The Corner

More ‘”Black” Is Beautiful’

I’ll give you a little more mail on the dangers of being wedded to “African-American” and allergic to “black,” and then get off the subject, because we could go on forever. Take three letters, plus a witticism:

Letter 1:

A couple of years ago, during those riots that were going on in and around Paris, a commentator described some of those being arrested as “African Americans.” Now I suppose it’s possible that a few Americans emigrated from here to participate in some car burnings, but I’m doubting it.

Yeah, me too. Okay, Letter 2:

A few years ago, I heard someone on talk radio — I believe she was from the ACLU — discussing South Africa and the two major racial groups that live there. She had no problem referring to one of the groups — she called them white South Africans — but when she tried to talk about the other group, the majority group, she stumbled all over herself trying to figure out what to say. She settled on “African Americans in Africa.”

This reader adds, “When I was living in Africa in the Peace Corps in the mid-’70s, I always found it amusing that the locals referred to the black American volunteers in a term that translates to ‘black white people.’”

Okay, one more:

Your comments in Impromptus took me back to an incident that occurred when I was a student at Cornell in the ’90s. Either the campus newspaper or the Ithaca daily, I forget which, did a piece on Nelson Mandela, and apparently out of a reflexive policy referred to Mandela as the “first African-American president of South Africa.” At least that incident managed to make even liberal Ithaca chuckle a bit as people realized the absurdity of it all. Unfortunately, almost 15 years on, we’re still making the same hyper-sensitive decisions when it comes to language. Would today’s liberals find any amusement in an error like the one about Mandela? Alas, they’d probably just call those of us who raised an objection racists.

Oh, they’d never do that, would they?

And here’s the witticism, from a reader: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we plot to PC.” Well said.