February 16, 2011


Each month, we highlight some of the reflective posts of our work study students. Unedited, they blog about observations, experiences and thoughts about diversity in their lives as seen through their lenses.

This reflection is from Astopheline, an student from Rwanda.

This question has been brought to my attention numerous times since my arrival at Stonehill College. I have met people of color on this campus who consider themselves black, but are prone to anger when someone calls them African Americans. I understand that not all black people are African Americans, as I identify as Rwandan. However, it is irritating when people make it seem offensive to be African American. Any black person in the USA should acknowledge that he/she will be assumed to be African American at first glance because it is the usual. Some individuals have claimed that they dislike to be called African American because they are very proud of their heritage or country of origin. However, when one digs deeper you find that they just do not want to be associated with African Americans. The term African American to these individuals implies the stereotypical black person in the USA, which are ignorant and called “false assumptions” for a reason.
I have thought about this issue of black versus African American for a while, and I concluded that the words are often used interchangeably in this country. African American is sometimes used to refer to race and ethnicity and I find that to be wrong. African American should be a nationality that is exclusive to black Americans who want choose to identify that way. Some black immigrants want to maintain their native country nationalities (For example; Haitian American, etc). On the other hand, black should be the race/ethnicity. In this case, on census forms black and African American could be two different categories. This could be the answer to the question of who is African American.