I love language. I love the nuances that certain words add or take away from a meaning when they are used. One phrase that is beginning to generate a lot of controversy, and is a relatively new one in the current usage lexicon, is the term “people of color” to refer to black, brown, red and yellow people — in other words someone who is not white.
On the surface, when I think back to the establishment of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the word “Colored” stands out. Its usage then didn’t refer to all the different groups that were in this country. In reality, those other groups, in terms of numbers, were so miniscule they barely registered.
Colored people referred to black people — period. In my lifetime, the racial terminology describing the American descendants of enslaved Africans has ranged from “colored people” to “negro” to “black” and now to “African American.” Adding the term “people of color (POC)” only dilutes and confuses the issue. Even more amazing is how quickly some black people have picked up on the term and readily become the banner-carrier for it.
When it is used, POC promotes visions of all sorts of different racial groups joined together as one. That is not the reality. What is especially frustrating is that when people use the terminology and then highlight issues that predominately affect black people, the lines are further blurred. What happens is that black people are allowed to fight for an issue and suffer the consequences that may occur from fighting for the issue, but when the solution comes, everyone who wasn’t a part of the struggle reaps the benefits because we used the term POC. That is a problem.
I was in a meeting awhile back where the senior executive used the term to describe the workers in his department. As I glanced around the table, I saw a bunch of white faces. But because they had been born in Mexico, Chile, and Puerto Rico, they were automatically given the POC label. If someone explored the DNA ancestry for each individual, they would have been predominately European in makeup.
I also think that black people are misled when the POC label is thrust upon us. George Zimmerman is POC, yet he had no qualms in shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. Same can be said of Jeronimo Yanez, who shot and killed Philando Castile. Or Nouman Raja, who shot and killed Corey Jones as he sat waiting for a tow truck. There was no POC love or connection in any of the above mentioned cases. So why, pray tell, does black leadership and others use the POC label? It is confusing and sends the wrong message.
This columnist is officially rejecting the term “people of color.” I will not use it or be labeled by it. I am black — period. Just like whites are white — period. The simplifying of the label makes it easier for all to understand who we’re talking about when we say “black people.”