When did we get the impression that the term People of Color (PoC) was the “ok” term to refer to people of different ethnicities/races other than those of European decent? I ask the same question in this context: When did we get the impression that “colored” was an ok term?
Growing up in the U.S. as an African American woman, I find myself in a number of repeated uncomfortable conversations surrounding this topic.
I have questioned different generations of Afro-Americans within my own family to try to broaden the perspective outside of my own. I know some have commented that they don’t like the term in general, but especially when white people use it as a non-offensive reference towards them.
I have many issues with this term. Let’s look at the historical context before I dive into my own input. Please note that I am only speaking from my perspective as a black woman, not trying to delve into other ethnicities or cultures.
The term “colored” has been used in the past, and recent years, to identify African-Americans and non-whites.
It might not seem as harmful as other derogatory words associated with black people, but it’s not the best either. For so many years, we have been grouped and categorized falsely as “other” rather than human beings. Pigmentation has been a dominating factor and is a class rating in itself. Melanated people like myself often get separated within our own communities; it’s already bad enough that black folks have the whole “team light skin” or “team dark skin” trend.
There is such a divide in our own communities that we need to solve. However, have you ever seen a black person have a conversation with another black person and reference themselves as a PoC? No! We know who we are and how our bodies associate us with, I don’t know, everything? However, I do commonly see situations where a black individual may have a conversation with a white person and say “as a person of color, I”, or vice versa “as a person of color, how do you … ?” Here is why I believe this needs to stop.
America is a country made up of immigrants, except for the native people who were robbed of their land, which I won’t go off about in this. From the Chinese-Americans who built the railroads to the Africans who built the foundations of this country, all of our hard work and slave labor have their own different importance.
We have all come together and made America the melting pot that it is now.
Before, we were all divided by our strengths and weakness as communities.
By grouping all of us as PoC, it diminishes the history of our peoples. We do not all have the same stories, and that is ok!
Not to say that any one person’s racial or ethnic history is more important than another, but we all do not come from the same place with the same values and perspectives.
Since this is the case, why do we still get grouped together? People with European descent always get recognized by country and origin. The Italians, Germans, French, Dutch, British, etc. are all recognized specifically. Why don’t we see more of this with the Asian continent? There are so many countries that make up Asia, and there is not one type of Asian, just like there is not one type of white person in their communities.
In one of my favorite classes I have taken at SPU, we explored the topic of hyphens in our identities as American citizens. From African-American/Afro-American, Asian-American, Mexican-American, there is a tie to our cultures and origins that represent us on paper before we are even recognized as people.
I mention this to say that this type of identification is realistic and appropriate because most of us that use hyphenations are proud and embody a part of what it means to be from America with foreign ties.
Whereas white citizens can simply say they’re American and we all get a specific image without knowing who they are.
So, when you talk about PoC, who exactly are you referring to?
Do you ever think about that? It’s not much harder to just recognize the specific groups. For example, when a historian is teaching about Nazis, they don’t just say the Europeans made concentration camps. They are more likely to reference Germans.
So, when we reference Africans and slavery why do we just associate this with North America? Like there weren’t millions of slaves in the Caribbean? Or slaves that didn’t make it to North America but were trapped in South America?
I ask you to be specific.
Don’t belittle all of our experiences and perspectives because you are too lazy to recognize one group.
Stop asking us “As a POC, how do you feel about Trump?” because compared to “As an African-American, how do you feel about Trump?” you will probably get a different answer due to the differences and the specifics. I ask this coming from a place of love and correction.
For so many years we have been struggling with being appropriate and understanding when it could all be so simple.
You call people by their names, so why can’t we be recognized as who we are?
Hailey Williams (not the white girl from Paramore)