Black Isn’t a Racial Slur

Is Black A Racial Slur?

No. Black isn’t a racial slur.

I once had a manager who would change my reports to say “African-American,” whenever I described someone as “Black.” It didn’t matter if the person was a Black man from Japan, the manager always changed my description from “Black,” to “African-American.” I knew that  particular manager would not be receptive to discussion as to why “Black” was the correct term, so I did the only thing I could do. I stopped noting race in my reports all together. This, even though race was unfortunately an important element of my reports.

Black isn’t a racial slur, but some people think that it is.

My manager’s  actions may have been well intentioned.  Many people believe that the word “Black” is less professional than the term “African- American.”  For some, describing someone as “Black” is akin to using a racial slur.  This is understandable when viewed in light of the rise of the term, “African-American.”


Origins of Black vs African-American

The term “African-American” was popularized by Rev. Jesse Jackson, who campaigned to make the term the preferred descriptor of people, who, at the time, were largely described as “Black.” Being called “Black,” Rev. Jackson said, was as “baseless” as being called a Negro or Colored. He opined that such terms spoke only to the color of the skin, and not to the origin of the person. As an American man, in America, his position was understandable and, his campaign, well meaning, and laudable.

Many Blacks in America supported Rev. Jackson’s campaign. Allies also got behind the campaign to shun the word “Black.”


African-American not Synonymous with Being Black

The problem however, is that the term “African-American” is not synonymous with the word “Black.” This makes sense if you think about the millions of Black people all over the world who aren’t American. Further, even some Blacks in American don’t consider themselves to be African-American, myself being one such Black person.

You see, although I am an American citizen, and have lived in America for the majority of my life, I was born in Jamaica and lived there until my early teens. I consider myself to be Jamaican as well as American. I am also proud of my African heritage. So, I simply refer to myself as “Black.” For me, referring to myself as “Black” is a more accurate descriptor of who I am, than the term “African-American” is, since the term “African-American” does not account for my Jamaican background. For me, the word “Black” speaks to my entire heritage.


Black Does Not Mean Anti-White

There are of course those  whose believe that the definition of  the word “Black” is to be “anti-white”.  Or those who may comment that the use of the word “Black” is to somehow assert superiority over other races. Nothing could be further from the truth. But, we will save that discussion for a later date.

To summarize, Black isn’t a racial slur.  It is not unprofessional or impolite. It is politically correct. It is not a political or militant stance. It is not anti-white or opposed to other races.

“Black” is simply an accurate descriptor of race for millions of Black people. And, of course, Black Lives Matter.

If you’re unsure as to how to refer to a Black/African-American person, just ask them what their preference is.

*Adapted, with permission.


Black is not a racial slur.  African-American is not synonymous with “Black”.  Refer to people as they wish, Black/African-American/He/She/They etc. Be open to learning, and, empower employees to share their lived in knowledge.    Contact us to discuss our services  reach out to us.