The term PEOPLE OF COLOR is often used in American society. Such usage of this term, however, should be rare instead of the current standard.
Language is a critical tool in supporting or opposing structural racism. The current usage of the term “People of Color” — and its acceptance into the public lexicon (even by those groups seen as being under this term’s umbrella) — serves to promote and obscure cultural and other forms of racism and/or nationalism perpetrated toward these specific groups.
By treating all groups not classified as white or that speak English as a second language as if they have been impacted the same way by American Apartheid and as if they face common obstacles, completely obscures the ways that these separate groups are viewed by American society. Furthermore, it negates the relationship (including history and power dynamic) that the specific groups under the “People of Color” umbrella have with American “whiteness”:
• Lumping all groups who are not classified as white or who speak English as a second language under one term (People of Color) ignores the very specific, central, multi-generational role and continuing impact of white supremacy, enslavement, Jim Crow, and Anti-Black bias;
• Diminishes the separate histories and stories of individual groups not classified as white or that speak English as a second language;
• Obscures the role of white skin privilege and the historical role it plays in assimilating immigrant groups — especially immigrant English-as-a-second-language speakers with white skin privilege or who are seen as desirable minorities — into American whiteness within generations; and
• Conceals America’s race-based relationship with “identification duality” (supporting white and other ethnic/immigrant assimilationists identification with their “roots” as non-threatening”; condemning African American “root” identification as being threatening to their identity as “Americans”; and appropriating certain parts of the “root” cultures of Asians and Native Americans).
This is why this section of our website is divided according to the separate histories in the U.S. of groups of people not classified as white, or without white-skin privilege.
For further discussion on the term “people of color” see
and Loretta Ross on the origins of the term at “Women of Color”