I wrote the following blog post in 2009, but the organization I was working for determined that it was too hot to publish. So it never saw the light of day. Until now …
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I’ve noticed that the blank in “____-American” sometimes references a continent (e.g., “Asian-American”) and sometimes a country (e.g., “Japanese-American”).
It seems that when the heritage of an individual is known, and relevant, we use the more specific descriptor (e.g., “Irish-American” rather than “European-American”).
I propose, then, that if someone’s father is Kenyan and mother is American, rather than use the label “African-American” (a term which includes connotations of historical oppression and slavery), we use the more accurate label “Kenyan-American.”
(I’m simply “American,” by the way, despite my having been born in Germany and having Scotch-Irish ancestry.)