First, a note: This question is meant to have no explicit or implicit political/sociological connotation whatsoever, and is indeed born of actual and deep curiosity as to what is in the author's present view a confusing peculiarity in the English Language.

The term 'African-American' is supposed to be a politically correct term for American individuals of the Negroid/Australoid race. However, instead of being more inclusive, the term seems, at least to me, to be flatly alienating to such individuals by labelling them as in an implicit and subliminal manner different than other Americans and connecting them (purely racially) with Africa which in the greatest likeliness may not even be their or their families' continent of origin.

Then, why is 'African-American' considered an inclusive term?

  • You say your question has "no explicit or implicit political/sociological connotation whatsoever", yet you describe the term African-American as a euphemism (Dictionary.com: "the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt". That seems pretty explicit to me. – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica May 28 '16 at 4:36
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    Also, by definition the term has nothing to do with people of Australoid ancestry. – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica May 28 '16 at 4:38
  • Well, yes, they are labeled differently than, say, European-Americans or Asian-Americans, that seems common sense. But note that white people can be African-American, just as much as blacks can be European-American. There's nothing wrong in calling someone black — and there may not be a better term, if they're not American (just don't call them "a black" or "the blacks" like a certain candidate...)— although it's true that sociolinguistically speaking, there's a more positive connotation in the US with African-American over black (perhaps 'cuz 'Mur'ca!?). – user0721090601 May 28 '16 at 5:01
  • @Chappo I do realize now that the term 'euphemism' may not be appropriate here, and have revised my question as such. I intended to cause no offense in any way, and I am deeply regretful if I have. Secondly, in practice, most Americans cannot differentiate between Negroid and Australoid individuals, and call them both 'African-Americans'. – user3460322 May 28 '16 at 8:51
  • @guifa: There was a report of a white south african boy moving to USA, who got detention from school for insisting that he was African-American. – gnasher729 May 28 '16 at 15:23

So you want to assure us that your question has no "political" or "sociological" connotations. Well, OK, I'll pretend to believe you, mostly because I can't read your mind. But it's difficult to believe that someone with an "actual and deep curiosity" didn't hie himself to an easily available source like Wikipedia to clear up his confusion. But let me help:

  • There's nothing "peculiar" about the term African-American unless you count the fact that it's related to that Peculiar Institution, chattel slavery in the United States. Starting in the late 1970s, African-American replaced its predecessor term Afro-American, which the OED can trace in print to 1853. If you'd gone to Wikipedia, you'd have found a picture of a parade float dating from 1911 with the label "Afro-Americans".
  • The term is not "politically correct", unless you use that term to describe the practice of calling people by the names they choose to be called by.
  • The term is not a euphemism, which is a polite substitute for a vulgarity. During the modern US civil rights movement, roughly 1950-1970, Americans chose to belong to the group that called people with dark skin niggers and nigras and those who called these people Negroes. Those so-labeled embraced the word black to describe themselves, and they adopted African-American in parallel.
  • Given the preceding bullet point, it should be clear that the term is not "alienating* at all, let alone "flatly", to those who've adopted it.
  • The term is not meant to be inclusive. It's the description of US citizens who share a common historical and social background, in much the same way as the terms German-American and Irish-American. The reason that the term specifies a continent rather than a country is that 1) at the time of the slave trade, there were few European-style nation states in Africa and 2) those operating the slave system destroyed the personal histories of the slaves.
  • The term is an overt label. It therefore cannot be implicit (i.e., not plainly stated) or subliminal (i.e., not consciously discernible).
  • There is no such thing as the "Negroid race"; that's an outmoded anthropological notion that fails the test of human genetics. The term African-American embraces those in the US who share the history and sociology of those with what is called "black" skin, most of whom had ancestors forcibly taken from their African homes.
  • The preceding bullet point tells you that the term isn't "purely racial", which should be clear from the broad spectrum of skin colors among African-Americans. The "purely racial" motivations belonged to white Americans who defined the racial classifications according to blood lines. Louisiana kept track of "black" ancestry to five decimal places.
  • My question was not intended to be political in nature, and it would be best you do not receive it as such. – user3460322 May 28 '16 at 8:56
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    @user3460322 Since I've pretended to believe your claim about your question, it might be best for you to claim the same about my answer. Nothing I've said in my answer accuses you of making political assertions, only incorrect ones. That is, I don't accuse you of being bad, just of being wrong. Do you have some problem with the things I've stated in my answer? Or is it just that I have stated them? – deadrat May 28 '16 at 9:10
  • What's with the obnoxious attitudes on this site? You can defend yourself all you want. The fact is you started your answer by saying that you'll pretend to believe the OP because you can't read their mind. This is a rather blatant way to say "I have reservations about your motives." You then in your comment reiterate that you've pretended to believe the OP's claims about their motives. This attitude is so repulsive. You could have done what you did without questioning the OP's motives twice. Also, reading Wikipedia or another source doesn't clear all doubt, that's why people post here. – Zebrafish Aug 3 '18 at 18:13

Personally, I wouldn't really consider "African-American" an inclusive term. When used in America, the term "African-American" tends to connote "black", but using a color (rather than an ethnicity) is often perceived as being racist, blunt, or ignorant. However, it is important to note than many black people labeled as being "African-American" are, in fact, not remotely African; some are Jamaican, others are Brazilian, and more are Trinidadian - there are a nearly-infinite number of ethnic classifications derived from nationality, origin, etc. (For example, Brazilians use over 300 different racial classifications, like "coffee-colored" or "milky", factoring in everything from eye color to skin tone to hair type.) Thus, African-American is NOT inclusive, but more politically correct than "black" simply by virtue of popular ignorance and a deep-rooted desire for inclusivity at the expense of legitimate individuality.

  • How are Jamaicans, Brazilians and Trinidadians "not remotely African"? Many people of these nationalities have significant African ancestry. Obviously they don't live in Africa, but neither do other people called African-Americans. – herisson Jul 1 '17 at 17:30

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