In 2007, a medical student filed a lawsuit against the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. The suit centered around his harassment and subsequent suspension for using the term 'white African American' as a description of himself. Being a native of Mozambique, the only country which shares coastline with Madagascar, he is rightfully and honestly African American, as he has a naturalized citizenship in this country of ours.
Why would people be upset over a man calling himself 'white African American'? Even if he called himself 'African American' without the skin color disclaimer, why is that wrong? He is truthfully and honestly describing himself, probably more accurately than most people who call themselves 'African American.'
Titles we give ourselves, titles like 'African American,' are supposed to be informative, giving information concerning ancestry or ethnic background. With Paulo Serodio, the 'white African American' student in the lawsuit, it accurately describes his ethnic background, his continent of origin, and his current citizenship.
An article on ABCNews.com states Serodio was informed by his professor that his use of the term African American 'was offensive to others and to people of color.'
This is the problem we have put on ourselves through our use of language. Because we have been and still are such a race-central society, sections of our language have been formed around ideas that are now shown to be fallacies. Even the concept of race is false.
The only race any of us share with another human being is that of being human. The idea of race is that being of African origin makes you distinctly different than Asiatic or European or any other typecast. Biologically, we have seen this debunked time after time. What we call race is simply ethnicity. Where race is seen as biological, ethnicity is centered around the sociological.
Unfortunately, when we get in conversations of this type, we have no terminology to talk about individuals or groups except that which has been created around race. For those of African descent, we can refer to them as either 'black' or 'African American.' The first centers on the color of their skin, one of the central indicators of race. The second was a politically correct alternative. Yet it's still applied almost exclusively to those with darker skin, despite its open-ended meaning.
If we are to become a society where race is unimportant, so much so that we don't talk about it, only about ethnicity, we must first gain language. Without the appropriate words, we are left with no means of communication.