Black (people)

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Black, when used to characterize people, generally refers to someone of indigenous African, Negrito, or Melanesian descent and/or a person of a dark complexion. Blackness as a social identity is difficult to universally define, as it varies from nation to nation. It is well documented that Equatorial populations of Africa, where modern humans likely originated, are the most genetically diverse in the world [1]. Although there is no single black phenotype, black people generally exhibit varying characteristics of the classic Negroid, or Africoid phenotype, with a great range of variations, due to the overall diversity of black people. In some societies, even if one's complexion is as light as the average "white" person, the remaining physical characteristics or family lineage will serve to identify one as black.


Areas of habitation

While black people are found on every continent, they are indigenous to Africa, where they predominate everywhere but the Maghreb and some portions of the northeast. Although originally indigenous to these areas as well, in portions of North Africa, centuries of miscegenation with Asiatic and later Caucasoid peoples have produced populations who are phenotypically black to varying degrees, but who currently do not refer to themselves as black. Black people are also indigenous to parts of India and Australia. Black people also are found in high concentrations in the Southern United States and the urban centers of the United States, the Caribbean and portions of Latin America.

In Asia, black people inhabit Yemen, some areas of Iraq (especially Basra), much of Nepal (especially Rana Tharu), the Andaman Islands ( Negritos ), the indigenous Dalit population of India (numbering 160 million) and the larger Dravidian population of India (though not all Dravidians consider themselves black, a sizeable proportion phenotypically reflect their African heritage and acknowledge it). There are more recent Afro-Indian groups, such as the small group of 20-30,000 black Siddis in the Gujarat province of India, the Kaffiri of the island of Sri Lanka, and small communities of Sheedis in the coastal districts of the southern province of Sindh and neighboring Baluchistan. Thousands of Sheedis also inhabit Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. Black people indigenously inhabit the island of Papua , Aboriginals inhabit Australia, and Melanesians inhabit various islands of the Pacific Rim. In addition, there are black-jewish cultures in East India (see Bene Israel), Ethiopia, and Mozambique (see Lemba).


Black people are believed to have originated in two distinct groups. Both are known to be Equatorial peoples, who live closer to warmer and sunnier climates. According to the Out-of-Africa theory of human evolution, prehistoric Africans evolved in Africa 200,000 years ago and are the ancestors of all modern humans. These Africans migrated throughout Africa, eventually moving across the Sinai Peninsula and into various regions, including Europe and beyond. Those who remained retained their distinctive skin color, while over time, the Europeans and many Asians gradually lost their darker skin as an adaption to the colder climates of the northern temperate zones. Stephen Monlar, a leading anthropologist, has pointed out that many Nilotic people have narrow noses, but this is not from intermixing with Eurasians, but from environmental adaptations. Adaptations, as well as spontaneous genetic mutations, which are the cause of variations in human phenotypes, have caused Equatorial people to exhibit a variety of phenotypes, some of which resemble the phenotypes of other groups, which sometimes leads to the mistaken assumption that they are ethnically mixed.

Early Neolithic settlement patterns indicate that black people spread out to inhabit much of the Indian Ocean coastline, contributing greatly to the Indian-Ocean cultures of the early historical period. The societies of the Indus Valley Civilization, Indonesia, and the Middle East were known to have a strong native-black heritage. Recent archaeological evidence has refuted the notion that blacks, especially black Africans, remained in Africa and generally were not present in Asia. It was once widely believed that the black presence in Asia was mostly the result of slave trading, but modern anthropologists now acknowledge that aboriginal black populations ranged throughout Southeast Asia, and some posit an ancient aboriginal black population in the Far East, as well. Some of these populations, such as the Negritos still remain.

As the legacy of both the trans-Atlantic and Islamic slave trades, many people of indigenous African descent can be found throughout the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, as well as parts of the Middle East and South Asia. The majority of African slaves in the Americas came from either West Africa or Central Africa, and the slaves in the Arab world came from both East Africa and the Horn of Africa.

