Black vs African American...What’s the Difference?
Black and African American are NOT synonyms. In the United States, it can be confusing,
because people with the same skin color may identify in different ways. So, how do you know who is Black and who is African American? Differentiating between Black and African American is like identifying anyone else from another ethnic group. You must know where their parents are from. Centuries ago, Africa’s most valuable resource, its people, were kidnapped, stolen and sold all over the world. The Africans who were stolen from the shores of West Africa, ended up in the Americas. The people were sold throughout North and South America and were from various African tribes and ethnic backgrounds. When the diaspora ended, several generations had passed, and history and family legacy were lost. Native languages were also lost, since speaking any language the colonizers did not speak was illegal in every country. When the practice of slavery became illegal, people whose ancestors were from Africa identified themselves as, Black.
In the United States, it is more complicated because many people who identified as Black, later came to an understanding, that true identity is connected to land. The way you are identified, directly effects what rights you receive based on your identity. There was a movement to push the U.S. government to legally identify Black people as, African American in the 90’s. The new official identity as African American, solidified some rights and citizenship to African descendants of slavery. Although most descendants of slavery accepted the term of African American, like with anything else, there is comfort in the familiar term of Black, so it is also used.
I am from Alabama, and my parents are descendants of Africans who were enslaved. The city I was born in, Tuscaloosa, had Native people who were Choctaw, very dark-skinned people. My ancestors were believed to have mixed with the natives. I identify as Black and African American. I am one of those people who needed time to embrace the term African American, because I love being called Black and I have a lot of pride associated with that word. I will never give up the word Black, although I accept and appreciate the word African American.
Additionally, there is an instant connection to other people who are descendants of the
diaspora, when we refer to ourselves as Black. That instant connection feels good!
Many Black celebrities from other countries are easily embraced by African Americans, as we connect and relate through our Blackness. A few examples of celebrities who identify as Black but are not African American: the rappers Drake and Cardi B are Black, but neither are African American. The singer Rhianna is Black, and not African American. The very sexy, Idris Elba, is Black, and African American. Most importantly to me, my fellow Howard Bison, The New Vice President-Elect, Kamala Harris is Black, but not African American.
So if you want to know if someone identifies as Black or African American, there’s no way to
know by looking at someone. You have to ASK! Lol!