African vs. African-American "Africaness"

Using the Social construct of race, are American blacks (those descended from Africans brought over involuntarily) generally considered less “African” in appearance, and if so, why?

The two parts of your sentence don’t make sense together. Using the social construct of race means that it doesn’t much matter exactly how African you look, you are still considered part of that “race.”

Can you clarify your question?

Sure, lots of American blacks don’t look very african:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Lenahorne.jpeg

from heref.

Some Indians, Arabs and meditteranean groups may appear with more African traits associated with race (as a social construct). for now, I am simply limiting the group to African Americans based on the 2% mentioned in the link. What most Africans share in appearance with African Americans may be more than what is assumed. ie. fairer complexion, wavier hair etc.

If you feel this is IMHO please feel free to move it. Also, its my first post (I think) so I’m still wrestling with using the features.

Thank You.

Yes, but there are also Africans of varying shades not including north africa. The question is, are Africans of equal shades and textures as African Americans or do AAs really do overall look different?

Yes, but North Africa is really a whole different biogeographical region than Sub-Saharan Africa. The vast majority of African slaves imported into the Americas came from Sub-Saharan West Africa. Very few came from North Africa, or East Africa, or South Africa, or even central Africa.

While people from North Africa have immigrated to the United States they weren’t imported as slaves and usually consider themselves Arabs rather than “African”. Of course, the same is true for Sub-Saharan Africans, who would think of themselves by ethnic group or perhaps country before thinking of themselves as “African”.

But most blacks in the United States descend in some mixture or another from West African slaves, Native Americans, and European colonists. Lena Horne probably has many more European ancestors than African ancestors, but she’s considered “black” in this country because her parents were considered black, and so forth.

African-Americans don’t represent a sampling of the ethnicities of Africa. Very very few African Americans have ancestors that were Ethiopians, Kenyans, Somalis, Zulus, Egyptians, and so forth. Those that are light skinned are light skinned not because they have North African ancestry but almost always because they have European or Native American ancestry.

Your question is all kinds of confusing. When referencing Africa, you should probably limit yourself to a specific region. Say, West Africa, which is where most AAs descend from. There’s no point in including north Africans in your comparison group when comparitively few people were used as slaves from that region.

AAs, in general, look different from native West Africans. Not just because of race mixing between whites, blacks, and Native Americans, but also because the slaves themselves were a mishmash of different tribes and ethnic groups. So you not only had more interracial mixing, but also intertribal.

I lived in West Africa and Uganda for three years. Generally speaking, African blacks are darker than their American cousins, due primarily to genetic dilution as discussed above. This is not true in all areas. Culturally, of course, they are a world apart. African Americans who visit places like Ivory Coast and other slave ports are generally looked upon with pity, since they have no tribe (regardless of ancestry), and also as targets of opportunity. I also spent time in North Africa (Egypt and Tunisia), and other than occupying the same continent, there is no comparison to be made with sub-saharan Africans.

OK, I think I understand the question the OP is trying to ask.

Lots of African Americans have light complexions, narrow noses, straight hair, thin lips, and so forth. Those aren’t considered “African” traits. Yet there are plenty of Africans who do have some or all of those traits in various combinations. So why do we assume that African Americans with those traits inherited those traits from European and Native American ancestors? Couldn’t those traits be inherited from African ancestors, since there are many Africans that don’t “look like” what we in America consider to be stereotypical Africans?

And the answer is what I gave above…our stereotypes about what “africans” should look like was created because the vast majority of African slaves imported here were from a region of Africa where almost everyone had dark complexions, curly hair, wide noses, and wide lips. There were almost no Ethiopians with narrow noses and narrow lips in the population that was imported as slaves, there were almost no Arabs with light complexions and straight hair, and so on. Those few Arabs who came to the United States in the early days didn’t come as slaves but voluntarily and wouldn’t have been considered “black” by the white colonists.

Hot African chick.

Hot African-American chick.

It’s all good.