The second group would be the Negrito, Australoid and Melanesian populations. These include some South Asians, a variety of East Indians, and Melanesian populations of the Pacific Ocean. They developed distinctly from the Africans around 100,000 years ago, and while maintaining the darker skin color, exhibited straighter hair on average, and eventually developed into the wider varieties of Asians.

Defining characteristics

Throughout the Modern Period, blackness has been determined mostly by three criteria: Skin color, faciocranial phenotype and sometimes hair texture. Relative distance from Europe and proximity to Africa also have been considered as determining factors, but this criterion has been the most contentious and has caused the most confusion and conflict.

Depending on one's nationality or the region in which one lives, blackness can be based more on lineage than complexion. Very light-skinned individuals may consider themselves black, and very dark-skinned people may not. Often, the perceptions of society and of the individual will conflict. Some people who very closely resemble Africans or appear to be of African descent may not consider themselves black, while some people who have black features will identify as black.

Varying definitions of the term 'black'

The definition of a black person changes from region to region and period to period. Often it is imposed at the convenience of the non-black ruling establishment of that nation or region. In other cases, as in Brazil, the name is synonymous with low social status.

The use of the term 'black' is divided into four sections.

  1. Africans living in Africa (excluding those whose ancestors were not originally from Africa, like Afrikaaners). This is applied intrinsically by those south of the Sahara, but those along the southern border of the desert and west of Chad are more likely to renounce any claims of being black, whether or not they fit within the phenotype or exhibit some of its characteristics. Relatively speaking, the people of Mauritania, Mali, Chad, most of Sudan and Ethiopia, and a significant minority of Egyptians consider themselves black. Arabization is the primary reason that many continental Africans refuse to identify as black, even when they are virtually identical to their black neighbors. This is reflected in the amount of anti-black racism experienced in areas where Arabization is prominent, like Sudan and Mauritania. Arabness is not widely considered to have an intrinsic black component, and thus those who wish to become Arab will more likely renounce their blackness.
  2. People who live outside of Africa, but are not descendants from the Atlantic ( see Middle Passage (16th century-19th Century slavery)) or Islamic/Eastern African slave trades are the Old World Equatorial people who have been described as or describe themselves as black, primarily in Asia. They have lived outside of Africa from the earliest periods of prehistory up to the present day. The term has been used to describe Aeta Filipinos, the original inhabitants of Taiwan, large groups of East Indian populations throughout history various southeast Asians, Papuans, and Melanesians. The term has been used also to describe Southern Italians and some Arabs, almost always pejoratively, as these groups resent being labeled as black.
  3. Those who live in Latin America and in some islands of the Caribbean.
  4. Those who live in Haiti, United States, and South Africa. These groups share a similar and unique experience of being separated into two groups, and being spiritually, psychologically, and physically attacked most brutally throughout the 19th century and most of the 20th century. Haiti and South Africa share a tiered, castelike system of blackness, wherein one who is mixed is called mulatto or colored, and is socially superior to those considered to be pure black, but socially inferior to the white ruling class. In the United States, black people of mixed race groups had for the most part re-integrated with the fully black population, but recently, due to a new movement to recognize biracial children of black/white couples, the division of black and biracial people has been re-introduced into America's social identity.
  5. Other: "Aeta" is a word that means "black" in Tagalog to describe the inhabitants of the Philippines who are obviously darker skinned. However, they consider the word slightly offensive. The Caucasus peoples of Abidjan, and Crimea are sometimes called black because, relatively speaking, they are darker and less European in their appearance.

Self-identified vs imposed blackness

There are two ways that a person can be defined as a black person. There is the impositional method, whereby political and social forces will label a darker skinned person as black. This has occurred in India, the Western Hemisphere, and throughout Africa. This method has been used to divide ethnic groups as well as to create a caste system of privilege and control in many colonized areas.

The second, the intrinsic method, is where a person or group of people independently identify themselves as being black; the Aeta are one group whose first contact with Chinese mainlanders involved no subjugation, so they proudly identified themselves as black.

Family ties, the importance of solidarity against anti-black racism, resistance to colonialism, and opposition to perceived white supremacy or eurocentric philosophies motivate people with varying degrees of Equatorial lineage to identify solely as black. Since the 1940s, with the established viewpoint in the Western world shifting, many groups once considered "black" by colonizing powers—even as recently as a century ago—have now lost that identity in official policies, e.g. national census reports, established anthropological studies, historical and archaeological reports.

