People of the United States of America

People of the United States of America

"This page is about US people. For other uses see American people"

This article deals with the various populations inhabiting the United States of America that includes over 120 groups often divided into the the indigenous tribal groups, descendants of the European (largely Caucasian) migrants that begun arriving in North America from the early 16th century [Although earlier evidence of European arrival in North America has been found, no permanent settlement was established] , the descendants of the African slaves that were brought to the continent from the 17th century, and migrants from other parts of the World that begun to arrive from the late 18th century. The Hispanic and Latino Americans represent a significant percentage of the United States demographic descendant from either the pre-Republican areas originally settled by Spain, or the more recent migrants arriving from Spanish-speaking countries of the Latin and South American regions.

Indigenous tribal groups

The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Americas, their descendants, and many ethnic groups who identify with those peoples. They are often also referred to as Native Americans, First Nations and by Christopher Columbus' historical mistake "Indians", modernly disambiguated as the "American Indian race", "American Indians", "Amerindians", "Amerinds" or "Red Indians".

According to the still-debated New World migration model, a migration of humans from Eurasia to the Americas took place via Beringia, a land bridge which formerly connected the two continents across what is now the Bering Strait. The minimum time depth by which this migration had taken place is confirmed at c. 12,000 years ago, with the upper bound (or earliest period) remaining a matter of some unresolved contention. [See Jacobs 2001 for an extensive review of the evidence for migration timings, and Jacobs 2002 for a survey of migration models.] These early Paleoamericans soon spread throughout the Americas, diversifying into many hundreds of culturally distinct nations and tribes. [Jacobs (2002).] According to the oral histories of many of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, they have been living there since their genesis, described by a wide range of traditional creation accounts.

Application of the term "Indian" originated with Christopher Columbus, who thought that he had arrived in the East Indies, while seeking India. This has served to imagine a kind of racial or cultural unity for the aboriginal peoples of the Americas. Once created, the unified "Indian" was codified in law, religion, and politics. The unitary idea of "Indians" was not originally shared by indigenous peoples, but many now embrace the identity.

While some indigenous peoples of the Americas were historically hunter-gatherers, many practiced aquaculture and agriculture. The impact of their agricultural endowment to the world is a testament to their time and work in reshaping, taming, and cultivating the flora indigenous to the Americas. [Mann (2005).] Some societies depended heavily on agriculture while others practiced a mix of farming, hunting, and gathering. In some regions the indigenous peoples created monumental architecture, large-scale organized cities, chiefdoms, states, and massive empires.

European descendants

The current U.S. Census definition includes white "people having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa. [ The White Population: 2000] , Census 2000 Brief C2KBR/01-4, U.S. Census Bureau, August 2001.] The U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation describes white people as "having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa through racial categories used in the UCR Program adopted from the Statistical Policy Handbook (1978) and published by the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards, U.S. Department of Commerce. [ Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook] , U.S. Department of Justice. Federal Bureau of Investigation. P. 97 (2004)]

The cultural boundaries separating white Americans from other racial or ethnic categories are contested and always changing. Among those not considered white at some points in American history have been the immigrants form the Iberian Peninsula [The demographics of the Iberian population also include the groups derived from the North African Moors] , the British Isles, and Europe including the Ashkenazi Jews. [John Tehranian, "Performing Whiteness: Naturalization Litigation and the Construction of Racial Identity in America," "The Yale Law Journal", Vol. 109, No. 4. (Jan., 2000), pp. 825-827.] Studies have found that while current parameters officially encompassed Middle Eastern Americans as part of the White American racial category, a lot of Middle Eastern Americans from places other than Bilad al-Sham feel they are not white and are not perceived as white by American society." [ Caliber - Sociological Perspectives - 47(4):371 - Abstract ] ]

Professor David R. Roediger of the University of Illinois, suggests that the construction of the white race in the United States was an effort to mentally distance slave owners from slaves. [Roediger, Wages of Whiteness, 186; Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (New York, 1998). ] By the 18th century, "white" had become well established as a racial term. The process of officially being defined as "white" by law often came about in court disputes over pursuit of citizenship. The Immigration Act of 1790 offered naturalization only to "any alien, being a free white person". In at least 52 cases, people denied the status of white by immigration officials sued in court for status as white people. By 1923, courts had vindicated a "common-knowledge" standard, concluding that "scientific evidence" was incoherent. Legal scholar John Tehranian argues that in reality this was a "performance-based" standard, relating to religious practices, education, intermarriage and a community's role in the United States. [John Tehranian, "Performing Whiteness: Naturalization Litigation and the Construction of Racial Identity in America," "The Yale Law Journal", Vol. 109, No. 4. (Jan., 2000), pp. 817-848.]

