Back in December, Republican Blake Masters, who’s currently in the running for the U.S. Senate in Arizona, sent the internet into a heated debate about tech giant Elon Musk’s ethnicity. The politician referred to the Tesla Motors CEO as one of the “richest African American” entrepreneurs in the nation and the comment sent Fox News political pundit Tucker Carlson reeling with laughter.
For once, we can agree with Carlson. The joke was pretty funny, but by the look on Masters’ face, his remark wasn’t a laughing matter. He said it with all seriousness. Now, while Musk has certainly amassed a large amount of wealth from running Tesla, an electric vehicle manufacturing company that has generated nearly $5.5 billion in net income over the last year, it would be quite odd to describe the billionaire as an African American.
Take a look at the clip below and let’s break this down.
— Blake Masters (@bgmasters) December 22, 2021
The argument resurfaced this week after news broke that Musk purchased the popular social media platform Twitter.
An African American owner of the largest social media company on earth. This is historic.
— Lavern Spicer (@lavern_spicer) April 25, 2022
Elon Musk Is a white South African NOT an African American
Musk was raised in Pretoria, one of South Africa’s three capital cities. His mother is a Canadian-born white South African model and dietitian. His father is Errol Musk, a prominent white South African engineer. Musk attended the University of Pretoria before moving to Canada at 17, according to USA Today.
The Sun adds that the bustling entrepreneur moved to California at 24 to study applied physics and material science at Stanford University, but dropped out months later to pursue other aspirations. So, while he can certainly be defined as a white South African who moved to America, we can’t say that Musk is downright African American. In order for him to be considered African American, by definition, he’d have to be a descendant of an African slave who was forcibly shipped to the United States and endured over 400 years of bondage to build the U.S. into the super economic power it is today, which clearly isn’t the case here. Furthermore, despite his “African” ancestry, which was arguably acquired by way of colonialism, Musk directly benefits from the systems in this country built for and by the rich who happened to look just like him.
Where did the term African American originate from?
Historians have traced the term back to as early as 1835 when it first appeared in an abolitionist newspaper, although some researchers argue that the African American term was referenced in an anti-Britsih sermon dating back to 1782, according to the New York Times.
During the Colonial period, Black people were commonly referred to as “Negro” or “African.” Following the Revolution, European descendants living in the colonies began to tack on the “American” label to establish themselves as residents of the new world in the 17th century. “‘Afro-American’ has been documented as early as 1831, with “black American” (1818) and ‘Africo-American’ (1788) going back even further,” the publication added. The fact of the matter is—all of these terms were used to describe Black African Americans, not white South Africans.
Where do white South Africans come from?
South Africans are of European descent. Afrikaaners, who speak the West Germanic language Afrikaans, are believed to be descents of the Dutch, while the Anglophone descendants of predominantly British people, who were colonists of South Africa. Musk can not speak Afrikaans according to reports. According to a report conducted by Statista in 2019, there are about 4.6 million white South Africans living in the country. While Black South Africans make up the majority at 48.6 million.