1. It classifies black Americans in a way that is only paralleled by “Asian-Americans.” Caucasian Americans are not called European-American, let alone “French-American” because 1) Africa is a large, expansive continent, and 2) to say “European-American” is to simply refer to someone as European and American—classifications independent of race as it is understood as a social construct. The question we as an American society must ask ourselves is: why are black Americans expected to accept the linkage to the African continent when the same is not expected in the delineation of peoples of other racial backgrounds?
2. Not every black person America is “originally from Africa.” Black American-Puerto-Ricans and Panamanians, among many others, are classified as “African-American” under today’s classification of black Americans. Furthermore, these labels, like “African-American” and “Native-American,” seek to establish these “racial” groups as second class citizens when in fact their American identity is equal to that of white Americans, if not more (re: Native-Americans).
3. Above all else, race is a social construct. The “African” part of the racial label “African-American” implies that black Americans are not full Americans; this makes more sense once the term is contextualized in the period of legal slavery in the U.S. These labels are the same mechanism that Apartheid leaders were able to strategically use to create divisions within the black population, as to decrease political autonomy and prevent their unification in an attempt to overhaul the oppressive Apartheid regime.
Today, I believe the many black Americans who identify as African-American are well within their right to do so; no one is qualified to impose their presumptions of “race” on another person. Several black Americans have argued that the term is true to their origins as descendants of formerly enslaved peoples captured from, in large, the Western coasts of Africa. Still, when introducing the term African-American as a racial category, it is important to remain cognizant of the historical origins and implications of our word-choice.