As modern communication develops around the world, most of the varieties of black people have become aware of each other, and many self-identified black people (especially in the United States) are working to change the sometimes negative perception of black skin, culture, and heritage in order to increase the political, economic, and social well-being of black people around the world. Since the nuances of black identity have changed outside of the US, this message is received differently by the various groups in the world. Many modern societies attempt to observe no distinctions between human races or identities; others do exactly the opposite. Sometimes, those who have the core characteristics of dark skin and phenotype exclude those who lack it, even though both share ancestors and/or historical experiences.

Some countries, like Brazil, have begun to rediscover and celebrate their African heritage, while other countries like Egypt and the northern areas of Sudan tend to denounce it entirely whenever possible, holding on to Arabic or Semitic influences as their primary heritage. Arabization has been a major imposition on the native Africans of various areas of Africa throughout the 2nd millennium, affecting black identity even to the present day.

20th Century changes

There is a discontinuity between the older historical accounts and the modern descriptions by non-black people of what a black person is. The Bible, one of the oldest liturgical accounts, describes in Hebrew a black person as a Kushite (a term that would be considered synonymous with black today). Some interpretations tend to discredit this, and instead insist that Kushite described a dark-skinned but non-black person. Some scholars attempt to reclassify Africans or black people of antiquity into a non-black subtype that merely resembles black people. Usually, East Africans from as far north as Egypt to as far south as Rwanda are variously recast by modern scholarship as non-black Caucasoids, whose heritage is not truly connected to the greater black populations of Africa.

Sadly, those who are or have been defined as being black have not been asked what black means, but instead have been told what it does not mean, as a method of social exclusion. In how they are defined, blacks, much more than any other group have been excluded from defining themselves officially. Because of this, some of the most awkward controversies arise in historical contexts. For example, the average black person today certainly resembles the average resident of Ancient Egypt. Many of the distinctive Ancient Egyptian social customs (hair styles, shaving habits, burial practices) and quirks are also found among black people but absent in Semitic and European people of that period and the modern one.

Gradually, the connections between black and Asian cultures has created more cultural awareness between the two groups. During the 20th Century, the Afrocentric and Negritude movements had opened the minds of black people to their historical heritage throughout the world. Many black scholars have exposed ancient writings and 19th century observations and republished them. Cheikh Anta Diop, a Senegalese historian, made the most profound impact by presenting a wide variety of information and evidence showing the acute black presence in Egypt and elsewhere. In addition, Ivan Sertima, a noted Africanologist made a strong impact with African presence in Early Asia. Many Asians have participated in the founding of various black movements, including Wallace Fard Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam.

Black people born in the United States are adopting a new term, "Afrimerican", which denotes African ancestry but a native birth in America and as American. Introduced in 1989, Afrimerican is growing as a distinct term of description for black people born in America.

Refocusing of black identity

Due to the Internet, worldwide news reporting and various media outlets, black identities throughout the world are interconnecting in a way that the Pan-African and Afrocentric movement had not anticipated, but in such a way that eclipses practically any international identity, including whiteness, Jewry, Arab, and Latino idenity (the four largest ethnic identities in the world). Since black people throughout the world share the same experiences of exclusion and marginalization even within the Latino, Jewish, and Arab identity, there is a renewed intellectual interest, bolstered by the access to the Internet, to share these experiences. Many Africans (Runoko Rashidi), Asian (Paul Manansala), Latinos (Ivan Sertima), and even Caucasians (Joel Freeman) are taking roles, through the new media outlets of today, promoting the human scope of black identity, refocusing the context of history in order to clarify that black identity is as meaningful and integral to human identity as any other.

Although there are constant accusations of Afrocentric bias by non-blacks, these intellectuals have taken a step of introducing a plethera of information and insight from a variety of unexpected sources that, until recently, were virtually unknown to the modern world. These new and valid historical perspectives are allowing people to be comfortable to view the world, to take an interest, and to find interaction with other black people without any social stigma and without the tell-tale assumptions and social status-quo ignorance that permeates the world. So that ultimately black people from India, Africa, Latin America, and the United States can interact on a social and economic level without the kind of nationalistic boundaries that had been designed during the colonisation process starting in the 17th century and ending in the 20th century to divide and weakean their self-determination. One recent example was the former president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, taking refuge in South Africa after being removed from power in 2004.

The impact of African-Americans on worldwide black identity

There has been a strong position by African Americans that regional proximity to Africa proper is and should be the third defining characteristic of blackness. This belief has been bolstered by the Afrocentric, Negritude and Negrisimo movements of the 20th century, which focused on socio-economic unity between Africa and black people of the West. Driving these movements is a desire to improve the perception of the West African diaspora (most black people in the Western Hemisphere originate from West Africa), whose contributions to the history and culture of the West have often been maligned or ignored.

Certain aspects of African-American culture, especially hip hop have played a role in increasing the pride of people of black identity around the world.

Black identity embraced and rejected

Over time the term black has come to refer to those who identify themselves as black by virtue of their family's shared cultural heritage with Equatorial Africa, slavery, and experiences of oppression based on their Equatorial lineage and skin color. Black has also been a term imposed by ligher-skinned people on various darker-skinned people to take advantage of and exclude them. Many times this label of blackness has been embraced by the oppressed for the sake of moral solidarity against the oppressors. The Jewish diaspora also through their shared religious history maintain a similar commonality of identity that universally transcends any other differences, although black Jews are experiencing the same amount of prejudice in Israel and often are looked at with less legitimacy than whiter Jews strictly due to their skin color.

Despite this, many non-Blacks work to de-emphasize the blackness of non-African blacks by contrasting their differences towards the black African. Often, the word "black" or the idea of being "truly black" becomes synonymous with being a "West African oriented person". In Kerala for example, many Jews who are dark skinned identified themselves as being black and were considered such by the "white" Jews that lived among them. However, the recent white established view is that these Cochin Jews are black but not as black as a Negro or a black African. Nevertheless, the "white" Jews of Cochin had engaged in the same racial prejudice and slavery and exclusionary principles against the black Jews of Cochin over the centuries of their inhabitation there. The white Jews limited the educational and litergual access that the black Cochin Jews were able to obtain, and due to the establishments from the European regions, they were able to consolidate power based on their skin color. Only recently now has there an interest in disassociating blackness from these Jews due to lighterskinned Jews (and Europeans) generally find disdain in harmonizing blackness, especially African blackness with their culture and heritage.

Criticisms of the term

Most criticisms against the term are based on either a Eurocentric fear of its inclusion of others in the world outside of Africa and North America, or the use of hypodescent rules to try to classify anyone as black, due to the fact that somewhere down the line, everyone has a black ancestor no matter how far back in time one goes, even to the earliest prehistoric human days.

Many scholars legitimately criticize the hypodescent rule even though their motivations for doing so are often to limit any social movement towards economic self-determination among black diaspora. This very rule, constantly villified by many Eurocentric scholars (especially when applied to ancient cultures by Afrocentric scholars) was established by white politicans generations ago, also as a means to limit economic and social self-determination among non-whites. This one drop rule, which white American, Australian, and, to a lesser extent, other colonies had established for the sake of upholding white society's perceptions of purity with its own identity, became the de facto social experience for black people across the United States. For the sake of moral solidarity against the immoral oppression, this rule was embraced by black people in America, especially in a Christian context, and the effect has become a permanent aspect of black identity. Once black literature and intellectual expression experienced a boom in the beginning of the 20th century, the hypodecent rule became a new threat to European colonial ambitions, and to white racial-social controls.

As time passed, and Jim Crow laws of racial segregation were outlawed in the 1960s, educated whites felt more and more that the significance of the one drop rule should also be de-emphasized due to the changing times. Their fear is that the outcome of maintaing the hypocescent would cause every interracial union with a black person to lower the longterm population of whites in America, and Europe, whose population rates are flat for the projected future.

