As a white male heterosexual, I know I am afforded a sick amount of privilege, and in ways I don't even realize. In my younger idealistic days, I wanted to deny this ("It wasn't me that did the oppressing!") and it led me to mildly oppose policies like affirmative action, a position which I have now reversed. Given some of my earlier errors in this regard, I try to exercise deep humility when it comes to matters of gender, race, or sexual preference, and pay a whole lot more attention to the people who have historically been shat on than to my own intuitions. And it ought to go without saying that I don't really get to pontificate on how members of these groups should feel or what they should call themselves!
And thus I'm loathe to admit what I'm about to admit. In a sense, this post is me officially letting go -- I've decided that, as much as the following bugs me, I'm just going to forget about it from now on. But before I do, I just have to say it one time in public:
"Person of color". I can't stand that phrase.
The reason it grates on me is because it's overly non-specific, and it doesn't really make any sense. First of all, the color of my skin is still a color. Even if you are of the mindset that white (as in pure white) is not a color, um, dude.. my skin is not actually "white" you know, that's just what we call it. (And incidentally, if white is not a color, than gray and black are also not colors, because the only thing that distinguishes them is relative intensity. Cool experiment: Use a laptop projector to display an image of a black square on a white background, and point it at a typical projection screen. What color is this patch I am pointing at? Black, right? Now turn off the projector. What color is it now? Oh crap, it's white!)
Second of all, how general is the term supposed to be? To whom does it apply? I'm just never quite sure. I guess the idea is to encompass all racial groups which have been kicked around by the past couple centuries' global dominance by white Europeans... but I dunno, it just falls flat with me.
Okay, okay, look, I'm starting to get over it. The main reason is that it appears to be Sikivu Hutchinson's preferred term, and I gotta say, I really love her writing. Her recent piece about mortality and about losing a child to congenital disease is particularly gripping and heart-wrenching. All her writing is just fantastic.
And as such, it seems rather silly if I let an arbitrary descriptive term -- especially one which my white male ass really doesn't have any right to complain about -- interfere with my appreciation of a really fantastic author. So I'm going to let go of it. Fine. "People of color" it is.
Given that I almost certainly make more money for the same work, have an easier time getting loans and housing, and reap all sorts of other hidden benefits just because of the color of my skin, it's rather unbecoming of me to be bothered by a term that sort of implicitly says my skin has no color, even though everybody knows what we mean and I suffer absolutely no discrimination or repercussions as a result of the use of that term.
So here it is: With that hopelessly white over-privileged rant out of my system, I now pronounce that I am officially down with the term "person of color" from here on out.
Edit: My wife points out that perhaps some of the reason why I tend to take the term more literally than I ought is because my job involves working in the same building with a bunch of color scientists. (In fact, it was a 3-day crash course in color science where I encountered the trick with the projector) I suppose it's not that surprising that I might read too deeply into an obvious metaphor in that context... heh... Silly me.
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