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For many other individuals communities and countries black is perceived as a derogatory

Black people is a skin color-based classification for specific people with a mid to dark brown complexion. Not all black people have dark skin; in certain countries, often in socially based systems of racial classification in the Western world, the term "black" is used to describe persons who are perceived as dark-skinned compared to other populations. It is mostly used for people of Sub-Saharan African descent and the indigenous peoples of Oceania. Indigenous African societies do not use the term black as a racial identity outside of influences brought by Western cultures.

The term "black" may also be capitalized;[1][2] the AP Stylebook changed its guide to capitalize the "b" in Black in 2020.

Different societies apply different criteria regarding who is classified "black", and these social constructs have changed over time. In a number of countries, societal variables affect classification as much as skin color, and the social criteria for "blackness" vary. In the United Kingdom, "black" was historically equivalent with "person of color", a general term for non-European peoples. In other regions such as Australasia, settlers applied the term "black" or it was used by local populations with different histories and ancestral backgrounds.

For many other individuals, communities and countries, "black" is perceived as a derogatory, outdated, reductive or otherwise unrepresentative label, and as a result is neither used nor defined, especially in African countries with little to no history of colonial racial segregation. Some have pointed out that labeling people "black" is erroneous as the people described as "black" have a brown skin color.[3]


Main article: Indigenous peoples of Africa

Northern Africa

The main slave routes in the Middle East and Northern Africa during the Middle Ages.

Numerous communities of dark-skinned peoples are present in North Africa, some dating from prehistoric communities. Others descend from immigrants via the historical trans-Saharan trade or, after the Arab invasions of North Africa in the 7th century, from slaves from the Arab slave trade in North Africa.[4][5]

Haratin women, a community of recent Sub-Saharan African origin residing in the Maghreb.

In the 18th century, the Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail "the Warrior King" (1672–1727) raised a corps of 150,000 black soldiers, called his Black Guard.[6][7]

According to Carlos Moore, resident scholar at Brazil's University of the State of Bahia, in the 21st century Afro-multiracials in the Arab world, including Arabs in North Africa, self-identify in ways that resemble multi-racials in Latin America. He claims that darker toned Arabs, much like darker toned Latin Americans, consider themselves white because they have some distant white ancestry.[8]

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had a mother who was a dark-skinned Nubian Sudanese (Sudanese Arab) woman and a father who was a lighter-skinned Egyptian. In response to an advertisement for an acting position, as a young man he said, "I am not white but I am not exactly black either. My blackness is tending to reddish".[9]

Due to the patriarchal nature of Arab society, Arab men, including during the slave trade in North Africa, enslaved more African women than men. The female slaves were often put to work in domestic service and agriculture. The men interpreted the Quran to permit sexual relations between a male master and his enslaved females outside of marriage (see Ma malakat aymanukum and sex),[10][11] leading to many mixed-race children. When an enslaved woman became pregnant with her Arab master's child, she was considered as umm walad or "mother of a child", a status that granted her privileged rights. The child was given rights of inheritance to the father's property, so mixed-race children could share in any wealth of the father.[12] Because the society was patrilineal, the children took their fathers' social status at birth and were born free.

Some succeeded their fathers as rulers, such as Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, who ruled Morocco from 1578 to 1608. He was not technically considered as a mixed-race child of a slave; his mother was Fulani and a concubine of his father.[12]

In early 1991, non-Arabs of the Zaghawa people of Sudan attested that they were victims of an intensifying Arab apartheid campaign, segregating Arabs and non-Arabs (specifically, people of Nilotic ancestry).[13] Sudanese Arabs, who controlled the government, were widely referred to as practicing apartheid against Sudan's non-Arab citizens. The government was accused of "deftly manipulat(ing) Arab solidarity" to carry out policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.[14]

American University economist George Ayittey accused the Arab government of Sudan of practicing acts of racism against black citizens.[15] According to Ayittey, "In Sudan... the Arabs monopolized power and excluded blacks – Arab apartheid."[16] Many African commentators joined Ayittey in accusing Sudan of practising Arab apartheid.[17]


An Ibenheren (Bella) woman

In the Sahara, the native Tuareg Berber populations kept "negro" slaves. Most of these captives were of Nilotic extraction, and were either purchased by the Tuareg nobles from slave markets in the Western Sudan or taken during raids. Their origin is denoted via the Ahaggar Berber word Ibenheren (sing. Ébenher), which alludes to slaves that only speak a Nilo-Saharan language. These slaves were also sometimes known by the borrowed Songhay term Bella.[18]

