Over the years, members of the Black community have been described by varying racial terms, including negro, colored, and African American. However, a recent Gallup poll showed that Black people are now more inclined to be labeled as simply “Black.”
According to the Moxie Exchange, a training and mentoring group aimed at helping businesses develop talent and create inclusive workplaces, the reason behind why a Black person may choose one label over the other may stems from their cultural backgrounds. For example, an article published in November 2020 stated that the term African American was usually used when referring to a descendant of people from an African country who was enslaved.
In contrast, some tended to use the word “Black” when they neither identified as African nor American or couldn’t trace their lineage back to their native land. The organization also noted that the two were not always interchangeable, although some chose to use it in that manner, depending on the situation.
However, Gallup said that while Black people accepted both terms equally, some believed despite their differences in meanings they should be interchangeable.
In a poll done from June 1, 2021, to July 5, 2021, when asked, “Which term do you think should generally be used,” 17 percent of people said Black, and the same percentage chose African American, while 58 percent said it didn’t matter. The poll also revealed that six percent of people favored another term, and two percent said they didn’t have an opinion either way.
Although “African American” was already in use and later popularized in the early ’80s, more people began to drift to just being called “Black” or one of the two as the ’90s approached.
Still, the difference in numbers remained relatively the same when subjects were asked the “preferred term for their racial subgroup, if they had to choose.” Once again, 52 percent of people leaned more toward “Black,” while 44 percent selected “African American.” Four percent had no opinions.
Yet, the same couldn’t be said about the Hispanic community, which appears not so open to the term “Latinx.” The word made its debut online roughly around 2004, and has since been popularized by social media users, activists, and those looking for representation for a group of people who didn’t necessarily fit into one box.
According to Merriam-Webster, Latinx was “used generally as a gender-neutral term for Latin American.” However, it also noted that the term had been embraced more by the LGBTQIA+ community as a way not only to identify themselves as people of Latin descent but as one who classifies as a gender outside male or female.
When posed with a similar question, Gallup said 23 percent of people believed they should be called Hispanic, 15 percent said Latino — the male term for Latin — and only 4 percent said LatinX. Elsewhere, another 57 percent said it didn’t matter.
Regarding the Black community, the data seemingly shows the argument around racial labels hasn’t done much to sway members either way.
Many critics, including Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, have argued that “Black is a color” and that the ‘African American’ terms better highlight cultural heritage. In a quote captured by the New York Times, the civil rights leader once said, “We built the country through the African slave trade. African American acknowledges that.” He added, “Any term that emphasizes the color and not the heritage separates us from our heritage.”