Dear America, Please Don’t Call Me A Person of Color

Dear America,

I was 3 when I first realized that I was different. I was 13 when I realized that I had to go on a journey of self-discovery and self-identification because even you, America, didn’t know what I was. And then, I was 23 when I started being affected by people calling me, and others like me, as people of color. America calls people who are of minority and multiracial backgrounds as people of color. By doing so, America merges all of these vastly different and amazing people together as one. By doing so, America is callously separating them from white people.

A multiracial woman looks out at the sky with the American flag draped around her back.
Dear America, Please Don’t Call Me A Person of Color

The first time

The first time that I heard mention of this term, it didn’t sit well with me. I would reminiscence at length about this term. The term ‘person of color’ actually goes back years in America to first refer to people who were of African descent, and then later has evolved to also encompass people of Asian, Pacific Islander, Latino/a, and Native American descent. But this term is too similar to the offensive moniker of ‘colored people.’ If ‘colored people’ is so offensive, then how can ‘person of color’ somehow be better? It is as if you, America, are under the impression that by simply rearranging the words, we can transform a word that has negative and prejudicial connotations to one of racial empowerment. But the way I look at it, you can pronounce a word differently, and at its root, it has essentially the same meaning. Just because the expression is cleverly disguised doesn’t mean that it is better.

I don’t think it is better simply because I don’t feel good being identified as such. I understand America that it can be used as a way to empower minorities and multiracial people. But, it seems to me that all it does is separate non-whites from whites. And wasn’t that the crux of American slavery? During those times, non-whites were separated from whites, suggesting inevitably that one racial group was better than the other. It also suggests that there will always be a deep division between these two groups, pitting them against each other. I would even so far as to say that this could even be the first step toward once again having a racial hierarchy, designating who is a first class citizen and who is a second class citizen.

And what does it matter, America? Why should we continue to separate people simply because some people just happen to have more melanin in their skin? It goes without saying that America, you judge too harshly the color of a person’s skin. America, to you, skin color is one of the most important traits in categorizing people. How can it be that important when it is only one aspect of a person? How can it continue to divide people when we have had so many greats speak out about the necessity of judging not by the color of the skin, but by who we are on the inside? I have had many teachers teach this very lesson, and yet, this is one lesson that you, America, have never grasped.

Oh America, what can you do?

America, I think that you should abstain from saying ‘people of color.’ I get that this term might even be a necessity as a way to call out minority or multiracial groups in a positive light. While that is okay when all is said and done, but at the same time, it makes me wonder, why is there even a need for that? Why can’t we all just be people? Why can’t we all just be human beings? Why can’t we be one, instead of so divided?

I think one of the reasons why it is often vital to call out minority and multiracial groups is to compensate for some of the violence and damage that was done in America a long time ago. While I am not justifying the violence and racial terrorism in no way at all, I am saying that sometimes the greatest damage can be done by simply pointing out a person’s differences even when it is in a positive light. Sure, America, you can say that someone who is a person of color did this great deed and should be acknowledged with accolades upon accolades.

But when you look past the kudos, there is me wondering why was it even necessary to bring up the term person of color? By doing so, I think that we are turning them into a beacon of light, as if they are a shining example for their communities. While there should be more representation, more representation often comes at a tremendous cost. That cost is ultimately a loss of who we are as individuals and as a group. That cost is the loss of the freedom to simply be, instead of always being compared against other people, against other minorities, and against white people. Minorities and multiracial people are still not treated the same as that of white people. And there is the problem.

Conclusion

So, dear America, please don’t call me a person of color. By calling me a person of color, you are disregarding my feelings by reducing me to a vague label. America, you are suggesting that I am nothing more or less than being a person of color, or someone who is not fully white. You are suggesting that that is all we could ever be, while also suggesting that that will always be a deep racial divide between whites and non-whites.

And yet, why should that particular term be used? After all, aren’t we all people of color. We all have pigment in our skin. It’s just that some people have more and some people have less. Either we are all called people of color, or not. There is no middle ground. There is no some of us are people of color, while some aren’t. We are all people. We are all members of the human race. And no one should be made to feel inferior simply because of the color of the skin.

What are your thoughts about the term ‘people of color’?

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Hi! I'm Helen and I am a 32 year old biracial millennial mom raising two multiracial children. I am a writer, English consultant, and social media manager. I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic.

23 thoughts on “Dear America, Please Don’t Call Me A Person of Color

  1. Dear Helen, I really have to suggest to WP that they put differing options on the Like button the way other sites do. This blog reeeally needs a LOVE button! 😊
    Interestingly, in the summer riots, particularly where a friend was in the northwest, “Black Lives Matter” posters and banners were everywhere, but when someone held up an “All Lives Matter” placard, he was almost stoned for being a white-supremacist, even though my friend is conspicuously Asian! The placard was ripped from his hands and torn up … by white people, and he was literally pushed to the ground and kicked!
    BLM, Inc, is the most racist organization since the KKK. “People of color” is used to defend them against offenses that happened over a century ago, and to try to enforce “equality of outcomes” instead of “equality of opportunity.”
    I find it also interesting that people who say gender should not matter made such a huge deal over a woman being elected as vice-president. Being a woman does not authenticate the work she has done, nor does it diminish it, and as Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
    So good to see you back at the keyboard! πŸ˜‰

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I do agree with you regarding the BLM movement. At first, I too didn’t really like the wording as it seemed to just emphasize the importance of a particular group of people in American society, disregarding other races like Native Americans, Asians, Latino/a, and multiracial people. I even went so far as to use the term ‘All Lives Matter’ but then I didn’t because I didn’t want to be labeled as a neo-Nazi or white supremacist. When really all I meant by ‘all lives matter’ was that every life is equal — just as the name implies.