The U.S. Census multiracial category was rejected as an outright attempt by the federal government of the United States to divide black people into subgroups similarily like Haiti and South Africa, where "colored" would be replaced with "bi-racial". Many Afrocentric movements reinforced the importance of the hypodescent effect within the borders of the United States for this reason, but reject applying the rule to others elsewhere, due to the ambigious identity of many mixed groups (Latinos, Arabs, some Asians). Feeling the need to remove the monolithic perspective of black identity in America, and fearing a spread of black identity across the world through the media, especially in hip hop culture and Afrocentricism, whites social commentary has continually worked to undermine this hypodescent effect.

The Classical Negro vis-a-vis Afrocentricism

Much of the commentary about the blackness (or lack thereof) of a society or civilizaion revolves around the ideology that the most legitimate kind of black person should come from West Africa and have very specific negroid features. This "Classical Negro" argument for legitimacy is rooted in a Eurocentric philosophy that nebulously defines a person's blackness solely in contrast to their difference from an idolized variety of the Northeastern European. This European look, blonde hair, very aqualine nose, thin lips, round eyes of blue, angular features and a pronounced chin, has been the status quo standard that has created such a psychological impact upon the world, because it was forced upon so many as a social means of respectability, it became a subconscious standard for which most other cultures have tried to emulate. Eurocentric scholars, most notably those supporting a variety of Social Darwinism, tend to create a polar view of humanity, with the stereotypical view of the West African, large lips, black kinky hair, very wide nose, rounded features and an overbite, in opposition to the European idealized look.

This polarized propaganda in all of its varieties has been designed to support the Eurocentric view that all other groups in the world have contributed to the development of society and civilization proportional to their proximity to the Northeastern European type. Since the West African is viewed as the opposite of the idealized European type, the West African is considered the least contributive to world history.

The actual motivation of this view is based on residual prejudice against those of West African origin (Mainly African-Americans) who have been most effective in speaking out against Eurocentricism and white prejudice. Due to the influence of West African and African American intellectuals in the 20th Century, the white established racial views were under threat of being disassembled by the virtue of the ubiquitous one-drop rule, and by the fact that many ancient civilizations that were spoken of in the Bible, and respected in European society, had been discovered to be of substantial black and/or black African origin.

Most notably, the Egyptian society was viewed as a black society by Jean-François Champollion in his book "L'Egypte" in the mid 19 Century, and many black intellectuals had expounded on this observation. As time passed, more and more civilizations within Africa were discovered with indications that they colonized some areas of Asia and interacted with other ancient civilizations as equals. This realistic possibility became an educational threat to the perceived moral sensitivies of the white European caste systems throughout the world, as colonization was morally justified by Europeans based on their perceived civilized or technological experience.

These revelations, once discovered by black intellectuals, began a cascade effect in the 20th century of re-evaluating world cultures from an Afrocentric perspective. Eurocentric scholars responded by noting that West African societies, which the majority of American blacks are descended from, have not been a part of any intercontinental civilization and contributed very little towards any artistic, social or philosophical acheievement. Therefore, the "classical negro" became synonymous with "truly black" and used as a lightning rod against redefining Asian and ancient civilizations as "black".

Unfortunately many Afrocentric scholars, following this same faulty logic, tend to respond by finding any possible trace of West African heritage in any civilization. Both sides ignore the variations in West Africans and their very complex histories. Because of this, the issue deterioriates into a moral tug of war between Eurocentric scholarly view that stands morally against hypo-descent, and the Afrocentric view, that morally emphasizes the founding and continual contributions of black Africans to Ancient Egyptian, and other societies, cultures and history. Both views resort to diffusionism and the nebulousity of blackness to either include or exclude Ancient Egypt (and most East Indian, Asian, and East African cultures), by resorting to an extreme stereotype of the West African as the legitimate standard to determine "how" black a civilization or group of people are. In Ivan Sertima's defense of his thesis that black African people came to the West before Christopher Columbus, "Reply to my critics", he laid out 10 myths that he responds to, with the second addressing these misconceptions about West Africans and Egyptians, noting that the critics supporting the classical negro as a West African standard are ignorant of the variations of features of "pure blooded" West Africans.

