Sure, there’s a Wikipedia page about it. And if you do a quick Google search, you’ll find more references to the term, mostly in academic context. But if it’s a well-known term, how come we don’t hear it often in social and popular media? Instead what we hear are terms like African Americans, Black Americans, and Asian Americans.
Are these “groups” separately called out because they are somehow lesser than the European Americans or simply Americans, which sound like the default ethnic group in the United States?
As a teenager, I had always wondered this question. Reports and articles in newspapers and websites have never been shy of labeling people as African Americans: “crime in the African American community is at an all-time high,” “she’s the first Black American to have achieved XYZ,” “John Doe, an African American jazz musician, was honored by Bla-Bla.”
Sentences such as those above had always made me think of these ethnic groups as outsiders living in the great USA. I am sure it was not just me: the thoughts of millions of others have been influenced too. Just think about it: have you ever heard someone say, “George Clooney, a European American actor…,” or “Elon Musk, a White American maverick and billionaire…”?
What’s even more unfortunate is that countries and communities outside of the US have happily imported these terms without a second thought as part of their Americanization.
This episode from the comedian John Oliver’s satire show asks the same questions and goes on to examine why this is the case. The short answer is unsurprising: America is a deeply racist country that cares about equal rights as long as they are the rights of the preferred white populations. Well maybe not as racist as the UK but racist still. Black/African/Asian Americans are the terms they have created to “protect” their Americanness. What’s even more unfortunate is that countries and communities outside of the US have happily imported these terms without a second thought as part of their Americanization.
I have taken a pledge to never label non-European Americans–or minorities from any nationality, really. I think they are as American as any of their white American compatriots and have made America their home pretty much the same way as people from Europe did two centuries ago.