Thank you. You are much closer to my question. I understand that there are mixtures within African Americans that include Native Americans and Europeans. However I was only focusing on the perception that overall they are lighter with straighter hair and nose. Granted most Africans from West Africa are darker in complexion but the facial features are quite varied. People from Mali, Senegal, Niger and upper Nigeria depending on tribal areas have some of these traits not only Ethiopians or Somalis. Even certain tribes from Southern Africa have some of the traits you describe.


Chefguy I lived in West Africa and Uganda for three years. Generally speaking, African blacks are darker than their American cousins, due primarily to genetic dilution as discussed above. This is not true in all areas. Culturally, of course, they are a world apart. African Americans who visit places like Ivory Coast and other slave ports are generally looked upon with pity, since they have no tribe (regardless of ancestry), and also as targets of opportunity. I also spent time in North Africa (Egypt and Tunisia), and other than occupying the same continent, there is no comparison to be made with sub-saharan Africans. 

I agree that sub saharan Africans are darker in general. I agree that Tunisia is worlds apart however, upper egypt is quite Nubian and have more in common with sub sahara than the delta region.

Your question is all kinds of confusing. When referencing Africa, you should probably limit yourself to a specific region. Say, West Africa, which is where most AAs descend from. There's no point in including north Africans in your comparison group when comparitively few people were used as slaves from that region.

AAs, in general, look different from native West Africans. Not just because of race mixing between whites, blacks, and Native Americans, but also because the slaves themselves were a mishmash of different tribes and ethnic groups. So you not only had more interracial mixing, but also intertribal.

You quoted the part where I specifically stated NOT north africans. I excluded that group for obvious reasons. My very point is that African Americans are considered to be different looking than most sub saharan Africans in general. If I limit this to West Africa this would exclude about 500 million comparisons of other African tribes that live and have lived in sub saharan Africa for thousands of years and who do not look like the stereotypical idea of what an African looks like. Now when the comment is made that AAs look different from West Africans I will concede that point but only to a certain extent. I’ll be back with numbers.

There is not just one AA look, just as there is not just one Western African look, as you acknowledge. So your question is going to be very difficult to answer. There are AAs that share features common to Nigerians and other groups. There are AAs that look like a mixture of African ethnicities, from Ethiopian to Ghanian. There are AAs that look like North Africans. There are AAs that look more European than African.

Don’t see what that really matters if AAs have no familial connections to these tribes, sub saharan or not. Few slaves were taken out of North Africa as has been pointed out, but due to the effect of race mixing, a lot of AAs happen to look similar to many North African ethnic groups. So one could conceivably say that these light-skinned AAs look just as African as an AA that resembles a Nigerian, and this wouldn’t be incorrect. It just would be pointless. The pointlessness doesn’t go away just by limiting the question to sub saharan Africans instead of including North Africans.

Using the Social construct of race, are American whites (those descended from European immigrants) generally considered less “European” in appearance, and if so, why?

I don’t about you, but when I’m in Europe I can spot an American from a mile away. It’s a combination of a lot of things-- the way they dress, the way the walk, their hair styles, how much they wear, and how tanned they are.

I think your question is waaaaaay to subjective to have any kind of factual answer. Almost all African-Americans have some non-African ancestors, and many are of equal or greater European/Native American descent. Of course they are going to look different in many cases. But in some case they are not. You can’t generalize about the way 25M people look (about the number of African-Americans in the US) vs I-don’t-even-know how many Sub-Saharan Africans there are and how many different ethnicities.

I can generally spot Ethiopian immigrants here-- they often have a distinct look in the same way that someone from Greece is going to look different than someone from The Netherlands.

Hi, think i’ll just let this one die. your comment is not related to my point and it is my fault. sorry. i was not clear enough in the OP.

I tend to think of African-Americans as a distinct ethnic group indigenous to the Americas.

Isn’t a charter member somebody who paid for the SDMB the very first year the SDMB became a pay service?

I ask because I noticed the OP is a charter member who has only 46 posts to his/her name. Just thought that was remark-able.

-FrL-

Yep. Note the OP’s Join Date: Mar '04.

Yes. I am a charter member who seldom posts. Hope I’m not breaking a rule… :smiley: