbabwean-American if it is that way.

Most hyphenated immirgrants use their country name and American.

It is only because of Black people's past of slavery that they don't know which country they came from so are designated African American.

Recent immigrants who are black also often refer to themselves with the country style, Nigerian-American etc..

It is being politically correct and sensitive that is important.

As long as you don't mean any harm by it people won't make a big deal out of it.

have fun,

Simon:)

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