Ethnical Difficulties


people have really weird issues with race, sex, and sexuality; we define ourselves in such strict little boxes that it’s almost dizzying. Man or woman. Gay or straight. Black or white. But nothing is really black and white is it? Even photographs have shades of grey. (Insert desired 50 Shades joke here). I can’t say for sure but I feel like this is largely an American problem, and one that we’ve created for ourselves.ethnicaldifficulties2

For a long time now the politically correct way in which to describe a person who is for lack of a better word of color (or black–which fun fact for non-artists. Black is actually the absence of color. White is all the colors combined so technically white people are the ones who are “of color”) and American is to call them African American. So how would you describe a character who’s British and black? African British? or African English? I don’t think that’s a thing.

There’s also: Native American to describe what we previously called Indians (because the idiot who found this place thought he was somewhere else). Asian American, Latina/Latino or Hispanic American, LGBT American… but it gets dicey because not all Asians, Hispanics or LGBT individuals are the same are they?

They’re blanket terms, but if someone is Filipino they are not from Asia. As the term Asian assumes. Mexican is usually a blanket term for a Hispanic person however Mexicans are from Mexico, which is far from Spain where the term Hispanic comes from. Latino refers to people who are from Latin America as the name suggests, yet people use them as blanket terms to describe someone who is in essence not-white or Caucasian as the P.C. term dictates. Ironically according to the dictionary, caucasian is actually considered often offensive in itself. Also on the whole African American front what of those who have never been to Africa, know nothing of the continent and maybe weren’t even from there to begin with? I mean African American is also a term we use to describe people who appear to be dark skinned but could very well be from Jamaica or a similar island nation. It’s worth noting that you can be “white” and still technically an African American if you were born in Africa then moved to America. What box do you check then? You’re LITERALLY an African-American, except by definition of race you’re technically caucasian. In case you were wondering that was a reference to the film Mean Girls.

I’m not trying to be divisive or offensive I’m trying to make a point. We define ourselves in such strict terms and the reality is nothing is clear cut. There’s a huge grey area that we tend to overlook and sometimes maybe even ignore because it doesn’t suit our interests. Race and sex and sexuality shouldn’t be political issues that determine whether or not a candidate is worthwhile… but it is. Actually the reason I mention this at all is two-fold. I do want to have characters who are more than just caucasian, but I actually don’t want to offend anyone by describing them in the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind offending people in certain ways, just not because of how I try to explain a character’s ethnic background.

Further proof this is more of an American issue than anywhere else… Here is how Kingsley Shacklebolt was introduced to us in chapter three of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:

And this is Kingsley Shacklebolt”— he indicated the tall black wizard, who bowed–“Elphaias Doge…”

2 thoughts on “Ethnical Difficulties

  1. I do think some of these problems exsist outside of America, but on a lesser scale. And you’re right, no one here is ‘African British’. It just wouldn’t make sense. I did read somewhere before that many people who are called African American actually don’t like the term, for the reason you describe – they may never have been to Africa and don’t have an interest in the country. Their home is America, so why not just American?

    And I know what you mean about describing people, although I never really picked up on the introduction of Kingsley. It just seems…normal.

    Another point – I do think in some ways America has so many terms because they (don’t ask me who ‘they’ is…) seem to be, at times, so worried about offending people. Maybe because of the history?

    I have a friend who just loves to make people feel uncomfortable. We were at a pub once, she ordered curry, and when the guy came over and put it down in front of her she just looked at hm and said “How did you know who that was for?”

    He just kind of stared blankly for a few seconds before going “I heard you ordering.” She can twist almost anything into sounding racist, and to be honest, it just makes you realise you can’t be afraid of accidently offending people all the time. Everything you say could be taken the wrong way.

    • To be honest I was a tiny bit worried about making this post for just that reason. But I decided that that would completely defeat the purpose. I think people are just paranoid of offending people and probably yes because of historical reasons. At any rate thank you for the insightful as always comments :)

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