Proposition for change

Senior’s concept of changing terminology for the Black community


Caden Rainwater

Senior Fezeka Barnes explains the importance of changing this terminology.

Story by Caden Rainwater, sports editor

It’s time. Time for a change. Time for overdue respect. Time for equality. 

It’s not hard to find someone in this country not fighting for a cause; people are on edge defending their rights, from their beliefs to basic rights to safety. Despite the longstanding tradition of adults being the members of the nation protesting, a common occurrence during the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the partisan divide, the voices of today’s youth are finally being heard.

Senior Fezeka Barnes, who participated in protests locally following the death of George Floyd and a surge in devotion to the Black Lives Matter movement, now believes in a concept to reinvent a term used in America when referring to a Black person of color. 

“I’ve come to believe that the most politically correct term to call Black Americans should be Afro-Americans,” Barnes said. “Currently, the correct term is African Americans, and it’s been that way for years. However, it has set a divide in between the people who are actually of African descent, whose parents are fully African and those that are almost purely of American and European descent.”

This concept is by no means new to the world, however, it has yet to earn traction in America. With the term “Afro” leading back to the descendants of Africa, other countries around the world have found this terminology to give Black people a homely feeling anywhere in the world.

“All around the world, especially in European countries where there is a large number of melanated people, they’ve decided to refer to people as Afro-German or Afro and then whatever country they are in,” Barnes said. “Our white counterparts aren’t called European American, so it comes down to equal treatment.”

Because of past treatment from the transportation into slavery to the final segregation in schools and public commodities, the tension was always high between “people of color” and “whites.” Centuries of torment can’t be forgotten, but it can be learned from.

“Not that when colored people refer to other people as Black is offensive, but opposed with Afro-American, it comes with a degrading historical context, ” Barnes said. “[Black] kind of sets precedent over Afro-American, which shows why people want to make a prominent difference between white and Black people and set up the differences in white and Black stereotypes, especially ones with a negative pretense for the Black community.”

When taking into account a new term for the Black community, it becomes clear the amount of tradition and sense of individuality that has been stripped since the forced migration hundreds of years ago.

The African culture was so special and unique, so throwing the term African American at anyone of color simply dilutes it while it should be preserved, out of respect.

— Fezeka Barnes, senior

“African Americans have been forced to adopt new cultures as their African cultures were stripped from them when they entered the country and were put through slavery generation after generation,” Barnes said. 

An important contributor to Barnes’ belief is through her personal experience with the confusion of her ethnicity compared to her full name. Fezeka Aviwe Barnes, her middle name coming from the Bantu language meaning “to be heard,” goes to show that the color of one’s skin isn’t and never has been a means for attempting to understand a person.

“I’m Black, I’m not of African descent. People see my name and skin and simply assume,” Barnes said. “But in actuality, that has nothing to do with me.”

A goal behind the cause is not to steal the spotlight of the strides the nation has taken in the past generations, but Barnes finds that it is not about finding success but creating awareness.

“I understand it’s taken a long time to get to these terms in being politically correct, so I’m not going to try to urge people to change their terminology,” Barnes said. “But I would say to just open your eyes and look at how other cultures and countries refer to people of color and look into the meaning behind it all.”

Standing her ground and fighting for herself and others, Barnes concludes that by opening the eyes of others, people of color will grow a sense of homeliness. Held on the outside for far too long, with new terminology comes new belonging.

“Using [Afro-American] would give Black people in America a sense of home and a sense of belonging because with the term African American you’re tied to a continent you don’t even know or are connected to,” Barnes said. “With the term, we get to say we are Americans, Americans with afro-hair, that’s what we are. We belong here; this is just as much our land as anyone else’s.”