In addition, it is clear that these critics do not apply the same standards of facial phenotype upon Europeans. A European with a large nose, curly hair, or tanned skin would not be considered "less" European, white, or Caucasoid than any other, but instead be considered another type of European. In the same manner, it is understood that Africans have a variety of features, none owing to a European, Arab or non-Black progenitor.

Renouncing blackness

Those who wish to be identified by either their national origin alone, or by a color term other than black are often considered "sellouts" by those who embrace their own black identity. It is often feared that these "sellouts" wish to socialize primarily with the colonizing elite and hide their own black heritage. In the West, this is usually the root cause of recent divisions within Latino culture that are manifesting themselves politically (most notably in Cuba). Some may choose to suppress or renounce their black heritage for economic reasons, but the social effects are almost always the lowest common denominator: acceptance into the dominating elite earns respect and prestige and a feeling of meaningful accomplishment. By passing into white identity, those who renounce their blackness often feel that they are achieving a self-respect and dignity not possible within a black identity. The novel 'Black No More' by George Schuyler exposes this underlying motivation, and is still considered an up-to-date commentary on the issue, and it also tackles the larger issue of recognizing race as a social construct and not a biological reality.

Some black individuals and some cultures of black African origin may take great effort to renounce their identity as well as to renounce or play down their own African ancestry while emphasizing the other heritage or cultural background present in their society. Latinozation and Arabization are the two most potent forces of de-Africanization, due to the lingering effects of colonization and racism imposed on their cultures by the colonial rulers of the past few centuries. The colonizing elite of Latin America, North Africa, and East Africa had universally applied the skin-color caste-system throughout their dominions, which emphasized the supposed virtues of the lighter-skinned peoples, and generated a shame of darker-skinned identity.

The ruling elite of the Middle East also encouraged this social policy, although to a lesser degree, and had been known as far back as the 8th century for enslaving black Africans. The Zanj Rebellion of Iraq (869 - 883) was an early slave insurrection that led to the fall of the Abbasid Caliphate. These rebellions had been caused by inhumane treatment of black African slaves sent to Iraq to drain salt marshes.

Over the centuries, lighter-skinned people were taught by the ruling powers to view themselves as one step above their darker-skinned countrymen. The policy to marginalize and exclude black people from equal and mutual respect, educational opportunity, and self-reliance became nearly a subconscious social policy throughout European-dominated societies. Because of this, throughout the modern era, black people, whether self-identified or not, are on average economically marginalized or at the lower rungs of the political and socio-economic structures of the countries they reside in. Although this is changing at a more rapid pace, black self-identity is constantly being re-evaluated in light of the economic impact it can have on one's well being.

Myths regarding black people

Many stereotypes remain throughout the world regarding the nature of black people. Most of these myths are the result of racist perceptions introduced to many cultures by Western (esp. American) blackface minstrel show performances of the 19th century, colonial attitudes about race and intelligence in the early 20th century, and reactionary assumptions by intellectuals to Afrocentric scholarship (regardless of accuracy) in the late 20th century. Some myths include

  1. That black Africans rarely ventured from the continent of Africa of their own free will, and instead came merely as slaves or hired soldiers to Asian civilizations.
  2. Intelligence quotient standardized testing, a very recent Western social practice, holds some defining or relevant intellectual characteristic of black, and especially West African descendants.
  3. Most Old World cultures that show equatorial featured peoples (Egypt, India) do not represent black people, but instead represent Caucasian people with a tan.
  4. The growing black presence in many cultures contributed to the demise of the societies and civiilizations they inhabited.
  5. In pre-modern times, invention, discovery, and adaptation was a one way affair, only non-blacks would invent, create, or express a new idea or art form, and those in Africa would eventually mimic it.
  6. Blacks are predisposed (either biologically or inherently through cultural history) towards self-destruction.
  7. Black people must have originated from Caucasoid ancestors.

