What will replace "African-American"?
We've gone through a lot of terms to designate our sub-Saharan-African-descended population in the United States -- negro, nigger, colored, black, Afro-American (for about two weeks), and in the 1980s Jesse Jackson started insisting on "African-American". I can see his point. Leaving aside its history and cultural associations, "nigger" is a word which, owing to phonetic happenstance, has a much different and nastier sound than, say, "bigger or chigger." Put an "n" at the beginning and -- "nigger" -- it's a word you just can't say without sneering a bit. "Negro" is a bit less sneering but, well, technical -- it sounds kind of like saying "feces" instead of "shit." "Black" is no more than a little harsh phonetically -- but it's so short and curt that it sounds dismissive. "African-American" is an unwieldy seven-syllable compound word and seems to have been chosen for that reason; it incorporates the names of two continents -- you can't say it without briefly recapitulating in your head the whole history of slavery and the civil rights movement. (It's not exactly fair to use this term in a way that excludes immigrants from Egypt, Morocco, etc., but that's a detail.) "African-American" . . . well enough . . . I'm not trying to open a debate on that choice . . . assuming we have to have any particular word for an ethnic or racial group, and I guess we do. But:
If we're going to continue to have meaningful discussions of race and ethnicity in America, then someday we will have to come up with a new term, or pair of terms, to distinguish those American negroes who are descendants of slaves and free blacks who were living here in 1865 from those who have come here from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean since the old racist immigration quotas were abolished in the 1960s. Because these are two very different groups. They might look similar but their speech, history, and everything else are different. Our older African-American culture is unique to this country, it is nothing like any culture to be found in Africa or anywhere else. Furthermore, I once read in Tony Brown's Journal that studies show black immigrants to America have moved up the economic ladder at the same rate as earlier generations of immigrants -- while the majority of our older African-American culture remain mired in poverty. Whatever are the particular problems of "black America," the post-1960s black immigrants are not really part of those problems, and should be separated out in any serious discussion of them.
So -- what terms will we use? The most obvious choices are "Old African-Americans" and "New African-Americans," but either of those is just too unwieldy -- we have to draw the line at eight syllables. Any ideas?