I Don’t Like “People of Color”

IMG_8608I hate the descriptor “people of color.”  First, the phrase suggests that “color” is the principle identifier for human beings.  Secondly, white is a color too.  Lastly, it smacks of separation.  There are people of color and then, there are just people or people of no color, I guess.

My distaste was confirmed while reading Ending Racism in the Church, a book edited by Susan Davies and Sister Paul Teresa Hennessee.  In their introduction, they rightly provide a list of terms associated and created for the purposes of race.  The designation “people of color” is spoken of this way:

“The term ‘people of color’ as a referent for persons in ‘racial’ groups other than white has been directly and acutely challenged by Burton Tan, who declares that the term itself ‘implies a two- strata relationship; one, the ‘people’; the other, the affixed and subordinated one of the ‘of color.’  The single term… ‘people’ refers to the white speakers and all the others are only referred by an affixion or subordination.’  He draws a connection between ‘people of color’ and currently politically correct terms such as ‘persons with disabilities’ and ‘people of different cultures.'”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Kee Malesky, a writers a NPR, has also tracked the journey of this language of colored, minority and now people of color.  Naming has been and continues to be a problem for oppressed groups.  While it is necessary to take ownership of one’s identity and the expression of one’s experiences by naming, often times it does more harm than good.

While seeking to self- identify, the term people of color makes it other than.  It is an identity created in opposition and/ or in comparison to white people. Would there be the designation people of color if not for socially colored white people?  While attempting to point out the differences between the two groups, it continues to make the point that whiteness is better and it furthers the purpose of race, placing the groups in opposition as the words pit us for and against.

I hate people of color.

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