Many of these myths have actually been tested, with scientists performing biological tests on unsuspecting black men to find out if they indeed are biologically predisposed to rage. Cranial and DNA statistics are used as evidence of an inherent biological-social difference, with social impositions by white establishments largely ignored as contributing to the social impact on black people as a whole. Many people feel that IQ tests, which black people score, on average, lower than whites and Asians, indicate something other than the social effects of generations lingering racism and prejudice. The IQ tests are meant to reveal an effect, and do not address the root causes of the test results. Archaeological results of antique and ancient Equatorial people have revealed civilized socieities, yet many scientists are apt to play down the native Equatorial heritage and reclassify these socieities outside of their black context.

Non-black perspectives

The term black is often used in the West to denote race for people of predominantly Sub-saharan African ancestry. The anthropological term for these peoples, now considered somewhat archaic, is Negroid; 'Africoid' is increasingly used instead.

The U.S. Census racial definitions of white, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American use "original" to describe the ancestry. The black racial definition group omits the word 'original'. This exclusion of black people from recognition of an original heritage has kept the foundation of defining black people nebulous, and keeps the door open to misunderstandings and manipulation of black identity.

In the U.S., for example, a black person was defined by non-black white policymakers as one who had any visibly substantial black ancestry (whether familial or phenotypic), and virtually all of Africa, Egypt included, had been defined as black. Other peoples were classified as black in European-colonized countries.

Although once considered black or at least substantially black, the Philippines, Australia, India, Central America, Samoa, part of Italy and the Horn of Africa have now been removed, by the faulty reasoning of the same ruling establishments: that their proximity to West Africa is the primary factor in determining how black they should be considered. Therefore a very dark-skinned Filipino, or an East Indian who may or may not be of African descent, is considered "less black" than an African American or an African whose skin color is lighter in complexion. Because of the vocal and social strength of African Americans, their identity has become the dominant standard outside of Africa, to which all other cultures outside of Africa are compared. This invariably causes problems in other cultures whose experiences are no less valid, yet whose relationship to the West African culture is not as strong, and whose cultures are not as polarized.

Many people think that a completely different, diluted use of the term is appropriate for other peoples who happen to have a dark skin, such as Indigenous Australians, New Guineans, Tamils, other darker peoples of the Indian subcontinent, some southeast Asians (namely of mixed or full Negrito descent) and various South Pacific Islanders and others. In Russia the name chornyye (чёрные, blacks) applies mostly not to Africans, but to people from the Caucasus, who are indeed dark skinned, contrary to what one might think given the use of the term Caucasian in the United States.

In many countries, there is still a strong (though weakening) social stigma against those persons identifying themselves as part of more than one perceived racial category. Hence, it may be truer to say that people who perceive themselves or are perceived by others as a member of a black cultural group often are called black. As noted above, this perception can be imposed by others or intrinsic and celebrated by those who perceive themselves to be black.

In the United States the term Negro (from negro, Spanish and Portuguese for 'black') was widely used until the 1960s, and remains a constituent part of the names of several Afro/African American organizations. Another term given currency at the time was coloured. However, following the black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the terms Negro and coloured usually were deemed derogatory and inappropriate. By contrast, "black" (which some considered a pejorative when 'Negro' was in widespread use) has gained increasing acceptance worldwide. In the United States, it is often used interchangeably with African-American, a newer term preferred by many leaders and commentators. In Canada this is also used, as well as black Canadian. Some people find the term black offensive when used as a noun (a black) as opposed to an adjective (a black person).

In the United Kingdom, the term black Briton is sometimes used but it is more common to use an adjectival rather than a noun term and write about black British people. Occasionally, the term is loosely used to include British people of south Asian descent; additionally, the Arab based bank BCCI was perceived by many black British as a "black bank". See also: British Afro-Caribbean community. Very rarely the term has been used (e.g. in local government) to include all potential sufferers of racial prejudice — even white Irish immigrants — though this is seen by some as an example of political correctness.

In South Africa, the term blacks is used for the general black population, but since the country consists of different ethnic groups, they are often called by their ethnic names, e.g. Zulus, Xhosas, Basutos etc. In the Netherlands, something similar is often done, by naming blacks after their country of origin, e.g. Somaliër, Senegalees, Nigeriaan, Antilliaan or Surinamer, though it should be noted that the latter two can also refer to whites from the Netherlands Antilles or Surinam.

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