In 1923, the Supreme Court decided in "United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind" that people of India were not "free white men" entitled to citizenship, despite anthropological evidence in "the extreme northwestern districts of India" there is present the "Caucasian or Aryan race" with an "intermixture of blood" from the "dark skinned Dravidian" according to George Sutherland. United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, Certificate From The Circuit Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit., No. 202. Argued January 11, 12, 1923.—Decided February 19, 1923, United States Reports, v. 261, The Supreme Court, October Term, 1922, 204–215.]

Descendants of the African slave trade

In the first 200 years that blacks had been in the United States, they commonly referred to themselves as Africans. In Africa, people primarily identified themselves by tribe or ethnic group (closely allied to language) and not by skin color. Individuals would be Asante, Yoruba, Kikongo or Wolof. But when Africans were brought to the Americas they were forced to give up their tribal affiliations for fear of uprisings. The result was the Africans had to intermingle with other Africans from different tribal groups. This is significant as Africans came from a vast geographic region, the West African coastline stretching from Senegal to Angola and in some cases from the south east coast such as Mozambique. A new identity and culture was born that incorporated elements of the various tribal groups and of European cultural heritage, resulting in fusions such as the Black church and Black English. This new identity was now based on skin color and African ancestry rather than any one tribal group.cite web| last = Shahadah| first = Owen 'Alik| authorlink =Owen 'Alik Shahadah| title =Linguistics for a new African reality| url=]

In March of 1807, Britain, which largely controlled the Atlantic, declared the trans-atlantic slave trade illegal, as did the United States. (The latter prohibition took effect January 1, 1808, the earliest date on which Congress had the power to do so under of the United States Constitution.)

By that time, the majority of blacks were U.S.-born, so use of the term "African" became problematic. Though initially a source of pride, many blacks feared its continued use would be a hindrance to their fight for full citizenship in the US. They also felt that it would give ammunition to those who were advocating repatriating blacks back to Africa. In 1835 black leaders called upon black Americans to remove the title of "African" from their institutions and replace it with "Negro" or "Colored American". A few institutions however elected to keep their historical names such as African Methodist Episcopal Church. "Negro" and "colored" remained the popular terms until the late 1960s. [ [ African American Journeys to Africa page63-64] ]

The term "black" was used throughout but not frequently as it carried a certain stigma.In his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, [cite video|url=| people = Martin Luther King, Jr.| title = I Have a Dream| medium = Google Video| location = Washington, D.C.|date=August 28, 1963 ] Martin Luther King, Jr. uses the terms "Negro" 15 times and "black" 4 times. Each time he uses "black" it is in parallel construction with "white" (e.g., black men and white men). [cite journal| last = Tom W.| first = Smith| title = Changing Racial Labels: From "Colored" to "Negro" to "Black" to "African American"| journal = The Public Opinion Quarterly| volume = 56| pages = 496-514| url=|date = Winter, 1992| publisher = Oxford University Press.] With the successes of the civil rights movement a new term was needed to break from the past and help shed the reminders of legalized discrimination. In place of "Negro", "black" was promoted as standing for racial pride, militancy and power. Some of the turning points included the use of the term "Black Power" by Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael) and the release of James Brown's song "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud".

In 1988 Jesse Jackson urged Americans to use the term African American because the term has a historical cultural base. Since then African American and black have essentially a coequal status. There is still much controversy over which term is more appropriate. Some strongly reject the term African American in preference for black citing that they have little connection with Africa. Others believe the term black is inaccurate because African Americans have a variety of skin tones. [cite news| last = McWhorter| first = John H.| title = Why I'm Black, Not African American| publisher = Los Angeles Times|date=September 8, 2004| url =] Surveys show that when interacting with each other African Americans prefer the term black, as it is associated with intimacy and familiarity. The term "African American" is preferred for public and formal use. [cite book| last = Miller| first = Pepper| coauthors = Herb Kemp| title = What's Black About? Insights to Increase Your Share of a Changing African-American Market| publisher = Paramount Market Publishing, Inc| date= 2006| isbn = 0972529098] The appropriateness of this term is further confused, however, by increases in black immigrants from Africa the Caribbean and Latin America. The more recent immigrants, may sometimes view themselves, and be viewed, as culturally distinct from native descendants of African slaves. [ [ "'African American' Becomes a Term for Debate"] , New York Times, August 29, 2004.]

