Sunday, 4 December 2011

2005: 'African British' Identity Tops Poll

This 2005 piece is taken from, an African human rights organisation. Its founder Toyin Agbetu highlights a couple of polls that had ‘African British’ as the preferred terminology for identifying Africans in Britain. Toyin ends with a piece that lays out Ligali’s position on the matter.


African British identity tops poll
Submitted By: Ligali Media Network
Date: Sat 30 April 2005
The name African British has topped two community polls for the preferred term to describe people previously mislabelled ‘black’.
African British has been the preferred name advocated by the Ligali organisation to describe all British nationals with antecedents originating directly from Africa or indirectly via African diasporic communities, such as those in the Caribbean and South America. The label ‘Black’ has been the subject of much debate over recent years, with many people citing the need to move away from a label that disengages African people with their place of cultural and historical origin.

A poll on the online Village forum, part of the Blacknet website, revealed that at least 40% of respondents preferred the name African British while 24% opted for the label ‘black’. Currently, the African Foundation for Development also has a poll running on its website posing the question should we adopt the term African British? At the time of writing, the poll revealed that 50% of participants voted for African British while 32% of people voted against.

The increasing awareness and usage of the term has seen individuals including journalist, Henry Bonsu and organisations such as AFFORD, the African British IT Association and the youth organisation Insaka asserting and self-defining themselves as African British.
AFFORD Identity Poll 2005
AFFORD Identity Poll 2005
Blacknet Identity Poll 2005
Blacknet Identity Poll 2005
LIGALI Comment

Accepting Africa is an integral part of our identity and culture has been one of the primary reasons that we took the stance to reject the label ‘black’ in favour of African to describe our identity. While some people will inevitably find the shift away from ‘black’ - a term that was previously a word of power - a difficult process, it is nevertheless inevitable that we reassert our identity in order to complete the revolutionary cycle back to our original identity. The English language has always been a tool of oppression for African people and the association with the word ‘black’ and its respective metaphorical and social connotations was never an accident. Black has become what ‘negro’ and ‘coloured’ were to their respective generations: redundant, inaccurate and disengaging.

A small minority of people have claimed that there is a need to ‘reclaim’ the racially offensive N word in order to take control of its meaning and turn it into a powerful form of reference. These misguided individuals have inevitably failed. Not only can you never really reclaim something that was never yours but it has led to racist minded people using the word more and more with the defence that ‘Black people use it too’. If we are to reclaim anything, let it be positive and connected to our true origin and heritage; Reclaim Africa by being African, reject colonisation of the mind through language by rejecting ‘black’.

One of the greatest African American activists, Malcolm X recognised the importance of language. While he had not yet fully rejected the label ‘black’ before his untimely death, he did recognise the importance of the African identity;

We, Afro-Americans, people who originated in Africa and now reside in America, speak out against the slavery and oppression inflicted upon us by this racist power structure…
…[The] term, "negro," is erroneously used and is degrading in the eyes of informed and self-respecting persons of African heritage. It denotes stereotyped and debased traits of character and classifies a whole segment of humanity on the basis of false information. From all intelligent viewpoints, it is a badge of slavery and helps to prolong and perpetuate oppression and discrimination.

Persons who recognize the emotional thrust and plain show of disrespect in the Southerner's use of "nigra" and the general use of "nigger" must also realize that all three words are essentially the same. The other two. "nigra" and "nigger" are blunt and undeceptive. The one representing respectability, "negro," is merely the same substance in a polished package and spelled with a capital letter. This refinement is added so that a degrading terminology can be legitimately used in general literature and "polite" conversation without embarrassment.

The term "negro" developed from a word in the Spanish language which is actually an adjective (describing word) meaning "black," that is, the color black. In plain English, if someone said or was called a "black" or a "dark," even a young child would very naturally question: "a black what?" or "a dark what?" because adjectives do not name, they describe. Please take note that in order to make use of this mechanism, a word was transferred from another language and deceptively changed in function from an adjective to a noun, which is a naming word. Its application in the nominative (naming) sense was intentionally used to portray persons in a position of objects or "things." It stamps the article as being "all alike and all the same." It denotes: a "darkie," a slave, a subhuman, an ex-slave, a "negro."

Afro-Americans must re-analyze and particularly question our own use of this term, keeping in mind all the facts. In light of the historical meanings and current implications, all intelligent and informed Afro-Americans and Africans continue to reject its use in the noun form as well as a proper adjective. Its usage shall continue to be considered as unenlightened and objectionable or deliberately offensive whether in speech or writing.

We accept the use of Afro-American, African, and Black man in reference to persons of African heritage. To every other part of mankind goes this measure of just respect. We do not desire more nor shall we accept less.

Source: Program of the Organization of Afro-American Unity

‘Black was our poker branded label, African is our liberated name’ – The Ligali Organisation

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