I don’t use ‘African American’ to refer to a black person, but I don’t begrudge others the use of the term. Oh, I’m not one of those who gets spun into a tizzy about nationality or loyalty to the United States over its usage. I don’t use it because its use is just too darned confusing for some people and can get them into trouble, as the article suggests.
One of the episodes of the Name Follies—a unique aspect of my own life--demonstrates just how confusing the term is for some.
Dude asks the origin of my last name. I tell him: “My father is African.”
“Oh, you mean your father is an African American.”
“No. He never became an American citizen and he lives in Kenya.”
“But he’s black, right? So he’s an African American.”
You see my point. This guy is an African American (born in Nigeria). So is this one (born in South Africa). However, to refer to the latter—correctly—as an African American, brings out all kinds of crazy problems stemming from the continuous re-definition of who’s African and who isn’t, simply because he's a white guy.
Bah! They’re Americans; of whatever descent you might want to name, if you want be specific about where they were born and nurtured, but Americans nonetheless.
However, the confused may be enlightened or may continue to be confused. I just don’t want to have a hand in contributing to the latter.
(Thanks to The Spoons Experience)