The term “people of color” (POC) has been used for years. But even before it was used widely, civil rights activist and former Nation of Islam spokesman Malcolm X disapproved of such terms when describing Black Americans.
The usage of “people of color” or POC goes as far back as 1796, according to the American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style. At first it was used to refer to light-skinned people of mixed African and European heritage.
In South Carolina and other parts of the Deep South, this term was used to differentiate between slaves who were mostly “Black” or “Negro” and free people who were primarily “mulatto” or “mixed race.”
The phrase in its current meaning did not catch on until the late 1970s.
Yet years before, Malcolm X was trouble by terms that throw Black people in a minorities bucket.
“Puerto Ricans weren’t enslaved [in America]. This is a problem that stems from slavery and this compensation comes to people who were enslaved by the white man for 400 years,” said Malcolm X emphatically during one TV interview given when he was still a member of the Nation of Islam. “The Puerto Ricans don’t even fit into this picture…the problem is a Negro problem.”
The recent posting of the years-old interview sparked conversation on Twitter.
“One person tweeted, “Boy this is fire! Wonder what folks who love to claim Malcom would think about this? He obviously understood there was an distinct difference in how those of us native to this country were/are being treated vs others.”
Another wrote, “Malcolm would’ve advocated for policies and remedies specifically for ADOS. However, he was a staunch Pan-Africanist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. Really shows how silly we are to argue that these things can’t co-exist. We should study more Malcolm and catch up.”
The pushback against the long-used term “people of color” is growing, especially since the acronym BIPOC — Black, Indigenous, and people of color– began popping up.
Writer Nadra Widatalla wants the term “people of color” should be retired. Black people suffer under the term, she said.
In a piece in the Los Angeles Times, Widatalla backs her argument with several personal examples, like the time she attended a group advertised as “women of color-friendly.” When she got there, she noticed Black women were missing in the mix.
“The terms ‘women of color’ and ‘people of color’ are meant to be inclusive. But, from my perspective, they only help to leave Black people behind — specifically Black women. While every minority group faces its own challenges in America, a ‘one size fits all’ mentality toward diversity erases the specific needs of the most vulnerable communities,” she wrote.
Lumping all non-white people under any acronym or phrase such as “people of color” does a disservice to all, said CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria, host of “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”
The Democratic Party ideology of what it means to be multicultural “lumps a wide variety of ethnic, racial, and religious groups into one minority monolith and approaches them from a perspective that does not fit us all,” Zakaria said on the Nov. 29 episode of his show.
According to Zakaria, the term “people of color” is disrespecting Black Americans whose ancestors were slaves. “America’s treatment of Blacks has been cruel with policies that have broken their families and treated them either as subhuman or second-class citizens,” Zakaria said.
Lumping together all non-whites by the term “of color” should be avoided, according to Zakaria. The issues and experiences of descendants of immigrants who came to America voluntarily from continents other than Africa are different than those of Native Black Americans.
During a GHOGH interview with Jamarlin Martin, Angela Benton, founder of New Me Accelerator, urged that the term “people of color” be retired.
“I understand why people in society use the term ‘people of color’: it replaces the outdated term ‘colored people’ with one that is more personable and palatable; it allows for a kind of political solidarity between the non-white citizens of the country and the world; it acknowledges how racism and white supremacy affect people from many groups (not just Black people), and is a platform for their collective shared experiences, concerns, etc.,” she said.
She added, “That being said, we need to stop saying “people of color” in instances we mostly (and sometimes only) mean ‘Black people.'”
In a September 2020 op-ed in The Washington Post, columnist Donna F. Edwards and communications strategist Gwen McKinney called the all-encompassing term “women of color” problematic.
The term “women of color” was actually coined by a Black woman in the late 1970s, and “was originally meant to infuse dignity, the op-ed states. It was a replacement for the insulting, yet widely-used term ‘minority.’”
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 74: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin returns for a new season of the GHOGH podcast to discuss Bitcoin, bubbles, and Biden. He talks about the risk factors for Bitcoin as an investment asset including origin risk, speculative market structure, regulatory, and environment. Are broader financial markets in a massive speculative bubble?
“The convenient catchall “women of color” (WOC) is an easy descriptor in a world obsessed with shorthand and acronyms. But, as Black women, we stiffen. The phrase evokes the subtlety and complexity of identities erased over the span of 401 years,” the Washington Post piece stated.