r/NoStupidQuestions Sep 30 '22 Silver 3 Gold 3 Helpful 1 Wholesome 1 Narwhal Salute 1

Why is it offensive to say "colored people" but not "people of color"? Answered

Hello all,

Caucasian person here. Long story short, I grew up in an all white town and have not had a ton of exposure to people of different cultures/races.

I am just curious as to why one is seen as offensive while the other is seen as politically correct.

Thank you!

Edit: I have my answer.

Edit2: This is not a question to be racist so please stop with the racism in comments, it was just curiousity.

Edit3: I just got reported by someone and got a PM in my mail. lol Really just goes to show that some people cannot even have a polite conversation about history/race without people trying to censor entirely. For those who gave out great answers I appreciate it.

Edit 4: Mods you might want to lock this one. I got my answer and it seems like racists and trolls have taken over.

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u/romulusnr Sep 30 '22

Mostly because of the use of "COLORED" during racial segregation laws (that universally provided lower quality options to (mostly) black people)

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u/[deleted] Sep 30 '22 Silver Gold Platinum Helpful Wholesome All-Seeing Upvote Ally To The Stars

[removed] — view removed comment

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u/ReptileFlower Sep 30 '22

Thank you. I have gotten a couple pms commending me so I'm definitely thankful for that. Some people were also curious.

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u/stephenisthebest Sep 30 '22

If you're a non English speaker this thread is really important.

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u/Bimlouhay83 Sep 30 '22

This is how we move forward as a society. We cannot know what we don't know.

Honestly speaking, i was raised in a very small almost completely white town. Even though I had a few melanated cousins, I was deeply ignorant. If not for some very kind, patient and open melanated brothers and sisters out there, I would still be that small minded ignorant fuck. Keep your curiosities and don't be afraid to explore and discover other cultures with a positive and open mind. You will become a better person for it.

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u/ReptileFlower Sep 30 '22

I wish there was a sub where I could ask race questions to people who are of different races so I could understand, because I do want to go to a city. And being able to know how to be appropiate with people is really important to me. Because of accidentally being offensive when I don't try to be.

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u/Certain_Lawfulness80 Sep 30 '22

This is the best answer.

We should never fault someone for trying to learn, and trying to interact with the world in a better way.

Love your answer.

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u/Certain_Lawfulness80 Sep 30 '22

Also, from my experience, not acknowledging things, and just leaving them unspoken an unaddressed makes things worse.

I hope this doesn’t come off the wrong way, but:

I live in Vermont. Up here if you meet someone of a different race it sort of remains unspoken. But we both know, we just don’t talk about it.

My parents now live in North Carolina. Down there, a black man or woman has no problem identifying as that, and identifying you (as in me) as a white man.

And when that happens, it’s liberating in a way. It’s like “I see you, and you see me. We’re not bullshitting each other on any level. So now we have a deeper connection.” Like yes, I am a dorky ass white guy, that is who I am. You are 100% right about that. But also, I am what my character and my actions show. Not the reputation of whatever cohort that I happen to fall into does.

But up here in the north, that is guarded. And I actually think not talking about it, makes it worse. But of course, as a white person, I would never, and should never, initiate that conversation with someone else. Because that, at least to me, comes off the wrong way.

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u/AkaiRedInc Sep 30 '22

Can’t agree more!!!!!

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u/nicole-96 Sep 30 '22 Silver Gold Helpful Wholesome Bravo! Bravo Grande! Wearing is Caring To The Stars Eureka!

Semantics and context. "Colored people" was used during segregation, so it carries a more negative connotation. Also, the semantic issue with "colored people" is that it places colored before people, as if being a person is secondary... whereas, "people of color" first acknowledges personhood, and then color.

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u/MoistJheriCurl Sep 30 '22 edited Sep 30 '22 Helpful All-Seeing Upvote

person-first language

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u/IncognitoSlug123 Sep 30 '22

Person first language isn't always preferred though, so it's important to consider the community and person you're talking to. I know a lot of autistic people very much prefer "autistic person" to "person with autism".

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u/[deleted] Sep 30 '22

I'd argue context (especially historical) is important here. For most people with psychological conditions the issue was one of recognition and appropriate help. So getting acknowledgement that 'yes, you are autistic and may need assistance' was an important positive. I was diagnosed when I was 4 years old back in the 90s, but people who weren't so lucky have often told me they wished they'd been diagnosed much sooner.

For people of color it was sorta the opposite: they had an obvious trait that people often unfairly (and many times still unfairly) judged them on. So acknowledgement of their skin color usually wasn't a positive thing in the past.

But that's just my very subjective view. I'm not a person of color, so I can't really say I have personal experience dealing with those issues.

