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Please note that this is my first time ever using this site and I apologize in advance if I'm going about this the wrong way, please don't be too harsh on me.

Growing up I was told that if you move into another country you put your birth place/race before that country's name; German-American.

So to the point:

When on forums or documents that ask for your race/color/lineage/etc. I see words such as "African-American" just as an example. Does that refer to race or where you were born and then you moved into a new country?

I could not find this an answer on google, mostly because I didn't know how to word it properly, sorry again if I'm going about this wrongly.

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First, when you say:

German-American

it means your *ethnic" background is German (meaning your ancestors at some time were from Germany), but you were born in America. Or you were born in Germany but now permanantly residing in America.
This should apply to any nation specific usage.

As for:

African-American

this is more general. It could be like "European-American".

Such a person (or their ancestors) would be (or would be perceived to be) from that region of the world. I think we all know the general criteria used, but that is another discussion.

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Firstly, I'd just like to say that your question is fine, if not great! You've shown research attempts, which is what we ask for here. :)

I'll focus on this question:

When on forums or documents that ask for your race/color/lineage/etc. I see words such as "African-American" just as an example. Does that refer to race or where you were born and then you moved into a new country?

African-American has nothing to do with original birth place, but race. It's the (current) politically correct term for a race-- African-Americans. I assume this is true with all of the combinations.

  • The "PC" status of A-A is actually up for strong debate... many of the people in the Black community don't like it because it emphasizes their "African-ness" over their "American" status... particularly since most of them have little, if any, ties to Africa. grammarist.com/usage/african-american-black and politico.com/blogs/media/2013/04/… – Catija Mar 14 '15 at 23:08
  • Damn, I thought I had it right: see my use of "(current)", thanks for letting me know. Is there something I could use instead that you know of? – HarryCBurn Mar 14 '15 at 23:10
  • It's still generally acceptable... I think the terminology is still up for much debate... I'm not of that demographic, I just know that it's not universally liked. The Politico article implies that "Black" is preferred amongst some newspapers. – Catija Mar 14 '15 at 23:12
  • Hmm, thanks. I might keep with A-A for now, since "Black" can also offend some people. – HarryCBurn Mar 14 '15 at 23:14
  • It makes for interesting conversation... I have a Chinese friend who says that they call themselves "Yellow" in the context of skin color/race but in the US we wouldn't ever call them that. – Catija Mar 14 '15 at 23:15

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