Walter E. Williams

What to call black people has to be confusing to white people. Having been around for 73 years, I have been through a number of names. Among the polite ones are: colored, Negro, Afro-American, black, and now African-American. Among those names, African-American is probably the most unintelligent. You say, "What do you mean, Williams?" Suppose I told you that I had a European-American friend or a South-America-American friend, or a North-America-American friend. You'd probably say, "Williams, that's stupid. Europe, South America and North America are continents consisting of many peoples." You might insist that I call my friend from Germany a German-American instead of European-American and my friend from Brazil a Brazilian-American rather than a South-America-American and my friend from Canada a Canadian-American instead of a North-American. So would not the same apply to people whose heritage lies on the African continent? For example, instead of claiming that President Barack Obama is the first African-American president, it should be that he's the first Kenyan-American president. In that sense, Obama is lucky. Unlike most American blacks, he knows his national heritage; the closest to a national heritage the rest of us can identify is some country along Africa's gold coast.

Another problem with the African-American label is not all people of African ancestry are dark. Whites are roughly 10 percent of Africa's population and include not only European settlers but Arabs and Berbers as well. So is an Afrikaner who becomes a U.S. citizen a part of United States' African-American population? Should census takers and affirmative action/diversity bean counters count Arabs, Berbers and Afrikaners who are U.S. citizens as African-Americans and should they be eligible for racial quotas in college admittance and employment?

Are black Americans a minority group? When one uses the term minority, there is an inference that somewhere out there is a majority but in the United States we are a nation of minorities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2000 census, where people self-identify, the ancestry of our largest ethnic groups are people of German ancestry (15.2 percent), followed by Irish (10.8 percent), African (8.8), and English (8.7) ancestry. Of the 92 ethnic groups listed, in the census, 75 of them are less than 1 percent of our population.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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