Different Names, Diffeerent Meanings

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate August 2001

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I love to watch TV. One of my favorite television shows is MTV's, The Real World. On many of the episodes this season, race issues are constantly discussed. One episode that sticks in my mind is the episode when Julie, a white Mormon, refers to David, an African American male, as "˜colored'. Many of the cast members in the house were very surprised to hear someone say that word. Julie was extremely upset with herself for not knowing that "˜colored' is not how a person is supposed to refer to an African American. Julie did not understand why she should not say the word "˜colored.' Well, why shouldn't she? This is a question that many people ask themselves all of the time. People of color have been called African, negro, Negro, colored, Black, and African American. What makes one of the names more correct than the other? My opinion is that they may sound like they mean the same thing, but because of the ways and times that each name was used, people of color look at each different name as having a different meaning.

When the slaves were brought to America from Africa, they were referred to as "˜Africans' and "˜negro"˜. Those were the names the white Americans gave them. Many people of color grew up referring to themselves as a "˜negroes' and as an "˜African'. The term "˜African' would not be a 2 good way to refer to a person of color being that we, ourselves, are not from Africa, and we do not currently live in Africa.

Later on, it became more of a trend to refer to a person of color as a "˜colored' or just plain old "˜nigger'. According to Ellen Goodman's African and American, during the civil-rights movement, leaders told their followers...