  2. Dear Helen, I’m from India and I’m not aware of the very details of the news. But reading this post, ‘person of color’ doesn’t agree with me.
    In my opinion, if one claims to be a non-racist then they should know that those words exactly means the opposite.
    Powerful post. Thanks for sharing.πŸ’œ

  3. Thank you Helen for sharing your heartfelt thoughts. You made some great points. Excellent post. 😊

  4. What a great post! I also don’t like the term ‘person of colour’ because it makes whites seem like the unmarked group and anyone who isn’t white the marked group.

    Besides, ‘white’ people have the most colours of all. When we’re cold, we’re blue. When we’re sick, we’re green. When it’s hot, we go red. The audacity to call other races ‘people of colour’. Anyway…

    All the best, Michelle (michellesclutterbox.com)

  5. Great post Helen, as always! It’s different in the UK – we don’t use ‘person of colour’ thankfully. But so they can monitor equal rights (?), every form we have to fill in asks “are you:
    White British
    Black British
    Asian
    Chinese”— and so on.

    1. Hi! Thanks for sharing! It is certainly interesting to see how different countries categorize (???) people. We often have to fill out our ethnicity as well in America. Thankfully we most often have the option of choosing ‘other’ or two or more. I wonder, do you have that option in the UK?

  6. Interesting article Helen (though I had to look up ‘hapa’). I’m inclined to agree about the particular term — “person of color” since it’s vague and, as you say, essentially divisive. However, I think (and this is just a non-expert observation) that there are various legitimate socio-political reasons for having such categories…perhaps a different term.

    For example, schools or organizations wanting to increase their diversity, or perhaps just concerned about whether they’re truly serving a diverse community, need to have some kind of measurement method before things can be corrected…or not. In other words, if I look out over a community college student population and it appears that various demographics are under-represented, I may want to implement a reaching-out effort to encourage enrollment. But without a statistical basis to start with, it’s hard to know if aggressive (or any) action — that is, funding — is needed.

    So, I agree about not addressing individuals as “persons of color” (or whatever)…but should we just do away with any terminology that recognizes diverse populations?

    Just some thoughts.

  7. I loved this post. I’m always self reglecting on ways that I can continue to be aware of even the smallest acts of racism in our society. I have always tried not to use this term, because it’s never really sat well with me either, and I’m white. I always cringe a little when I see it somewhere else, so try not to use it. Your explanation was wonderful, because it validates why that term, while mostly used in positive ways, can also be degrading and demeaning. Thank you for sharing this, and sharing your thoughts on how even the “small” things can have a big impact.

    1. Hi Pamela! Thank you so much for reading. I am glad that this post resonated with you & I am also glad that I am not the only person who feels this way. It is lovely to get confirmation that I am not alone in this thought. <3

      1. You aren’t alone. I’ve seen many people use this term, and while I’ve never seen it used in a negative context, I just can’t ever bring myself to use it regularly. I know I’ve probably used it, but am trying not to.

  8. This is a brilliant post and I don’t think we should truly see ourselves as separate. People of colour feels like calling people coloured which does in my head feel racist, and all non whites are in this grouping? It feels like a divide as you say and here in the UK we tend to refer to ethnic minorities or other words like calling people black, Asian, etc. I don’t know if that’s any better but I’d prefer to just notice humans as humans rather than refer to specific skin colour.
    There’s been some positive moves towards equality in some places but more can be done. I recognise that we should never forget or dismiss the past but holding on to the divided feelings won’t ever help us collectively move on. We need some balance and although recognising and giving equality to minorities (for lack of a better word) must be done, I wonder if the ‘hate’ towards white should be stopped too, not to forget but many people of today try not to or don’t divide themselves (at least consciously). And, controversial opinion from a relative of mine, but some white people of the past like in eastern Europe weren’t connected with the slave trade (although a lot of them are sadly quite racist still including another distant relative I have πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ She’s used terms that make me cringe and want to hide. Even after I’ve tried talking to her about it.
    Anyway great post and sorry for the waffle, I hope I made sense😳😬 (am a bit tired while typing on my phone☺️πŸ€ͺ)

    1. Hey, thanks for reading & giving such a thoughtful response. <3 I agree with all of your points. More should be done to help bridge the divide. Hate toward all groups of people (even white people) should be stopped. We should strive to let go of the past and not hold to things that our ancestors have done to other people. They famously say that we should always let go of the past and live in the present. That is what we should do when moving forward with racial issues.

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