From the comments at Feministing
A commenter by the name of GopherII writes:
Personally I prefer to identify along culture lines [rather] than color of skin. I prefer to see people along cultural lines, ie Italian, Jewish, Egyptian, African ect. so its more individualized. I hate to group people by skin color.
Now, I often see and hear people using "African" in the same way that we use "Italian" (for example), i.e. as if it were a national origin or a country. Rather than, you know, a continent comprised of over 50 seperate countries and 900 million people. The issue I have there is that distinctions between European (read "white") cultures are respected as being distinct- people generally recognize that there are cultural differences between Italians and Germans, for example- while the cultural distinctions between African (read "black") cultures are completely ignored. Africa is treated like a single, monolithic culture in a way that Europe is not. I pointed this out:
"African" is not a cultural line. "Africa" is not a country, nor is it a single monolithic culture. You lumped the entire African continent as one cultural line as though it's the same as talking about "Italian" cultural lines. Africa is a pretty damned big continent, and it's made up of 53 seperate countries, 900+ million people, and makes up about 20% of the total land-mass of the planet. As it happens, there are some pretty significant cultural differences that exist within the African continent.
Right. I know Africa is made up of other countries, thats why I mentioned Egyptian (which is part of Africa). I meant I prefer to see Americans who come from a variety of African backgrounds as African, just as for whites I prefer European.
I wrote that I prefer to see Black Americans as Africans (because they come rom all over Africa) and prefer to call Western Europeans by their culture (or wherever theyre from) rather than just white, or Arab. I like to be more specific. For example, if youre from a variety of cultures within the European countries I prefer European.
And more recently:
I know to distinguish between the different races of africa. I meant as far as black Americans because their race is mixed from all parts of africa. Same with caucasian people which is why I consider them european. If you read my posts it was because I was looking for an alternative to identifying people by skin tone.
Which... ooookay. Quite frankly, I think that goes directly against the original claim that GopherII prefers to make distinctions along cultural lines, not skin color, so as to be more individualized. All it really does is replace skin color with broad continental descriptors. When you start lumping people together based on the color of their skin, it doesn't really matter what you call them after that- you're still lumping people together by skin color. You can claim that it's about cultural lines... but that doesn't make it so. And, really, I don't understand how broadly lumping all white people together as "European" and all black people together as "African" is somehow supposed to be:
1. More individualized.
2. More specific.
3. Remotely related to cultural values or identities.
The whole conversation sort of went downhill after I suggested that one could probably find greater cultural diversity within the continent of Africa- again, because it's makes up 20% of the land area of the planet, has 900 million people, and over 50 nations- than within the country of Italy- about the size of Nevada and fewer than 60 million people. That was when I was informed that I was a stupid, pompous, anti-Italian racist.
The list should probably have included obsessive, argumentative, and pig-headed, too.