Are all African Americans really African?

The term “African American” obviously describes black people as we all know. Well, are they all indeed from Africa? I don’t know the etiology on their origins, migration and forced migration.

Well, I know quite a bit about slavery and how a lot of African tribes captured certain other tribes and sold them into slavery. Are they from Africa or are they spread out. Because I don’t think it’s fair for some who’s ancient ancestory shows they’re from say…europe, egypt or even some other place.

Egypt’s in Africa, but anyway… The term “African-American” is pretty meaningless. No-one would use it to describe a white South African who moved to the US, for example, but many would use it to describe a Jamaican.

Yeah, my bad on the whole egypt statement. :slight_smile: Geography has always been my weak point.

Though it may be meaningless, are all black people still from Africa?

The term African-American has been discussed here at length. The working definition seems to be anybody in this country who has easily detectable black African ancestry. It really doesn’t matter where they came from directly. There are plenty of black people moving here even now from the Caribbean and elsewhere who know nothing of Africa or their original lineage and they will be called African-Americans if they call the U.S. home one day. The term African-American isn’t true to the two words that make it up.

Although I can’t find a link right now, there was actually a little controversy over this very issue at a high school somewhere, where a white South-African tried to compete for some sort of “African-American” reward and was told he couldn’t even though he was, according to other students, the only “true African-American” at the school.

Wish I could give more details but maybe someone else will come along who knows what I’m talking about. It’s an interesting issue.

We are all “from” Africa as that is where homo sapiens arose. There are some other groups like people Australian Aborigenes that could be mistaken for people of African descent although they are about as far from it as any human population. However, most people that appear to be typically black have a somewhat recent African heritage.

No, there are various Melanesian, Australoid, Polynesian and even South East Asian populations that have black skin who haven’t seen Africa for over 30, 000 years.

Cool, thanks guys. I was pretty sure that the term “African American” was strictly a politically correct term.

Well, for the entire history of the U.S., including today, 99.99% of all black people here are African in origin. Even if politically correct were some sort of pejorative, which it isn’t, it would be totally correct in virtually every way to call blacks African-Americans. Especially historically, the number of exceptions don’t rise to the barest rounding error.

And technically speaking, the other blacks share no more ancestry with Africans than do northern European whites, so only a mere accident of skin color puts them into a single category.

To put it in perspective, there have been white people living in Europe and in northern Japan since pre-historic times. So theoretically, there are white people living in the United States who have no European ancestry. But realistically, the overwhelming majority of white Americans can trace their ancestry back to Europe and black Americans back to Africa.

It’s also pretty tough to tell whether someone is American just by looking at them. Even if they are in the United States, they could be visiting.

I assume that “black” people do have family from Africa. But I think they’re African like I’m Irish, English, Danish, and German.

I see the discussion went on to include the finer points of the term.

I don’t like the term, because it’s inaccurate. I personally don’t use it.

  1. What do you call a coffee-colored Algerian immigrant?

  2. What if you’re “white” and from Africa?

  3. What if you’re “black” and from, say, Cuba?

  4. How dark/black/African do you have to be before you qualify? Let’s face it, Colin Powell just can’t be mostly of African descent. Aren’t we almost back to using the “one drop” nonsense that insists on “white” purity?

If white = caucasian, in the usual sense, then the Ainu can’t be said to be “white”. That’s a common misconception.

Yep. I think that’s what the OP was getting at. I’d only clarify that most African-Americans can trace the majority of their ancestry back to Africa, but only a minority of African-Americans have no European ancestry. Though it varies quite a bit, the average African-American derives 15-20% of his/her ancestry from Europe, and quite a few have Native American ancestry as well.

Yes, but.

All (or virtually all) blacks in America are African-Americans. However, not all Africans in America are black.

Continental boundaries are more a matter of common definition than formal geology. And all of sub-Saharan Africa is historically black and historically what is meant when people say “Africa.” Idiomatic English does not precisely correspond to scientific definitions of words and never has. This does not invalidate idiomatic English except in the most formal and precise of settings, none of which enter into this thread.

P.S. If you’re black and from Cuba, then your ancestors came from Africa. Same is true for all the rest of Latin America. The slave trade was everywhere, not just in the U.S.

The term African American is generally applied to anyone who had ancestors taken from Africa as slaves between the early sixteenth century and the late nineteenth century, regardless whether those ancestors were imported directly to South Carolina in 1788 or into a Caribbean Island in 1560 from which their descendants immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s.

It is a political term, but it was coined to identify a specific group of people who have suffered discrimination in the U.S. based on their ethnicity and appearance in a way that would make their group identification sound more like the ethnic identities used by other groups.

For a number of reasons, I think the attempt was unsuccessful and I tend to not use the word, but there was nothing dishonest or malevolent behind the choice of that term and the hostility it meets is generally ill-founded.

Given the tendency of humans to interbreed (sometimes forcibly) combined with the discriminatory “one drop” rules that meant that any person with any African ancestry was considered to be “colored” (in the Jim Crow South) or black (today), the odds are that there are extraordinarily few African Americans whose ancestry is 100% from Africa while there are clearly some African Americans who actually have more European than African ancestry. However, since the term was coined to identify people who will (in various situations) be considered “black,” it is moderately successful as an identifier.

It also includes anyone who immigrated here from Africa on his/her own, e.g. Barak Obama.

Or Charlize Theron.

The bolded part of your definition is incorrect, tomndebb. Afro-Caribbeans in America are not called African-Americans except people who misapply the term. Even if they have immigrated to this country 40 years ago they are not African-Americans because their ethnicity, history and culture are not the same. We are all black, but blacks who immigrate here from elsewhere have distinct ethnic heritages from Haiti, the Caribbean, the West Indies, Dominican Republic, etc. that preclude them from being African-American.

If an Afro-Caribbean who immigrates here has children with an African-American, the children may consider themselves a mix of both groups.

The broadest accurate applicable descriptor for anyone of dark-to-light skinned genetic stock from African descent is the racial term, black. The correct ethnic term for blacks descended from American slaves in the United States is African-American. To do otherwise is like mixing up Scots with Irish, Welsh with Brits, or calling a Choctow a Cree.

Yes, ultimately every African-American can trace their ancestry to Africa – historically and/or spiritually.

My own assessment of the success of African-American as an ethnic term differs sharply from tomndebb’s.

John Mace. Barack Obama is not African-American. The blacks in his father’s family are all Kenyans who were never enslaved. His father was a Kenyan immigrant. But Obama’s wife is an African-American from Chicago and his constituents are African-Americans as well, and he strongly identifies with other African-American heritage having been brought up in Hawaii and educated in America. But he also strongly identifies with his Kenyan roots as well. Others have referred to him as African-American and he does not correct them. He’s black, he’s American, he’s of Kenyan descent, his kids are, by their heritage, half-African-American. He is not an African-American unless he’s adopted the term for himself, at which point I must remember to write him a letter thanking him for clearing it up for everybody.