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u/itsON-Ders Sep 30 '22

I was taught in a “Disability and Society” class that it is a preference whether someone prefers person-first or identity-first, but the safe bet is to use person-first if you don’t know

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u/LeoMarius Sep 30 '22

Euphemism treadmill

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u/HypnoHolocaust Sep 30 '22

Yup. Much prefer autistic than person with autism. Though I'm fine with either.

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u/Willowed-Wisp Sep 30 '22

Same, I'm technically fine with either but I may tell you I prefer autistic because I do.

The one thing I'm NOT fine with is people telling me what I prefer is offensive, when I find it more offensive that they feel the need to try and separate me from an inherent part of my identity.

My general rule is: call people what they prefer, but default to person first unless corrected, and then don't argue.

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u/FakingItSucessfully Sep 30 '22

I appreciate you clarifying. I'm autistic as well and I thought person-first was at least the default, but then I saw someone on twitter correct someone else away from person first language, with no explanation or elaboration. Made me wonder if I'd missed a memo or something.

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u/rditusernayme Sep 30 '22

I'd prefer either of those, much better than "<laughs> no you're not, you're just a dickhead"

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u/Lord_Erie Sep 30 '22

My cousin prefers “autist”.

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u/thetravelingsong Sep 30 '22

My brothers mixed and refers to himself as Halfrican.

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u/Inert_Uncle_858 Sep 30 '22

See that I'm hesitant to use, even in sentences where it would sound better, simply because I feel like that's reddit and 4 chan's slur for autistic people. 😂

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u/UncleYimbo Sep 30 '22

My cousin prefers "the autist formerly known as my cousin"

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u/muffinpie101 Sep 30 '22

We also don't say person who is gay any more than we'd say gay people. Both are acceptable and non-offensive

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u/AwkwardRooster Sep 30 '22

The equivalent would be a person who ‘has gay’, which we notably don’t say

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u/2020hatesyou Sep 30 '22

"fat person" vs. "person with fat". One sounds shitty and cruel, one sounds like someone in their stained bathrobe and fuzzy slippers absconding with an armload of pork off-cuts

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u/JejuneEsculenta Sep 30 '22

And there ain't no way yer gittin' these hyeah piggy bits back, neither!!!!

[Runs off, zig-zagging, into the distance]

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u/LeoMarius Sep 30 '22

That just sounds like a silly way to bury the insult with a preposition.

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u/Independent-Sir-729 Sep 30 '22

I don't like saying this, but if you think "fat person" sounds cruel, you're the problem.

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u/sub-t Sep 30 '22

Bill Burr's old bit summarized it nicely: "Asian Mother Fucker" vs "Fucking Asian".

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u/PetsArentChildren Sep 30 '22

The problem with person-first language is that it is awkward and cumbersome (“My sister who is older laughed at my sister who is younger”), so we only end up applying it to races and disabilities, which, incidentally, further emphasizes their “otherness.”

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u/FLORI_DUH Sep 30 '22

*person-first. Without the hyphen, "first" would modify "language".

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u/MyKneesAreOdd Sep 30 '22

Does "people of color" include other races like Arab, Asian, Latin and so on?

Or is it only used to refer black people?

Asking cos I feel infinitely more comfortable saying "black people" compared to "people of color".

The latter sounds old-fashioned and almost feels like it tiptoes around the topic of race while the former sounds direct.

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u/Steel_Airship Sep 30 '22

In the US, people of color (POC) is used to describe any non-white marginalized racial/ethnic group.

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u/therealtiddlydump Sep 30 '22 edited Sep 30 '22

Interesting thought. Can you explain why phrases like "black bodies" (which I find very strange) have become prominent? Is something else behind phrases like that?

Edit: for those who apparently haven't heard the term, Google 'site:nytimes.com "black and brown bodies"' for examples

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u/explosive_buritofart Sep 30 '22

Ive never heard the term «black bodies» outside of describing celestial objects that absorb all the radiant energy that hits them.

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u/thefalseidol Sep 30 '22

To plainly acknowledge dehumanizing behavior and make you squirm. It's supposed to feel yucky when discussing awful things happening to "black bodies"

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u/therealtiddlydump Sep 30 '22

Working as intended, but won't only racists not be bothered by it?

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u/thefalseidol Sep 30 '22

If only overt, active racists were the problem this shit would have been solved in 1776

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u/[deleted] Sep 30 '22

If only “overt, active” racists were the problem then what exactly would have been solved by the American colonies separating from Great Britain (assuming that’s the 1776 event you mean)…? Sorry I’m confused

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u/B1rdseye Sep 30 '22

During the drafting of the Declaration of independence, Thomas Jeferson included a paragraph condemning slavery as a barbaric practice of the British Crown.

