“People of Color”, sometimes abbreviated with the acronym PoC, is a catch-all term for all non-white people or people not of predominantly European ancestry. More significantly, people of color is often used to allude to a sense of unity and shared experience between non-white persons in majority white, discriminatory societies.
People of Color is a generally acceptable term among people of all backgrounds, but does anyone ever stop to think about its true meaning and implications? The term never caught on with me because, for several reasons, “People of Color” as a description of all non-white people seems not only shallow, but misleading and useless as a concept:
1. “People of Color” describes a unity and shared experience that does not exist
In order to be considered a “person of color”, one simply needs to be perceived as any race/ethnicity but white. Thus, “people of color” is actually a vast and varied group of people, many of which have no true connection to each other. In other words, non-white people are not a monolithic group of people who identify with each other for the mere fact that they are not seen as white.
“People of Color” have diverse backgrounds. An Asian-American man may not see any similarity between himself and a Mexican immigrant. Further, their life experiences likely have been very different. Who can say that their experience and views on race are anything alike? Or that they don’t relate more to people who are not “of color”? Being “of color” doesn’t create a certain destiny.
2. “People of Color” ignores racial complexities
Implicit in the phrase “people of color” is the joint experience of racial discrimination faced by non-white people in majority white societies. But what exactly is the experience of discrimination and who faces it?
Fact: Racism and discrimination have never been equal opportunity. In general, non-white people are affected by discrimination in different ways and to different extents. This is well-documented, but when all non-white people are lumped together under “people of color” this crucial fact goes unnoticed or is determined to be irrelevant.
In addition, racism doesn’t merely consist of whites discriminating against non-whites. Non-white people can and do discriminate against each other. “People of color” depicts a sense of alliance between non-whites which doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
3. “People of Color” creates whiteness as a central factor of life
To use the phrase “people of color” you must necessarily see (lack of) whiteness as a determining factor in a person’s life, mindset, and fate. If it weren’t then why would the term be used to differentiate whites from non-whites? Most people who often use the term “People of Color” would disagree with the idea of whiteness as a key factor in life, so why use it?