Similarly, the Sahrawi indigenous peoples of the Western Sahara observed a class system consisting of high castes and low castes. Outside of these traditional tribal boundaries were "Negro" slaves, who were drawn from the surrounding areas.[19]

North-Eastern Africa

In Ethiopia and Somalia, the slave classes mainly consisted of captured peoples from the Sudanese-Ethiopian and Kenyan-Somali international borders[20] or other surrounding areas of Nilotic and Bantu peoples who were collectively known as Shanqella[21] and Adone (both analogues to "negro" in an English-speaking contexts).[22] Some of these slaves were captured during territorial conflicts in the Horn of Africa then sold off to slave merchants.[23] The earliest representation of this tradition dates from a seventh or eighth century BC inscription belonging to the Kingdom of Damat.[24]

These captives and others of analogous morphology were distinguished as tsalim barya (dark-skinned slave) in contrast with the Afroasiatic-speaking nobles or saba qayh ("red men") or light-skinned slave; while on the other hand, western racial category standards do not differentiate between saba qayh ("red men"—light-skinned) or saba tiqur ("black men"—dark-skinned) Horn Africans (of either Afroasiatic-speaking, Nilotic-speaking or Bantu origin) thus considering all of them as "Black people" (and in some case "negro") according to Western society's notion of race.[25][26][27]

Southern Africa

Further information: Bantu peoples in South Africa

In South Africa, the period of colonization resulted in many unions and marriages between European men and Bantu and Khoisan women from various tribes, resulting in mixed-race children. As the European settlers acquired control of territory, they generally pushed the mixed-race and Bantu and Khoisan populations into second-class status. During the first half of the 20th century, the Afrikaaner-dominated government classified the population according to four main racial groups: Black, White, Asian (mostly Indian), and Coloured. The Coloured group included people of mixed Bantu, Khoisan, and European descent (with some Malay ancestry, especially in the Western Cape). The Coloured definition occupied an intermediary political position between the Black and White definitions in South Africa. It imposed a system of legal racial segregation, a complex of laws known as apartheid.

The apartheid bureaucracy devised complex (and often arbitrary) criteria in the Population Registration Act of 1945 to determine who belonged in which group. Minor officials administered tests to enforce the classifications. When it was unclear from a person's physical appearance whether the individual should be considered Coloured or Black, the "pencil test" was used. A pencil was inserted into a person's hair to determine if the hair was kinky enough to hold the pencil, rather than having it pass through, as it would with smoother hair. If so, the person was classified as Black.[28] Such classifications sometimes divided families.

Sandra Laing is a South African woman who was classified as Coloured by authorities during the apartheid era, due to her skin colour and hair texture, although her parents could prove at least three generations of European ancestors. At age 10, she was expelled from her all-white school. The officials' decisions based on her anomalous appearance disrupted her family and adult life. She was the subject of the 2008 biographical dramatic film Skin, which won numerous awards. During the apartheid era, those classed as "Coloured" were oppressed and discriminated against. But, they had limited rights and overall had slightly better socioeconomic conditions than those classed as "Black". The government required that Blacks and Coloureds live in areas separate from Whites, creating large townships located away from the cities as areas for Blacks.

In the post-apartheid era, the Constitution of South Africa has declared the country to be a "Non-racial democracy". In an effort to redress past injustices, the ANC government has introduced laws in support of affirmative action policies for Blacks; under these they define "Black" people to include "Africans", "Coloureds" and "Asians". Some affirmative action policies favor "Africans" over "Coloureds" in terms of qualifying for certain benefits. Some South Africans categorized as "African Black" say that "Coloureds" did not suffer as much as they did during apartheid. "Coloured" South Africans are known to discuss their dilemma by saying, "we were not white enough under apartheid, and we are not black enough under the ANC (African National Congress)".[29][30][31]

In 2008, the High Court in South Africa ruled that Chinese South Africans who were residents during the apartheid era (and their descendants) are to be reclassified as "Black people," solely for the purposes of accessing affirmative action benefits, because they were also "disadvantaged" by racial discrimination. Chinese people who arrived in the country after the end of apartheid do not qualify for such benefits.[32]

Other than by appearance, "Coloureds" can usually be distinguished from "Blacks" by language. Most speak Afrikaans or English as a first language, as opposed to Bantu languages such as Zulu or Xhosa. They also tend to have more European-sounding names than Bantu names.[33]


Main article: Afro-Asians

"Afro-Asians" or "African-Asians" (also "black Asians" or "blasians"), are persons of mixed Sub-Saharan African and Asian ancestry.[34] Historically, Afro-Asian populations have been marginalized as a result of human migration and social conflict.[35]

Western Asia

Arab world

Main article: Afro-Arab

Bilal ibn Ribah (pictured atop the Kaaba, Mecca) was a former Ethiopian slave and the first muezzin, ca. 630.