The U.S. census race definitions says a black is a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as "Black, African Am., or Negro," or who provide written entries such as African American, Afro American, Kenyan, Nigerian, or Haitian. However, the Census Bureau notes that these classifications are socio-political constructs and should not be interpreted as scientific or anthropological. [ [ 2000 US Census basics] ]

A considerable portion of the U.S. population identified as "black" actually have some Native American or European American ancestry. For instance, genetic studies of African American people show an ancestry that is on average 17-18% European. [ [ How White Are Blacks? How Black Are Whites? by Steve Sailer] ]

"One drop rule"

Historically the United States used a colloquial term, the "one drop rule", to designate a black as any person with any known African ancestry.cite web| last = James| first = F. Davis| title = Who is Black? One Nation's Definition| url=| publisher = PBS] The "one drop rule" was virtually unique to the United States and was applied almost exclusively to blacks. Outside of the US, definitions of who is black vary from country to country but generally, multiracial people are not required by society to identify themselves as black (cf. mulatto and related terms). The most significant consequence of the "one drop rule" was that many African Americans who had significant European ancestry, whose appearance was very European, would identify themselves as black.

The "one drop rule" may have originated as a means of increasing the number of black slaves [Clarence Page, [ A Credit to His Races] , "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer", May 1, 1997.] and been maintained as an attempt to keep the white race pure, [ [ "Presenting the Triumph of the One-Drop Rule" ] by Frank Sweet] but one of its unintended consequences was uniting the African American community and preserving an African identity. Some of the most prominent civil rights activists were multiracial but yet stood up for equality for all. It is said that W.E.B. Du Bois could have easily passed for white yet he became the preeminent scholar in Afro-American studies. [cite news| last = Nakao| first = Annie| title = Play explores corrosive prejudice within black community| publisher = San Francisco Chronicle| date=January 28 2004| url =] He chose to spend his final years in Africa and immigrated to Ghana where he died aged 95. Booker T. Washington had a white father, [cite web| title = Mixed Historical Figures| url=] and Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan both had at least one white grandparent. That said, colorism, or intraracial discrimination based on skin tone, does affect the black community. It is a sensitive issue or a taboo subject. Open discussions are often labeled as "airing dirty laundry". [cite web| last = Crawford| first = Larry D.| title = Racism, Colorism and Power| url=] [cite journal| first = Trina | last = Jones| title =Shades of Brown: The Law of Skin Color| journal = Duke Law Journal| volume = 49 | pages = 1487|url=| date = October 1972| publisher = Duke University School of Law]

Many people in the United States are rejecting the "one drop rule" and are questioning whether a person with one black parent should be considered black or biracial. Although politician Barack Obama self-identifies as black, 55 percent of whites and 61 percent of Hispanics classified him as biracial instead of black after being told that his mother is white. Blacks were less likely to acknowledge a multiracial category, with 66% labeling Obama as black. [cite news| title = Obama and 'one drop of non-white blood'| publisher = BBS News|date=April 13 2007| url =] Forty-two percent of African-Americans described Tiger Woods as black, as did 7% of white Americans. [cite web| last = White| first =John Kennet| title =Barack Obama and the Politics of Race| place =Catholic University of America| url=]


The concept of blackness in the United States has been described as the degree to which one associates themselves with mainstream African American culture and values. This concept is not so much about skin color or tone, but more about culture and behavior. Spike Lee may be considered authentically black by some for his contribution to black consciousness through film. Muhammad Ali may also be considered authentically black as a global symbol of the black identity.

Blackness can be contrasted with "acting white" in which black individuals are said to behave more like mainstream white Americans than fellow blacks. This includes choice in fashion, the way one speaks or listening to stereotypically white music. [ [ Acting White. By Melissa Edler] Kent State Magazine.]

