Veteran CBS commentator Andy Rooney says he has a problem with the frequent use of the term “African-American” and suggests people use the word “Negro” instead to refer to blacks.
“I object every time I hear the words ‘African-American,’ you know?” Rooney told radio host Don Imus this morning. “The word ‘Negro’ is a perfectly good word. It’s a strong word and a good word. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Mostly it’s not necessary to identify anyone by skin color. But I don’t care for ‘African-American.’”
The remarks came as Rooney was appearing via telephone on Imus’ show, which is simulcast on MSNBC.
Imus had referenced a frequent guest, Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., and noted that Ford is African-American.
Rooney: “I object every time I hear the words ‘African-American,’ you know? I don’t know why we have gotten caught with that.”
Imus: “Yeah, I don’t either.”
Rooney: “I mean, am I an ‘Irish-American?’”
Imus: “Yeah, I know what you mean. What should I say, just ‘black’ right?”
Rooney: “Well, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ‘black.’”
Imus: “I don’t either.”
Rooney: “Growing up, it’s funny how words get to be opprobrious. The word ‘Negro’ is a perfectly good word. It’s a strong word and a good word. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Mostly it’s not necessary to identify anyone by skin color. But I don’t care for ‘African-American.’”
Imus: “I won’t use it anymore.”
In a 2002 commentary, Rooney addressed the use of the term “Negro” this way:
Our thoughts about words change over the years. In 1968, I wrote a television show called “Black History, Lost, Stolen or Strayed” for Bill Cosby. I remember being uneasy with the word “black” because the acceptable word back then was “Negro.” Today, I wouldn’t use “Negro.” It’s a good, strong word, but now it sounds wrong to me.
Different ethnic groups of Americans have always had terrible nicknames for each other. I remember hearing them as a kid. You don’t hear them much anymore because they always make the person using them sound like such ignorant jerk.
Italians were wops. Germans were krauts. Kikes … Spics. Irish Catholics were “harps” or “micks.” Wetbacks. Koreans or Vietnamese were “gooks.” Chinks … Slant eyes. … Towel-heads.
Today’s exchange is already getting reaction on messageboards across the Internet, with comments such as:
The label “African-American” is not universally used by blacks today, as evinced by companies and groups such as Black Entertainment Television, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, better known as the NAACP.
A search of more than 200 U.S. newspapers geared predominantly toward blacks finds at least 16 have the word “black” in the title, while only five have “African-American.”
As WorldNetDaily reported in 2003, a member of Congress, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, ignited national controversy when she reportedly sought an affirmative-action plan of sorts for hurricane names.
“All racial groups should be represented,” Lee said, according to the Hill. She hoped federal weather officials “would try to be inclusive of African-American names.”