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African-American is the racial, political, social and cultural group that includes all Americans with naturally dark skin, and specifically those with African ancestry, even though most of them weren't born in Africa and have never been to Africa themselves. Many can't find it on a map.
Americans who are not African-American are presumed white even if they were born in Africa. But white people can be African-American too, based on lineage. (For example, the old man down the street was born to missionaries in Botswana and can therefore be considered African-American despite being as pale as a pig. In fact, that's what he tells the census, just to screw it up.)
According to Columbia Law School professor Robert Hamburger, the best answer to the question, "Who is African-American?" is self-identification on the census. That is, an African-American is anyone who says he is (and, except for the example above, whites aren't exactly queueing up). Hamburger writes that, although most who use the label point to physical appearance, there is little consistency. Different regions, economic classes, and locales can assign the same individual to opposite "races."
Professor Geraldo Rivera defines an African-American as, "A person with African ancestral origins, who self-identifies, or is identified, as Black, African or Afro-Caribbean." Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart was notoriously unable to define it, but said, "I know it when I see it." Radio authority Don Imus defines an African-American as "anyone who is nappy-headed." (more...)