ajva: (melisma Anne)
[personal profile] ajva
The term "people of colour" annoys me a bit, and I've just thought of a good analogy to explain why.

You see, I'm a person of colour too: in my case, pinkish with definite overtones of red, particularly after I've had my first glass of wine following a week or so of abstinence.

The analogy is this: there are those of a posh English persuasion who seem to genuinely believe that they speak English "without an accent". As if their mode of speech were the default, and all others are deviant. And yet everybody else would describe them as having, ipso facto, a posh English accent. Simple.

You see what I'm saying?

Do you reckon I'm overthinking this, or would you agree? Or is this in fact a well-known gripe and I'm just massively behind the curve? Or maybe you think it's useful to have a catch-all term for people who are not "white" in order to talk about various kinds of racist oppression? If so, what should it be?

Date: 2013-06-06 11:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ellemir.livejournal.com
IMO, many such terms have the potential to be annoying. The one that gets me is "African-American" because a certain number of PC people from the US use it for anyone who is "Black" without thinking it through. Thus, irritating people from other countries, and also in my experience, many West Indians as while their ancestors may have originated from Africa, they are often very proud of their heritage and dislike it being ignored.

I certainly think of myself as "pinkish" even being as pale as I am, and find myself looking for the goth makeup and making inane comments when people refer to me as "white" although I think I understand where such identification comes from.

I tend to try to call people the terms they are comfortable with, excepting one incident in my early days of teaching. The students in my very multicultural class were horrified to hear our new student refer to herself as "coloured" and gave her a really hard time. She had very African features, pale skin and freckles, and a fabulous naturally red Afro, and had just immigrated from South Africa.
Cue a class lesson on the politics of Apartheid for the class and explaining about cultural perception here for her. She actually cried at first when people called her Black because of all the negative connotations it held for her.

Date: 2013-06-06 11:57 pm (UTC)
barakta: (funky)
From: [personal profile] barakta
People of Colour is a very American term I think, and certainly at the uk-bi-activists race awareness training weekend the trainer lady (A mixed race black lady from Scotland) was very confused by our terminology as it's not used where she's from. Americans also have "woman of colour" and the whole "person with disability" which we don't use in the UK anymore for good and logical reasons which I agree with. I always hated "person with a disability" so mealy mouthed and boring, just say disabled person and have done with it.

I personally go with a neutral term for any group and then if they use a different term follow their lead. So I will by default say "Black, minority, ethnic (BME)" for non white people cos that's a neutral term which isn't offensive even if it's not people's preferred term - then people can define as they like. Also I'm not then going to piss someone off for calling them black if they're Asian and don't feel "black" includes them etc. If appropriate I might ask someone what term they'd like.

The deaf equivalent might be "hearing impaired", it's not a term I like myself but it isn't offensive (unless someone starts telling me I *MUST* use it about myself or criticising me for using other terms). I don't expect hearing people in general to know the different contexts of "deaf" "Deaf" "hard of hearing" "deafened" or more customised terms "partially-deaf" which is my personal preference. Whereas terms like deaf-mute and deaf-and-dumb are extremely offensive and hurtful and should pretty much never be used.

I think racial distinction is complicated, Ellemir has shown one complex example up-comments, fundamentally I think white people getting all funny about "we have colour too" misses the point cos it's a political and historical and contextual definition as much as anything else and by making noise about "we have skin colour too" is kinda taking up the space about ourselves as white people with privilege rather than listening and learning more about the #everydayracism that goes on all around us. Kinda like "what about the menz" types and #everydaysexism.

Date: 2013-06-07 12:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ajva.livejournal.com
Good comment. Just to be clear, I'm not trying to include myself in the "people of colour" definition as such. I was just raising a question about the term itself.

Date: 2013-06-07 07:55 am (UTC)
barakta: (funky)
From: [personal profile] barakta
*nods* I perhaps at late o clock didn't say as clearly that I don't think you were - sorry. :)

I think a lot of terminology can be questionable when looked at and it is good to question. "White ally" which is commonly used makes it about the white person, yet it's a term commonly used...

