Black or African American

This week, we hired greater than a dozen freelance writers for O.W. during a recession. God is good! Regardless, I have encountered a deeply perplexing question posed by a newly appointed journalist who recently accepted an assignment (see photo below). 

© O.W. Showe

How would YOU answer this question and why? Honestly, it gave me pause as a Black woman, Veteran (2 services) and little sibling to four amazing older brothers and a beautiful sister. Thus far, the response from my community has been overwhelmingly in favor of “Black” versus “African American.” 

Now, I’m here to hear. What is YOUR answer… and if you have a few seconds, why?

Also, do you believe that this person should be afforded creative leniency to use each term as he/she/they deem appropriate? Or, perhaps we should all be so brave as to, well, ask.

Waiting on you.

Madinah Slaise
Executive Producer, EIC (


  1. Born in the 1960’s, I prefer the term Black. My parents born in the 1930’s accepted the term Negro. Now our children born in the 1990’s prefer African American, as to them Black is a color in the crayola box and Negro sounds old and derogatory.
    My Black ( skin, hair, race is beautiful ). It doesn’t sound the same when you insert African American. Plus in so many degrees I’m removed from the beautiful, strong, bold, and large contintent of Africa that her blood has not occupied enough of me to call her Home. She, Africa, is the continent home of my Ancestors and in there lies my claim to Her in respect, homage and love.

  2. Historically, “Black” was correlated to African Americans, without hesitation. That was highly probable to the fact that the majority of brown skinned, black haired people were from slave descent and stolen from Africa. That assumption cannot be continued today. There are lineages of people, from multiple areas, that have brown skin and black hair that are not from Africa.

    It is incumbent upon the author to define who they are addressing in single terms. Black refers to a race where as African American applies to a region or culture. Both of which have extraneous variables, as identified above and the fact that there has been a large number of white South African immigrants into America, technically making them African Americans.

    I am from a time when referring to oneself, as “Black” was a prideful term, not a derogatory connotation.

    Just one guys opinion. The author cannot interchange Black and African American unless they identify that they are engaging separate audiences.

  3. I am not sure whether am I even in a position to answer this since I am not Black/AA, but rather an Indian looking from the outside. So perhaps my opinion does not hold water at all, but I thought this is a very intriguing question and felt views from everyone would help in getting a more varied spectrum.
    Personally, being a brown person (rather than black), I actually prefer to be referred to as Indian rather than brown, though justifying it is a bit more difficult. Referring to someone on the basis of their skin colour, I don’t know, feels a bit more disconcerting. White people refer to their ethnic heritage (Irish, Italian, etc.) all the time. If I am referred to as brown, personally it makes me feel a bit more ‘categorised’ and renders a feeling of divisiveness. On the other hand, if I am addressed as an Indian, it feels just as a recognition or acknowledgement of my ‘origin’.
    I don’t know whether this take is applicable to the Black/AA question, since I do understand that the history is not applicable to us ‘brown’ people and maybe that adds another perspective which swings the answer the other way. But, for me personally, I prefer to be referred to my heritage rather than the colour.

  4. I’ve also been told that black is the preferred term. But I think white folks usually say African American. I was thinking about this the other day because we just say white. We don’t say Swedish American, German American, etc. And then I met a white lady from South Africa on a vacation/tour and she said she considered herself African (not British), so she said if she moved to the states she’d be African American. I like this discussion because I think people are afraid to ask because it comes across as a separation/outsider/ignorant.

  5. Interesting! I dont really care. Interchangeable use is fine.
    Don’t call us colored…the blacks…or even just blacks. This shows the attempt to stereotype. If you are describing a person. It is just as heavy set, or tall, or white, gray eyes, Asian etc.

    Proud Black Woman

  6. I use and prefer Black too. My reasoning is controversial and so I won’t go into all of the details.

    I love who I am but I’m not going to be at the next rally or in the COVID-filled protests but that’s mainly on my own personal dislike of crowds and crowded places. I appreciate the people that can do it but I would personally have a breakdown if in too big of a crowd.

    I have no qualm about people using the term but it makes me cringe to think “African-American”. Maybe that’s just because the household I came from didn’t have a picture of a white Jesus or a black Jesus but talks about his description so that your imagination (and deciphering from the “look” of the area) can run wild and Jesus can just be a person. I love Sesame Street for this reason. These characters are MONSTERS but they’re in fun colors and they’re happy so we see them for that and not as stereotypical monsters.

    I struggle with the race box too because I do not define myself as an African-American and I hate that it’s an “or” like it’s the same thing. Why is that a question? Why does my race still matter on a checkbox?

  7. Black is the term that I use because it encompasses more than just AA. However, I have to admit that I cringe when I hear the term used by someone who is not black or easily identified as a minority. Perhaps it’s because of the racially disparaging history with which this term has been used to maintain racial inequities and discrimination in this country. I simply cringe every time I hear it used by someone who is non-black, even when I know that there is no malice or ill will behind the statement. I recognized that this a divided answer…absolutely. I guess it’s an example of…I can say it, but you can’t. Anyhow, I don’t get offended when the term is used and I’m actually happy that more people who are white or non-black are using the word more frequently. We need to get to a point where it can be said and someone who is black/AA like me can hear it and not feel triggered that there’s a racially biased undertone to it…and to that I recognize the work and healing that I must do within myself to unapologetically use the word black without fear if negative undertones or bias directed toward me. I admitted that I refuse to check the race box on applications because of fear of reprisal. However, for those who know me, they know that I Unapologetically proud of who I am and I raise my son to know and be proud of being a black man. I guess I just have to work out the title thing. Don’t judge me…we all have room to grow.

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