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Black Listed

Black American, Not African American

Where I’m From

The distinction between Black and African-American has been expounded upon in recent years, on both a semantic level (Slate just this year changed its standard from African-American to Black American) and, by extension, a cultural one. I know I’m not alone in wishing to identify as a Black American. And I believe that every individual, and especially people of color, who so often have their existences defined by the standards of a White majority (recall, for example, the one-drop rule), should be able to identify as they see fit.

I don’t see my preference for being called a Black American as a way of denying or distancing myself from my genetic African heritage. Rather, I believe it acknowledges the similarities that do extend to all Black people—in spite of our differences—as Black people: the prejudices we can face from nonBlacks (from police brutality to skewed standards of beauty) to the cultural influences we share with one another, like the aesthetic notion of “Black cool,” traced to West Africa and translated more recently into Black American art.

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