Is the Term “People of Color” Acceptable in This Day and Age?

Source: https://www.sapiens.org/column/race/people-of-color/

One day a student approached me after class and asked, “What should I call students who are of Asian descent? Is it OK to just say Asian, or should I say what group they belong to?” He continued, “What if I make a mistake and call a Chinese student Japanese? I don’t want to appear racist.”

On the campus where I teach, as well as in community organizations that I belong to, people often approach me with such questions.

In most cases, the questions are posed by white people wondering what they should call African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Pacific islanders, and others. They are generally sensitive to not wanting to be offensive and genuinely want to know what people prefer to be called. The response I usually give is, “Just ask them.” If done in a respectful way, it is usually fine. Racial terminology is daunting even to those of us who research and write about it.

I am old enough to remember when blacks were called “colored,” especially in the South, roughly from the 19th century to the middle of the 20th. I also remember the use of the word “Negro,” which, for older black folks such as my mother, who grew up in Louisiana, was certainly an improvement over the “N-word.” And I well recall the 1970s when the Black Power movement was in its heyday and the slogan “Black is beautiful” came into popular use, at least among the younger generation of black student activists and scholars. The word “African-American” became common in the 1980s, and today we hear the term “people of color” being used.

Who exactly does the term “people of color” refer to? Is it a throwback to the word “colored,” and is it used solely to describe African-Americans?

people of color
Do race-based terms such as “people of color” help or hinder our relationships? U.S. Agency for International Development/Flickr

People of color” is a term primarily used in the United States and Canada to describe any person who is not white. It does not solely refer to African-Americans; rather, it encompasses all non-white groups and emphasizes the common experiences of systemic racism, which is an important point I discuss in more detail below.

Where does it come from? The Oxford English Dictionary says that it derived from a term used in the French colonial era in the Caribbean and in La Louisianne in North America. It traditionally referred to gens de couleur libres, or people of mixed African and European ancestry who were freed from slavery or born into freedom. In the late 20th century, the term “person of color” was adopted as a preferable replacement to “non-white.” Unfortunately, the contrast pits all people who have a “color” against people who do not have a color or who possess “whiteness.” However, the word “minority” has also come to have a negative meaning attached to it, especially in places like California, Texas, New York City, and Florida where people of color are not a numerical minority anymore.

So in the United States in 2016 our language still reflects the continuing racialization hierarchy—with white at the top. The use of “people of color” may be less offensive to some than, say, specifying one’s country of origin (Mexican-American, African-American, and so on). Some people that I have asked say they prefer the use of country-of-origin terms because they provide a connection between one’s ancestral country and where they live now. So a question from me is, if we replaced “white” with “European-American” or “Iranian-American,” for example, could we then do away with the word “white” as well?

Getting back to the issue at hand, the term “people of color” may have an important role precisely because it includes a vast array of different racial or ethnic groups. These groups have the potential to form solidarities with each other for collective political and social action on behalf of many disenfranchised or marginalized people. This terminology is useful in social justice, and in civil rights and human rights contexts. For example, in relationship to the current Black Lives Matter movement here in the United States, many students-of-color groups on university and college campuses support the movement’s efforts.

How widely accepted is the use of the term “people of color” in everyday language? In an NPR blog post titled “The Journey From ‘Colored’ to ‘Minorities’ to ‘People of Color,’” author Kee Malesky discusses the evolution of these terms and observes that “people of color” has gone mainstream. This term may have originated in political circles or social justice arenas, but it has spread to academia and is being accepted in academic writing and in speech.

But it is important to recognize that while “people of color” reaffirms non-whiteness, many people don’t like the term because they feel “it lumps all of us together.” Those who are white or Caucasian (“Caucasian” is itself a problematic word—which I will discuss in an upcoming blog post) are still the standard by which all others are labeled, at least for now.

At this cultural moment in the U.S., we still live in a racialized social and cultural hierarchy, and our language continues to reflect our ongoing attempts to grapple with that reality.

Public School Review Diversity Report: Which States Have the Most Diverse Public Schools?

Which states have the most diverse public schools? We analyze our data to find how much diversity truly exists on public school campuses. Learn about the varying levels of school diversity in regions around the nation, as well as the benefits derived from ethnic diversity in schools.
American public schools have made tremendous progress since the Supreme Court declared school segregationunconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. Schools throughout the nation are more diverse than ever before as a result of desegregation, immigration of people to this country, and emigration of citizens from one region of the nation to another. Sixty years after the Supreme Court’s decision, schools in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and other southern states where segregation was once so prominent have shown great gains in diversity.
But which states have the most diverse public school campuses? We collected data and analyzed the numbers to develop an original list illustrating how much diversity truly exists in each state’s public schools.
Diversity Scores of Public Schools
To equally compare the diversity of public schools in our country, we mined student population data and calculated diversity scores at the school, town, county and state levels.

Culture Crossing Guide

The Culture Crossing Guide is an evolving database of cross-cultural information about every country in the world.  This user-built guide allows people from all walks of life to share essential tips with each other about how to navigate our increasingly borderless world with savvy and sensitivity.   Easy to Navigate and free to use, the Culture Crossing Guide provides an opportunity for travelers, business people and students to:

  • Find information on 200+ countries and add your own knowledge to our guides
  • Ask our experts
  • Connect directly with community members from around the world
  • Access global resources to further your cross-cultural exploration

The information posted in our individual country guides is submitted by people who are either natives or residents (or former residents) of the featured countries. Every day additional information is added by community members who have had experiences living, working, studying or traveling in each particular country. All of the information posted on the website is vetted by a Culture Crossing staff member and checked for credibility by cross referencing with at least two other sources.

When using the country guides for reference, it is important to understand that they provide only generalized information and that there are always exceptions to the rule. The purpose of offering this generalized (and abridged) version of the information is to introduce people to some of the cultural tendencies exhibited by people from different nations.

By providing this information we merely hope to remind people to be alert to these tendencies in order to avoid unnecessary miscommunication or conflict when interacting with people from other cultures. We also hope that by reading about the wide variety of cultural tendencies in the world, people will become more aware of how their own cultureimpacts the way they act, react and interact with the world.

Click to read our Press Release  You can also add a Link on your website/blog to culturecrossing.net & give your visitors one-click access to our country guides and valuable resources.  If  you are looking for specific trainings, workshops, or seminars, be sure to check out a list of our Services.

read more …………

Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC)

The U.S. Department of Education [ED] conducts the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), formerly the Elementary and Secondary School Survey (E&S Survey), to collect data on key education and civil rights issues in our nation’s public schools. The CRDC collects a variety of information including, student enrollment and educational programs and services, disaggregated by race/ethnicity, sex, limited English proficiency and disability. The CRDC is a longstanding and important aspect of the ED Office for Civil Right’s overall strategy for administering and enforcing the civil rights statutes for which it is responsible. Information collected by the CRDC is also used by other ED offices as well as policymakers and researchers outside of ED.

The OCR site for information on the CDC is:
http://ocrdata.ed.gov/