OK, I admit it. I'm a stickler for details. I get hung up on them, perhaps, a little more than I should.
The genesis for this week's column comes from a stupid comment I heard Don Imus make about African Americans on Tuesday morning. I know. I know. Don Imus saying something stupid about African Americans is nothing new. It's probably to be expected just a little bit after the incident with the Rutgers women's basketball team.
But, he really shoved his foot in his mouth this time, as far as I'm concerned. What he said really irked me beyond belief. I couldn't get it out of my mind all day.
Imus was being critical of the French and the British, and trying to show that, despite the Bush administration, America was still a better nation than France or the United Kingdom, because Barack Obama is going to be the next U.S. president. Imus said he wanted to know when the French would elect an African American as the president, or the British would elect one as their prime minister.
Well, technically, never. The French will never elect an African-American president, and the British will never elect an African-American as their prime minister.
It's because African Americans cannot get elected to those posts.
You see, it's all in the technicality here. The definition of an African American is an AMERICAN who is of African descent. Last time I checked, Americans cannot be elected as the president of France, or as the prime minister of Great Britian.
See, it really is all in the technicality.
I know that Imus meant, when would a black Frenchman become France's president, or a black Brit become prime minister. However, he used the term "African American," which was the wrong term to use. It shows a level of ignorance on his part for not knowing this, or not doing a self-check in his mind before he said it.
In the politically correct world in which we live, he could have been crucified for saying the word "black" to describe people of African descent, who live in either France or Great Britian. However, the Associated Press (AP) style book, which is second to the Bible in terms of importance to journalists, says you should really use the term "black" at all times over the phrase "African American."
Of course, it should also be pointed out that it is also sometimes up to a particular newspaper as to whether "black" or "African-American" should be used. However, the days of using archaic terms, like "colored" or "Negro" are long behind us. Except for Lindsay Lohan, who recently referred to Obama as the "first colored president." But she is slipping into obscurity, so she could have said it just to get her name in the headlines again.
Still, the days of relegating stories about African Americans to a special page which ran maybe once a week are long behind us. If it wasn't for a journalism history class I had to take in college, I would not know that some newspapers once ran these seperate pages under the banner: "For our colored friends."
I suppose we will, one day, come to the point where African American becomes AP style for African Americans.
However, the French still won't elect one as their president.
Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.