Well, it’s Black History Month once more, and we Black folks have got a lot to be upset bout. For one thing, is Black History Month still relevant? And another thing, why are all the folks adopting Black Haitian children White?
But what’s bothering me right now is some Black folks all over the census bureau for including the word “Negro” as a descriptive category on the census form. It seems they think the word is demeaning, which puts it on a level with the word that is truly demeaning. Yes, I’m talking bout “nigger.”
When I was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, in my family, we dared not use the word “black” to describe anybody, especially a light-skin person. You see, my family includes both dark and light-skin folks. If my grandmother heard me or one of my cousins call somebody “black,” bam, right up side the head she’d go with anything she had in her strong right hand. It was a long time in the 1960a before I could use “Black” to describe African Americans.
My aunt, my mother’s younger sister, didn’t like the word “Negro” because she said when White folks tried to say it, it sounded like “niggra,” which sounded like that other word. She preferred “colored,” the word polite White folks used.
For most of us, “Negro” was dignified and demanded respect. Notice that it is capitalized. I, too, prefer “African American” or “Black American” these days, but I do not consider “Negro” demeaning given the reason it was used in the past.