Ah, found it - article I read the other day about colour labels: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jun/02/black-asian-caucasian-labels "Black" may well be on its way out - who knows. I think Coloured for a time was ok in some spaces and certainly I would not necessarily (although BME people absolutely have the right to differ) assume someone using it was being anything except foreign or outdated. And there will always be individuals who prefer one term or another about themselves and context for words used is important. When my 94 year old (now deaf and frail) Grandmother uses the term "Negro" she's being polite cos that was probably the least offensive term "in her day" as it were. I don't honestly know how that'd feel for a black person - I am sure some would still be hurt and some would clock it to "old white biddy".

One of the reasons I wanted to break down the "non-group respect for terms" is that I have heard a lot of people try to insist they won't use a preferred term (or will disrespect a group and ignore everything they say cos they use a term $person disagrees with) and take up space arguing about someone else's terminology. I've had that done to me by audiologists about deafness language and that's a specific instance. I imagine BME people get it all the time especially from annoying clever Guardian columnists and random Guardian reading white people (of which I am one).

Date: 2013-06-07 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ellemir.livejournal.com
Seconding the good comment.

I agree with what you are saying about privilege.

But I also believe that much of how we think is governed by the language we have available to use, and by the constraints our upbringing imposes. Small children are brilliant at perceiving the world around them in very open terms, you only have to look at the stories they tell and drawings they make, and the honest but excruciatingly embarrassing things they say.
I sometimes wonder what would happen if you deconstructed a language and removed the terms needed to express divisive thoughts in terms of racism and bigotry. How would those children grow up?
Certainly there are cultures that lack some of the terms for colors we use, and scientific studies have shown they analyse color in a different way.

For me as a parent, one of the hardest things to see was my sons' and other childrens' exuberant and colourful drawings change when challenged by older children and adults to draw things in the correct colours. Or to answer their questions when first exposed to the idea that skin color is important in any way.
Their very simple concrete thinking dismisses the idea that people are white or black because they have learnt their colours, and skin colour never fits into those clear categories. My kneejerk negative reaction to white, is probably a hankering for the days before my kids learnt to see themselves and others in such terms.

Date: 2013-06-07 08:01 am (UTC)
barakta: (funky)
From: [personal profile] barakta
Ah, found it - article I read the other day about colour labels: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jun/02/black-asian-caucasian-labels "Black" may well be on its way out - who knows.

And yes language totally dictates stuff, but whether as white people we have the right to determine the language use of BME people is a difficult question or whether we should look to talk about race (cos many white folk don't) and listen to what BME people say about it and listen to our children when small and teach them it's complicated but ultimately let BME people decide (and accept the range of complexity and difference in that too).

There's so much random racist stuff systemically in our society in some ways language used isn't all the problem, in many ways it's horrible shit like invisibilisation. Did you see the stuff about the Cheerios advert in America? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/05/cheerios-ad-mixed-race-couple_n_3390520.html?ir=Business Little mixed-race kid asks white mum a question about cheerios for the heart being good for it etc. Mum agrees. Child pours cheerios all over her dad's chest while he's asleep and he wakes up and obv is unamused... Mum is white, Dad is black... Apparently the racists went beserk and kicked off a huge fuss, whereas many people said it was the first time they'd seen "a family like mine" cos our media is so pervasively white. You probably remember the change in kids books from white 1950s tastic (Janet and John and Topsy and Tim etc) to a bit more multi racial (biff chip and kipper I think) which seemed naff at the time, but I think really did make a big change cos it was just "kids are different ethnicities mkay" and children got more used to it, but it's not done throughout socieyt where someone's race isn't this huge deal all that much.

Date: 2013-06-07 12:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] valkyriekaren.livejournal.com
Just wondering (digression): what IS the correct term for someone who is deaf and non-verbal? I know 'deaf-and-dumb' or 'deaf-mute' are outdated and offensive terms but I don't know what the appropriate term is.

Date: 2013-06-07 12:22 pm (UTC)
barakta: (funky)
From: [personal profile] barakta

The best I have found cos I also spent ages trying to find this (and used by people it refers to) are "Deaf without speech" or "Deaf without clear speech" or you could say "Deaf and uses sign language only" which I think could work in some context as you can technically be deaf without clear speech AND not sign..

Hope that helps.

Date: 2013-06-07 01:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmy-mallow.livejournal.com
We say that Zach is deaf and non verbal. Not sure what term he will use in the future!

Date: 2013-06-07 06:32 am (UTC)
djm4: (PhotoBooth)
From: [personal profile] djm4
It depends whether you're talking about skin tone alone, devoid of all context of ethnicity, racism, prejudice and oppression. In that context and in that context alone I have a colour.

