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Interesting country facts and figures

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Alfred E Neuman
994930.  Thu May 09, 2013 3:12 am Reply with quote

Although I see myself as African, I'm not supposed* to call myself that because I have a pale skin. Many black Africans assume that every white person living here has a European passport, and that they somehow have more right to live in Africa than I do.

The flaw with that argument is that I have to go back to my great-grandparents to find the first one of my ancestors who was not born in Africa - and it's just one of my great grand-parents. This means that I have only one passport and qualify for only one passport - a South African one. Additionally, parochial as it may sound, I have never left the African continent in my life.

So what am I if not an African?



* If a form I'm filling in has the standard options for White, Indian, Coloured or African, I will usually tick African even though I know that's not what is expected. If it lists Black instead of African, I'll usually tick White. Sometimes I just leave that question unanswered.

 
Sadurian Mike
994966.  Thu May 09, 2013 7:01 am Reply with quote

Oddly enough, I had this same issue when writing about the 81st (West African) Division in Burma, Second World War. It was, incidentally QI, the first division of the British Army to be comprised of all-foreign units.*

It was, aside from the inevitable white European officers and some white European NCOs, all black African. Now I didn't really want to say 'black African' all through the essay, but I was aware that 'African' covered a lot of colours. In the end I made it clear that the soldiers were from West Africa, and didn't bother elaborating further.


*Indian divisions had a British regiment in each brigade to 'stiffen' the formations.

 
Alfred E Neuman
994985.  Thu May 09, 2013 7:37 am Reply with quote

I'm not too stressed about people saying African when they mean black African (particularly in general conversation), but it does get a little frustrating when people assume or assert that a white person cannot be an African.

Funnily enough, when I was growing up it was quite common for whites to be called Europeans, even though most of us had never set foot in Europe.

I'm a victim of colonialism :-)

in a similar vein, I find the term African American to be a little affected. If they're going to be consistent, all white Americans should then be called European Americans, and you could even have American Americans, to describe those whose ancestors walked there as opposed to coming across in boats.

 
Sadurian Mike
994988.  Thu May 09, 2013 7:43 am Reply with quote

I grimace at 'African-American' too. Everyone can call themselves what they like, but it is, as you say, very affected. Still, the US does seem a country populated by people desperate to cling to their ancestral roots.

 
cornixt
995055.  Thu May 09, 2013 10:15 am Reply with quote

Someone once described Nelson Mandela as African American. I was once asked if there were many African Americans in England. Lots of people use it as a word that is perceived as less racist as saying "black", so they try to be inoffensive but end up just being stupid.

 
suze
995067.  Thu May 09, 2013 10:47 am Reply with quote

Just who decided that "black" was "racist"?

I've never heard a person of African-Caribbean ethnic origin object to being described as "black". I have heard such a person object to "colored" - and yet the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People continues to use that name and has no plans to change it.

Mind you, I did once have a student (of South Asian ethnic origin) submit a formal complaint against me for referring to a "white wedding". He alleged that this particular term was racist, and I was required to submit a detailed written response. You can't win ...

 
Sadurian Mike
995070.  Thu May 09, 2013 10:50 am Reply with quote

A black mark against you?

 
PDR
995143.  Thu May 09, 2013 1:55 pm Reply with quote

I was given a verbal reprimand for saying (in a meeting) "It's an interesting suggestion, but the gentleman of colour in that particular woodpile would be...<boring techie stuff>".

PDR

 
suze
995178.  Thu May 09, 2013 4:16 pm Reply with quote

In fairness, I'd give you a verbal reprimand if you said that in my meeting too!

If you are such a person, then you are allowed to use the expression in more or less its original form. (Except that you spell the n-word -a rather than -er, and the plural is formed in -z. Apparently it's OK then, but only if you're black.)


I once had the unfortunate experience of attending a meeting chaired by an older gentleman who hadn't really gotten with the 20th century yet, let alone the 21st. He said of someone that he had been "working like a black". That is - at best - a rather dated expression, but the person of whom it was said was black. How else would he be expected to work?

 
PDR
995183.  Thu May 09, 2013 4:22 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
In fairness, I'd give you a verbal reprimand if you said that in my meeting too!


I'm not so sure - it's an established English idiom from which the objectionable term was removed. The expression I was reaching for (but couldn't command at the time) was "the wasp buzzing around this particular blancmange is <...>", but I'm not convinced that the one I used was "actionable".

I was in two minds about not accepting the reprimand and forcing the issue, but the HR bint who delivered it was seriously cute, so I didn't want to upset her...

PDR

 
suze
995212.  Thu May 09, 2013 5:13 pm Reply with quote

Ah, it's the "asking a man if he's planning to get pregnant" thing in reverse.

If you'd actually said "nigger in the woodpile" in my meeting, I might have looked at you over the top of my glasses. It's not really an expression that I'd consider as appropriate for the business environment, but I wouldn't perceive it as a disciplinary matter.

But the use of crap euphemisms is a hanging offence. I have been known to get the red pen out when student essays have alleged the existence of a word "f***" when writing about the poetry of Mr Philip Larkin. That ain't what he wrote, so it's not what I expect them to write.

As for using the word bint to describe a woman who is not an Arab ...

 
PDR
995214.  Thu May 09, 2013 5:18 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
word bint to describe a woman who is not an Arab ...


Where did I say she wasn't?

:-)

PDR

 
suze
995217.  Thu May 09, 2013 5:24 pm Reply with quote

You didn't. But she wasn't.

 
PDR
995222.  Thu May 09, 2013 5:36 pm Reply with quote

Prove it...

PDR

 
The Quirkster
999546.  Sun May 26, 2013 7:26 pm Reply with quote

My sister-in-law, who came to Australia with her parents just after her first birthday, classifies herself as "Australian/Polish...you know what the Polacks are like don't you, Dan?". I decline to answer because I'm still uncertain about the most diplomatic response, which doesn't help when you don't know the answer in the first place.

Curiously, both of my sisters-in-law, one born in Poland, the other born and raised in Brazil and having spent only five years here, consider Australia as their homeland. My brother-in-law is from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and has lived here for 14 years and is a citizen, but considers Bangladesh his homeland.

I have no personal qualms with these responses. I was surprised, though, at how surprised I was that Luci, my sister-in-law from Brazil, replied that Australia was where she considered home to be. This is no reflection of mine about Brazil or her life there, but she was so passionate.

Then again, I'm always surprised at how often I'm surprised, which may be a telling sign as to my mental state.

 

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