African American or Black? Which Term Do You Use?

Is There a Right or a Wrong?


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Marcela Marcial, Beat Investigator - Featured Athlete

Is February African American History Month or Black History Month? Which one is correct?  Is one offensive? Regardless of color, most have their own opinion on which term is the correct way to say that one is of African American descent, Black or even both, depending upon whatever situation you are in or even the people that you are surrounded by. There are some Black Americans who get offended if you call them African American or vice versa. The designation of February as the month to celebrate African American achievements originated with Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The month-long celebration grew out of Negro History Week, chosen as the second week in February because it coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Yet some cynics have suggested that February was selected because it was the shortest month of the year, and once again, black people were being shortchanged even as they were being celebrated. Here are some of the students’ opinions about being called African American or Black.

Mariyah Murad, Sahauro junior, prefers to be called Black.  “We have no ties to Africa except for slavery but we can’t relate to any other race because our struggles and skin tone is different. I say yes to the term Black because it sets us apart and gives us something of our own.” Not only does Mariyah prefer being called Black, but she also “believes that we as one should refer to ourselves as Black.”

Armando Ramos, who is also a junior thinks that the term Black should be used. Armando has never been to Africa, so he refers himself as a Black American. He made the same point for white people, “You wouldn’t call a white man an American European despite the fact that his ancestors come from Europe, so don’t call me an African American because I am not from Africa.”

Olivia Lawson, junior, doesn’t mind being called Black or Africa American but she feels that Black is more suitable for her. It really just depends on the situation that she is in “because I’m not sure if I have any ancestors that come from Africa…I’m a Black American and I’m proud to say it.”

“I believe Black and African American are both correct terms,” says Izaiah Davis, junior. He believes it all bases off of opinion. “I feel like at the end of the day everyone should know their culture and who they truly are and I don’t think names or labels should change how you’re perceived.”

Sasha Ndisabiye, also a junior, is also okay being called either one because she uses both terms on a daily basis. She is the first generation of Africa American in her family so it’s a bit different for her. “My father is an Africa Immigrant from Burundi, and my mom is a blonde, blue-eyed woman born in New York.” Sasha believes that there is nothing wrong with people referring to themselves as “‘Black’, ‘African American’, or in some cases both.” For her it also depends on the situation that she is in. She ends off by saying, “One of the terms is not better or more accurate than the other; it all really depends on the person and how they view themselves and how they want others to view them.”