I think the only people who could even think ignoring that context is possible (in the UK, at least) are white people. To everyone else, it's impossible to decople skin colour from the likelihood of being abused, being told to go home or asked where you're really from, feeling you don't fit in at queer or other events, being more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, being stared at, being exoticised, or any of a thousand other things that white people don't in general have to think about day-in, day-out, because it's not part of their everyday experience. In terms of visible spectrum, I have a skin colour (or at least a blood colour that shows through my translucent skin). In terms of anything that matters in terms of society, my status with in it and how people react to me, I'm white.

So, in terms of your question, it's 'useful to have a catch-all term for people who are not "white" in order to talk about various kinds of racist oppression', with a side order of 'I think society is still sufficiently racist (see Metro yesterday, for example) that to me it's self-evidently useful to have such a term'. As [livejournal.com profile] barakta says, the term itself isn't universally agreed, but I think that talking about the term in terms of whether anyone's skin is actually white misses all the important connotations of the term.

Privilege check: I'm white. If a non-white person disagrees with me, please give their views more weight than mine, because they have lived experience I lack.

Date: 2013-06-07 09:11 am (UTC)
adjectivegail: (*fume*)
From: [personal profile] adjectivegail
It is a well-known fact that "people of colour" is a problematic term.

Yes, one of the problems with dialogue about oppression and power dynamics is the presence of defaults - for example if I said "I was talking to my colleague", many people would assume I meant white, male, able-bodied, cis gendered, maybe relatively young, etc, etc.

The useful catch-all terms that we already have as being widely accepted to talk about different kinds of racist oppression including "BME", "non-white", and depending on the social group, "POC".

Frankly I'm glad that you clarify in the comments that you're not trying to say "but what about the white people", because your original post DOES come off that way.

Good comments above are so far good.

Date: 2013-06-07 09:18 am (UTC)
adjectivegail: (*fume*)
From: [personal profile] adjectivegail
Sorry, feeling particularly sensitive about all this at the moment because my predominantly white neighbourhood, who previously had BNP candidates (thankfully for neighbouring ward, but not much better) selectively leafleting on our high street, has been opposing a mosque planning application for the last couple of years claiming that it's nothing to do with not wanting that sort of people in the area but it's all about how the already-awful traffic would be so much worse on Friday afternoons and clearly there's no local need for a mosque because we don't already have one - well the building in question was painted with a swastika last night.

Plus our white business manager is basically currently bullying our black team admin.

Plus my line manager doesn't like our unit director and said "I had no idea Chinese poeple could be so cutthroat" and now I have to wonder how far that kind of shit pervades her thinking

Plus yesterday I had to hit someone with the Intent! It's fucking magic! link, and in reply I got HOW DARE YOU, I already said I didn't know any better why are you so meeeeeeeannn...

I am basically done with this shit for a while.

Date: 2013-06-07 03:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ellemir.livejournal.com
I am sorry that you are having to deal with all this shit. If anything I said offends I'd rather know so I can put things right. And by that I mean apologise and take time to work out what I need to change in myself and my thinking.

But that shouldn't just be down to you. I hope anyone would call me on it. What you are saying hits home as I worry about my sister growing up and dealing with exactly the attitudes you are dealing with.

Regarding the Mosque, I have recently received a similar petition regarding a new gym that has opened in our very small and busy road.
It was worded in terms of concern about our already problematic parking, but they took great care to include the clearly non English names of the new Business owners in such a way that it was clear that this was supposed to influence our thinking. Of course there is also the fact that the instigators own the established gym at the other end of the street so want to avoid competition. Gah!

Date: 2013-06-08 10:36 am (UTC)
adjectivegail: (Dragon)
From: [personal profile] adjectivegail
Thank you but no, the comments here were great and thoughtful and sensitive and stuff. Just it still hit sore spots because around this issue I'm currently one giant sore spot and hypersensitive. I should probably not even have commented, but my perception (which I now acknowledge could have been wrong but yesterday I was a bit to knee-jerk to consider) was that everyone in the discussion so far was white and while that's not the post's or commenters' faults, and like I said the comments are thoughtful and good, see above re sore spot. Anyway, thank you but it's all good (apart from the actual racism in our examples, obvs).


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