March 2, 2013

I was entertained by the Feb. 26 news article “U.S. to stop using term ‘Negro’ in census surveys.” I think the Census Bureau should go further and drop the term “African American” in favor of “American of African descent.” Here’s why:

First, it is more accurate. “American of African descent” puts the focus on our American nationality, whereas “African American” implies two nationalities, a dualism and a naturalized citizenship. Those of us who are native-born “African Americans” have only one nationality.

Second, “American of African descent” also allows for an ethnic identification, which remains important in the United States for social and official purposes.

This change would have implications for the terms for other Americans. Broadly, we would now be “Americans of European descent,” “Americans of Asian descent,” “Americans of Latin American descent,” “Americans of indigenous descent,” “Americans of Middle Eastern descent,” etc. Of course, terms may be combined as necessary — “American of African and European descent,” say, or “American of Latin American and Indigenous descent.”

Let’s update our language. Let’s make it more accurate, at least until the day when all that will be necessary will be “American.”

Terry Collier, Chevy Chase