View Full Version : whats the best term for...

June 10th, 2008, 15:04
So my JTE wants to teach the students a good term to use when referring to black people and he is very nervous about teaching them an incorrect term.
Where i come from, we refer to 'black person/people' as well as 'white person/people' and thats just the normal descriptive term with no stigma or anything else...i don't see why there should be.
He wanted to teach them to use the term 'african american' and i had to point out that this is completely incorrect as this only refers to someone who is actually from America.

Anyway, what is the best term universally??

June 10th, 2008, 16:56
In the US, only the hyper-sensitive/ultra politically correct would have a problem with "black".

Baring that...geeze, I don't know..."person of African descent" I guess would be the safest, but anyone saying it would look like a tard. Just convince your JTE that Black isn't a slur...

Or, you could say that it varies by country. Black in SA, African American in US, etc. But I really don't see why they would have a problem with black...

June 10th, 2008, 17:00
Huh. That's kind of a tricky one. Obviously, "African-South-African" would be ridiculous. In formal contexts, "person of African descent" could be used. At least from an American perspective, I think I'd agree with the teacher that "black people" is probably a risky one to learn: yes, it's certainly used, but it can very easily be misused and cause offense.

I'm trying to think of contexts in which you would use such language, rather than just calling them, well, "a person".

Cultural: I'm not sure your students are going to be holding discussions of regional culture anytime soon, but if they were...eh, I think you could talk about "the black community" without offense. (It's when you start talking about individuals as "black" that it gets potentially sketchy, in my mind.)

Physical description: "dark-skinned" could work, in the sense of, "This lipstick works well for dark-skinned people". Or "darker-skinned". Maybe? I'm not sure.

Also, grouping all black people together is kind of questionable, isn't it? I mean, if you want to talk about, say, the Nigerian community in (such-and-such) a place, talk about the Nigerian community. (Like you'd talk about the Japanese(-American) community in Los Angeles.)

But really, I feel the answer is best found on a meta-level: clarify what exactly is to be taught to the kids. Why do they need a way to refer to black people? How often do you really need to refer to someone's skin color in daily life? That might help lead the way to an answer.

Huh. Still thinking about this one.

June 10th, 2008, 17:03
Simulpost with my Discordian friend!

In the US, only the hyper-sensitive/ultra politically correct would have a problem with "black".

I kind of disagree. (Maybe I'm ultra-politically-correct.) I agree that native speakers, myself included, do use "black" and I think it's generally understood as non-derogatory, no more than "white" is. However, I do think there are times when it could lead to misunderstandings, especially in the hands (or mouth) of a non-native speaker struggling to express themselves. Especially -- not to over-generalize, but -- non-native speakers from a country with very, very, VERY little ethnic diversity, who are often not well-equipped culturally in this regard. (Racial diversity brings a whole set of customs and sensitivities into play during one's socialization.) Imagine a well-meaning but racially-naive kid asking a black person, "What do black people eat?" The only way to really ask a question getting at that general concept is to use more nuance and sophisticated language (capable of expression the many qualifications that necessarily accompany such a question) than they have at their disposal.

Again, though, I'm kind of confused about what context they're using this language in.

June 10th, 2008, 17:29
I understand where you're coming from...but I think if they are going to make racist comments/racial generalizations, using African-American isn't gonna do a whole lot to soften it...does a Japanese person saying "I'm scared of all those African-American men over there!" sound any better than "I'm scared of all those black men over there!" Or to used your example, how is "What do African-Americans eat?" sound any better? I'd just worry about making them use as natural english as possible, and I think black is the most common term.

June 10th, 2008, 18:28
I understand where you're coming from...but I think if they are going to make racist comments/racial generalizations, using African-American isn't gonna do a whole lot to soften it

Yeah, that occurred to me after posting (as I said, I was still kind of turning it over in my mind), but I didn't want to triple-post.

I might suggest "black people" rather than "blacks", though. I think the latter has a tendency to come across as an impolite shortening (gaikokujin/gaijin, anyone?). It's also nice in that it maps to "kurojin" quite directly -- black-person.

June 11th, 2008, 03:17
I still think "black person" is the best term. "African American" isn't necessarily good even for Americans, as there are black people from other places like Trinidad or Haiti. The term is too often inaccurate.

June 11th, 2008, 03:37
If you are really interested, I would read Toni Morrison's eassay "Playing in the Dark" that talks about the ubiquitous Western cultural stigma on just the word "black." It's a really, really fascinated piece of work...at least from a historical and literary standpoint.

But honestly, there is nothing wrong with the word "black."

June 11th, 2008, 05:09
nothing wrong with it but I guess the JTE intends to be politically correct I rather like person of African descent.

June 11th, 2008, 13:26
Yea...but c'mon, lets take logistics in to the equation...how many kids will be able to even say *person of african descent*, let alone remember and understand it?

June 11th, 2008, 13:30
*deleted by mod*

Sorry, ini, racist shit is not welcome; not here, not anywhere.

June 11th, 2008, 13:34
Hmmm, I was starting to wonder where Ini was on this one. :roll:

June 11th, 2008, 14:03
It's also nice in that it maps to "kurojin" quite directly -- black-person. i believe people of dark skin are referred to as kokujin, white skin hakujin.

what is wrong with being called black anyway? i'm happy to be called white. then again i don't have a problem with nigger since it derives from the word for black and was used as a descriptive of black people originally. don't have a problem with gaijin either. these words can only be offensive if used in a derogatory manner and then i think it is not the word itself but more the statement.

some people take all the PC crap too far, as an episode of Duckman years back referenced, when will mailman/mailperson become known as personperson ><

didn't we have one of these conversations earlier on ITIL?