The notion of blackness can also be extended to non-blacks. Toni Morrison once described Bill Clinton as the first black president. [ [ Blacks and Bill Clinton] ] This was because of his warm relations with African Americans, his poor upbringing and also because he is a jazz musician. Christopher Hitchens was offended by the notion of Clinton as the first black president noting "we can still define blackness by the following symptoms: alcoholic mothers, under-the-bridge habits...the tendency to sexual predation and shameless perjury about the same" [No One Left to Lie to by Christopher Hitchens, 1999, pg 47] Some black activists were also offended, claiming Clinton used his knowledge of black culture to exploit blacks like no other president ever has [ [ Find Articles 404 File not found ] ] for political gain, while not serving black interests. They note his lack of action during the Rwanda genocide, [ [,12271,1182431,00.html US chose to ignore Rwandan genocide | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited ] ] his welfare reform which led to the worst child poverty since the 1960s [ [ Clinton's welfare reform has increased child poverty ] ] along with the fact that number of blacks in jail increased during his administration. [ [ Kevin Alexander Gray: Soul Brother? Clinton and Black Americans ] ] The question of blackness arose in the early stages of Barack Obama's campaign for the 2008 presidential campaign. Some have questioned whether Obama, who is likely to be the first black presidential candidate of a major American political party, is black enough, since his mother is white American and his father is a Kenyan immigrant. Obama refers to himself as black and African American using both terms interchangeably although he is not a descendant of the the African slave trade history. [ [ Transcript Excerpt: Sen. Barack Obama, Read A Transcript Excerpt Of Steve Kroft’s Interview With Sen. Obama - CBS News ] ] Polls at the start of the campaign showed Hillary Clinton to be more popular amongst black voters than Obama. On the other hand, much of Obama's support is derived from white liberals. [ [ Black Like Me?] ] [ [ Is black America ready to embrace Obama?] ] [ [ Decoding the Debate Over the Blackness of Barack Obama] New York Times] By early 2008 however, Obama's support in the black community began surging, with polls showing him leading Clinton by 50 points among black men. Even among black women (once Clinton's most loyal constituency), polls show Obama leading Clinton by 11 points. [ [ Poll: Obama makes big gains among black voters - ] ] Ultimately Obama would go on to capature about 90% of the black vote against Hillary Clinton. [ [] ] Illinois state senate president Emil Jones expressed anger when Bill Clinton disparaged Obama, noting that it was black people who saved Bill Clinton's presidency during impeachment. The Clintons owe the African American community, he argued, not the reverse, and suggested that perhaps to return the favour, the Clintons should support Obama. [ [ Racial tensions roil Democratic race - Ben Smith - ] ]

Cultural interaction in United States

The "one drop rule" — that a person with any trace of non-white ancestry (however small or invisible) cannot be considered white — is unique to the United States. [ [ One drop of blood] ] The one drop rule created a bifurcated system of either black or white regardless of a person's physical appearance. This contrasts with the more flexible social structures present in Latin America, where there are no clear-cut divisions between various ethnicities. [ [ The triumph of the one drop rule] ]

As a result of centuries of interbreeding with white people, the majority of African Americans have white admixture, and many white people also have African ancestry. Some have suggested that the majority of the descendants of African slaves are white. [ [ The African ancestry of the white American population] ] According to recent studies, white Americans rank non-Americans as socially closer to them than fellow Americans who are black. [ [ The race myth page 90] ISBN 0452286581 American blacks were ranked number 21 in social distance from white Americans out of 30 ethnicities. et] Writer and editor Debra Dickerson questions the legitimacy of the one drop rule, stating that "easily one-third of blacks have white DNA". ["The End of Blackness" by Debra Dickerson.] She argues that in ignoring their white ancestry, African Americans are denying their fully articulated multi-racial identities. The peculiarity of the one drop rule may be illustrated by the case of Mariah Carey. [ [ Carey Cites Bi-Racial Family for Insecurities] American Renaissance News] She was publicly called "another white girl trying to sing black", butin an interview with Larry King, Carey said despite her physical appearance and the fact that she was raised primarily by her white mother, she does not feel that she is white, because of the effects of the one drop rule. [ [ Yahoo questions/answers/ Is Mariah Carey white?] ] [ [ Mariah Carey: 'Not another White girl trying to sing Black.'] ] [ [ Larry King interview with Mariah Carey] ]



* Mann, Charles C., "1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus", Vintage, 2006 ISBN 1400032059


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