Racey Race Terms

If I had a yen for every time I heard someone stutter and get all sheepish before they refer to a person’s race.

“She’s black .”
“He’s Chinese.”
“I’m not positive, but I think Fernando’s sister is a mullatto.”

Race comes up in conversation from time to time. It’s nothing to get all nervous about. So today I’m going to go over how to properly refer to people from all around the world, so you can speak with political correctness and ease.

But first, a few amazing facts on llamas:
Llama live together with their families and take care of each other.
Llamas nuzzle and hum to their newborns. (Seriously.)
Llamas let out warning brays to alert their family of potential dangers.
Llamas hum to each other to communicate, kind of like saying, “Hey. Hi. Hi. How are you? Hey. Hi.”

On with the lesson.

For this post, I will be referencing my coffee-stained copy of The Associated Press Stylebook.

I should also mention that race terms are updated often, so if you’re viewing this page from the distant future, double check your style guide.

African-American: The preferred term is black. Use African-American only in a quote, in the names of organizations, or if individuals describe themselves so. It’s the preferred usage for those of the Negroid or black race. African-American is offensive to people from places like Jamaica or Haiti who also have dark-skin tones. Use Negro only in names of organizations or in quotations. Do not use colored as a synonym. Ever. The ’60s are over.

Arabic: If someone is from the Middle East, they may be referred to as Middle Eastern or Arabic. If you’re ever going to say the word Arab, it’s pronounced Air-rib. It’s not A-rab. Talking like that will get you in some big trouble with the jihads.

Asian, Asiatic: Use Asian or Asians when referring to individuals of the Asian race. Some Asians regard Asiatic as offensive when used to describe people. Chinaman is most definitely not the preferred nomenclature.

Biracial: There isn’t an entry for this one, so allow me to explain in my own botched-up way. The term is not mullatto, people. (Unless you’re Larry David at a baby shower — anyone see that episode?) This term is used when speaking of people of two different ethnic backgrounds. If the individual you are speaking of is of many different races, they are then multiracial. I’m a Croatian and Polish llama, so I guess I’m biracial, but my fur is mostly white, so I’m just typically referred to as a plain old whitey — I’ll get to this later.

Hispanic: I remember being told in college that this term is bureaucratic by one of my journalism professors at Oxford. (She was biracial but identified herself as a black llama…and I didn’t really go to Oxford.) According to the AP guide, this is the preferred term for those whose ethnic origin is in a Spanish-speaking country. Latino is acceptable for Hispanics who prefer that term. (The feminine form is Latina.) If someone is from Cuba or Puerto Rico for example, it’s best to refer to them as Cuban or Puerto Rican — the more specific, the better. And remember that Brazilians may be on the same continent as many Hispanics, but they’re Brazilians, and they speak Portuguese, not Spanish. And whatever you do, don’t say chicano.

Indian: American Indian is the preferred term for those in the U.S. If you can name the tribe, do it. He is a Navajo man of great wealth and stature. Stay away from American-Indian words such as wampum, warpath, powwow, tepee, and squaw. They can be disparaging and offensive. If a person is from India, they are Indian.

Eurasian: Used for individuals of European and Asian decent.

White: There isn’t an entry for white, but as a whitey, allow me to explain. Don’t say “whitey” unless you’re Navin J. The term is white. If someone looks white, they’re most likely white. It’s best to stick to specifics, if you know the specifics. What I mean is, if you know someone is Irish or Icelandic or French or American, call them by that term first. If you really have no idea and need a quick description for whatever reason, go by their skin tone, white.

I’m going to briefly touch on these next two because they’re still unfortunately in the news often:

Iran: Iran was formerly Persia, yes, but its people are Iranian. The official language is Persian, which is also known as Farsi.

Iraq: You know, it’s the nation coinciding with Mesopotamia, the birthplace of everything! Its people are Iraqis, and their dialect is Iraqi.

Please feel free to leave me a comment if you need any further description on any other race or ethnic terms.
Most importantly, we’re all people — well, I’m a llama. You can all safely call yourselves people without anyone getting offended, hopefully. Don’t let these terms separate you from your neighbors. They’re just polite suggestions so we don’t all walk around calling one another mullatto chicanos.

All for now,



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