P.C. (political correctness) question

I was reading the LA Times yesterday, and they referred to black people in Mexico as Afro-Mexicans (something tells me that Mexicans do not refer to blacks as Afro-mexicans, but maybe I’m wrong).

This got me thinking…how does one refer to races in other countries? I’ve never heard the term ‘African Europeans’ or ‘Asian Russians’, but maybe those terms do exist. Also, would I, as an American, refer to someone of color in another country differently that they would refer to themselves?

I suspect that the LA Times usage is a coinage based on the term African-American as used in the US, and not a term commonly used in Mexico.

In Panama, there are two different groups of blacks. Those who arrived with the Spanish as slaves during the colonial period, and who speak Spanish as their first language, are called afrocoloniales, or more rarely afrohispanos.

Those who came to Panama from the British and French West Indies starting in the mid-1800s to work on the Panama Railroad, the Canal, and the banana plantations are called afroantillianos. Many speak English (and a few French) as their first language, although most speak Spanish as well.

Many Panamanians have some African ancestry (in addition or in combination with European or Indian) and there is much less sense of racial distinctions than in the US. However, those who are distinctly African in appearance are usually called morenos (“brown”), which has no derogatory connotation. (In fact, it may be used as a nickname.) It is considered a bit rude, however, to refer to a person as negro (“black”), but the diminutive negrito is OK.

Typical and widely-accepted terms in Britain include:

  • ‘African Caribbean’, indicating immigrants from the West Indies and descendants

  • ‘Black British’, a more broad term, acknowledging that many black communities have nothing to do with the Caribbean.

  • ‘British Asian’, generally used to mean Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani/Sri Lankan heritages
    I guess the first two would make sense in America, although I’m guessing there’d be some prickliness about the directness of ‘Black British’. As ‘Asian’ tends to be used slightly differently from in Britain, I suppose ‘British Asian’ would be misleading. Not sure what you’d do about that!

I can’t think of any other two-part adjectives like these that are commonly used. We don’t tend to try to describe our whole background in a simple label in this way, perhaps because there’s more fluidity and complexity to many Europeans’ backgrounds, or because we don’t like the way such labels tend to concentrate on one majority element at the expense of others - I could call myself ‘Irish-Welsh English’, which is already cumbersome, yet still doesn’t cover Traveller and Spanish elements from further back.

Also, you’ll see more flexibility in the way British-born people choose to describe themselves. Somebody may call themselves English, British, or Russian or Nigerian or Kurdish or whatever, depending on the circumstances. It’s not that they’re trying to mislead or to disguise anything, only that they feel different elements are more relevant to different situations.