I’m bothered by the sloppy use of the term “African-American,” as it’s often incorrectly used as a synonym for black. Here are two examples, both about ten years old:
There was an article in the New York Times that described the forensic evidence collected at the scene of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. It mentioned that some hairs found were believed to be from the assailant, and were identified as belonging to an “African-American.” Really? I can see how the hairs might be identifiable as coming from a black person but how can nationality be determined?
Similarly, an article, also in the Times, described the controversy when a New Jersey church put on a passion play and had Jesus played by a black man. Apparently some people had problems with that. The article quoted a minister who commented on this, asking retorically if he went to heaven and found that God were “African-American,” would he want to turn around? I can accept that God might be black, but now he resides in the United States?
In an earlier thread on the SDMB, someone argued that “African-American” was an appropriate term to use for black people in the US who were descendents of slaves and could not identify their country of origin. By that reasoning, neither Dave Matthews nor Charlize Theron (both are white people born in South Africa) should be called African-American. Fair enough.
But now I hear Barack Obama referred to as African-American. For example, the biography on his campaign website mentions that he “served as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review.” His father emigrated from Kenya and his mother was from Kansas, so by that reasoning, should he not be called Kenyan-American (or even Kenyan-Kansan)?
My goal isn’t to pick on Barack Obama, but instead to point out that the term should be used more carefully.