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The categorisation of African descent populations in Europe and the USA: should lexicons of recommended terminology be evidence-based?

By Peter J. Aspinall


This review attempts to evaluate a proposed lexicon for African-descent populations from the viewpoint of saliency amongst those described and wider official and scientific usage, focusing on Britain and the USA. It is argued that it is unsatisfactory to privilege the term ‘African American’ over ‘Black’ for Africandescent populations in the USA as the evidence base shows that both labels compete\ud as self-designations on co-equal terms, while ‘Black’ is the prevalent term in scientific writing. Moreover, ‘African American’ is not an inclusive term for the African-descent population and it is not known how prevalent and enduring the term will prove to be. With respect to Britain, the census terms of ‘Black African’ and\ud ‘Black Caribbean’ are well established, the increasing popularity of ‘Black British’ also being recognized in census labels. Given the increasing interest in the\ud relationship between ethnic identity and health, there are arguments for documenting the diversity of terminology amongst different user constituencies in\ud country-specific settings. The approach of synthetic glossaries of consensual terms may, through the need for economy and parsimony in the use of terminology,\ud contribute to an unsatisfactory paring of that diversity

Topics: D901, DT, E11, GN, HT
Publisher: Royal Society for Public Health
Year: 2008
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