This one’s for feeno, whose comment got buried in the mess of my last post.
I think the hyphenation craze is an utter rape of the English language. When I heard French citizen and NBA basketball player Tony Parker described as an “African-American,” I didn’t have to look any further for evidence. If you think about it, there are all kinds of stupid problems of logic involved. Dave Matthews and Charlize Theron are both from South Africa and reside in America... are they African-Americans?
What is it all about, anyway? Black people born in America are more American than African, and why should they have any connection to a land that sold them to white people? It’s not as though Europeans netted black people in Africa and brought them to America; before Europeans showed up, slavery was already alive and well in Africa (and Europe, for that matter, where the Slavic people lend their name to the modern word, “slave”).
If you have to make the distinction, just use black. Since I find race to be largely unimportant, I find myself using this term very, very rarely.
Another one I hate: Native American. First of all, they aren’t native. They immigrated several thousand years before Europeans, but they immigrated nonetheless. Secondly, I doubt they want the association of the term “American,” considering the pain caused by America and the fact that they were only granted American rights within the lifetime of some still living. Finally, they would prefer to be called what they are: Cherokee, Navajo, etc. If you have to lump them together for some purpose (again, something I find myself doing quite rarely), try “First Nations” or just “tribes,” perhaps with some indicator of the region from which they hailed (the Great Plains, the Mojave, etc.).
While I’m on hyphens, I hate hyphenated names, as well. Can you imagine two people with hyphenated names marrying each other? I don’t even want to imagine how many aging hippies would be dancing to Grateful Dead music at that reception. It also negates the “What is your mother’s maiden name?” security question.
Women are not liberated by hyphenated names, just as black people are not being treated any better if they are called African-American in polite company. Awkward wording is not compensation for equality.