Historians estimate that between the advent of Islam in 650 CE and the abolition of slavery in the Arabian Peninsula in the mid-20th century,[36] 10 to 18 million Black Africans (known as the Zanj) were enslaved by Arab slave traders and transported to the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries.[37] This number far exceeded the number of slaves who were taken to the Americas.[38] Several factors affected the visibility of descendants of this diaspora in 21st-century Arab societies: The traders shipped more female slaves than males, as there was a demand for them to serve as concubines in harems in the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries. Male slaves were castrated in order to serve as harem guards. The death toll of Black African slaves from forced labor was high. The mixed-race children of female slaves and Arab owners were assimilated into the Arab owners' families under the patrilineal kinship system. As a result, few distinctive Afro-Arab communities have survived in the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries.[39][40]

Distinctive and self-identified black communities have been reported in countries such as Iraq, with a reported 1.2 million black people, and they attest to a history of discrimination. These descendants of the Zanj have sought minority status from the government, which would reserve some seats in Parliament for representatives of their population.[41] According to Alamin M. Mazrui et al., generally in the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries, most of these communities identify as both black and Arab.[42]


Main article: Afro-Iranians

Afro-Iranians are people of black African ancestry residing in Iran. During the Qajar dynasty, many wealthy households imported black African women and children as slaves to perform domestic work. This slave labor was drawn exclusively from the Zanj, who were Bantu-speaking peoples that lived along the African Great Lakes, in an area roughly comprising modern-day Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi.[43][44]


Main article: Beta Israel

Main article: African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem

An ethnic Jewish (Beta Israel Ethiopian Jew) Israeli Border Policeman

An African Hebrew Israelite child in Dimona

About 150,000 East African and black people live in Israel, amounting to just over 2% of the nation's population. The vast majority of these, some 120,000, are Beta Israel,[45] most of whom are recent immigrants who came during the 1980s and 1990s from Ethiopia.[46] In addition, Israel is home to over 5,000 members of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem movement that are ancestry of African Americans who emigrated to Israel in the 20th century, and who reside mainly in a distinct neighborhood in the Negev town of Dimona. Unknown numbers of black converts to Judaism reside in Israel, most of them converts from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.

Additionally, there are around 60,000 non-Jewish African immigrants in Israel, some of whom have sought asylum. Most of the migrants are from communities in Sudan and Eritrea, particularly the Niger-Congo-speaking Nuba groups of the southern Nuba Mountains; some are illegal immigrants.[47][48]


Main article: Afro-Turks

A Bashi-bazouk of the Ottoman Empire, painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1869

Beginning several centuries ago, during the period of the Ottoman Empire, tens of thousands of Zanj captives were brought by slave traders to plantations and agricultural areas situated between Antalya and Istanbul in present-day Turkey.[49] Some of their ancestry remained in situ, and many migrated to larger cities and towns. Other black slaves were transported to Crete, from where they or their descendants later reached the İzmir area through the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923, or indirectly from Ayvalık in pursuit of work.[50]

Southern Asia

Main article: Siddi

A Siddi girl from the town of Yellapur in Uttara Karnataka district, Karnataka, India.

The Siddi are an ethnic group inhabiting India and Pakistan whose members are descendants from the Bantu peoples.[51] In the Makran strip of the Sindh and Balochistan provinces in southwestern Pakistan, these Bantu descendants are known as the Makrani.[52] There was a brief "Black Power" movement in Sindh in the 1960s and many Siddi are proud of and celebrate their African ancestry.[53][54]

Southeastern Asia

Main articles: Negritos and Africans in Malaysia

Ati woman, Philippines – the Negritos are an indigenous people of Southeast Asia.

Negritos are believed to have been the first inhabitants of Southeast Asia. Once inhabiting Taiwan,[55] Vietnam,[56] and various other parts of Asia, they are now confined primarily to Thailand,[57] the Malay Archipelago, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India.[58] Negrito means "little black people" in Spanish (negrito is the Spanish diminutive of negro, i.e., "little black person"); it is what the Spaniards called the aborigines that they encountered in the Philippines.[59] The term Negrito itself has come under criticism in countries like Malaysia, where it is now interchangeable with the more acceptable Semang,[60] although this term actually refers to a specific group.

Negritos in the Philippines, and Southeast Asia in general, face much discrimination. Usually, they are marginalized and live in poverty, unable to find employment that will take them.[61]

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