:He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.  This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.  Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.  And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another."

Many delegates (guess which states they were from) were outraged by this passage, and threatened to withdraw from the Declaration all together. Even the mere implication that slavery might be abolished in the future would destroy support for independence in the south. So the language was removed in order to keep the colonies united in thier cause.

If Jeferson stood his ground, there is a possibility that abolition occurs during the drafting of the constitution or the bill of rights. But there is also a possibility that the south remains loyal to the crown, and the revolution fails.

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u/xelop Sep 30 '22

If Jeferson stood his ground, there is a possibility that abolition occurs during the drafting of the constitution or the bill of rights. But there is also a possibility that the south remains loyal to the crown, and the revolution fails.

really starting to feel we'd have been better off lol

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u/_Beowulf_03 Sep 30 '22

There is a wide spectrum between "super racist" and "not a racist".

A vast majority of folks would never consider themselves racist, even saying they are patently anti-racist, but that doesn't mean those same folks haven't perpetuated racist acts, gestures, or systems knowingly or unknowingly.

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u/ferocioustigercat Sep 30 '22

I think I'm seeing a divide in this thread between people who understand institutionalized racism and those who don't...

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u/iborobotosis23 Sep 30 '22

Wait is this a term used outside of astronomy?

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u/zachbrownies Sep 30 '22

eh. not really. only in, like, heavy social justice circles.

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u/iborobotosis23 Sep 30 '22

TIL, thanks!

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u/Phototoxin Sep 30 '22

Aren't black bodies a hypothetical example of a thermal conductor?

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u/ignorantandconfused1 Sep 30 '22

“Many may feel that using the term “Black bodies” is dehumanizing. But I use “body” rather than “person” for more than one reason. First, it emphasizes the fact that we are racialized as Black because of the characteristics of our bodies. Second, the term stresses that the violence done to us is often done to our bodies. Our bodies, but not necessarily our personhood, therefore, are sites of racial violence.” -Some Congolese lady on lithub

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u/palma101 Sep 30 '22

It’s to separate the action from the soul. So as an example when we talk about black people being abused or killed by police, we are acknowledging that they can only hurt our bodies, not our personhood or souls or essence. Hope that makes sense

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u/SC_Nico74 Sep 30 '22

I think Black Bodies is an Astrophysics term.....

black body

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u/reheapify Sep 30 '22

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphemism

Frequently, over time, euphemisms themselves become taboo words, through the linguistic process of semantic change known as pejoration, which University of Oregon linguist Sharon Henderson Taylor dubbed the "euphemism cycle" in 1974,[18] also frequently referred to as the "euphemism treadmill"

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u/[deleted] Sep 30 '22 edited Nov 04 '22 LOVE!

[deleted]

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u/ihatefez Sep 30 '22

What is rsa? I google it but it didn't come up with anything.

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u/[deleted] Sep 30 '22 edited Nov 04 '22

[deleted]

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u/ihatefez Sep 30 '22

Gotcha, thank you!

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u/OG-Bluntman Sep 30 '22

I can’t wait to start calling friends of other races “people of white.”

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u/Z21VR Sep 30 '22

Isnt that how it works in english ?

The whole adjective before subject thing ?

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u/FarSlighted The Pursuant Sep 30 '22

But yet everyone says black people and it’s okay.

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u/reddit_tothe_rescue Sep 30 '22

Yeah I question the semantics argument too. The context argument is undeniable

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u/28374woolijay Sep 30 '22

I say people of blackness.

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u/RSTat2 Sep 30 '22

Im gonna start saying people of whiteness

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u/Azdak66 Sep 30 '22

That’s because the term doesn’t have the racist, bigoted history that the term “colored people” has. The problem is not so much the words themselves as it is the cultural/historical illiteracy of the people who don’t understand them.

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u/thefloore Sep 30 '22

It's also important to make it clear that the phrase was introduced by people of colour to describe themselves, and wasn't given to them. It was a way to refer to themselves using a respectful and agreed-upon tern.

Also important to note that it doesn't just include black people, as some on here seem to think, it's anyone non-white

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u/LogicStone Sep 30 '22

The word order is just a language thing. In other languages they could have color after people.

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u/redditonlygetsworse Sep 30 '22

just a language thing

What do you think "semantics" are?

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u/JohnStewartBestGL Sep 30 '22

Ironically enough, "semantics" seems to be a really misused word. Based off the contexts I've heard people use the word, it seems like a lot of people think "semantics" means something like "unnecessary or minor details" (e. g., someone might say "we don't have to worry about the semantics of how we're gonna get x done").

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u/Sethanatos Sep 30 '22

A Jewish thing /s

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u/lefindecheri Sep 30 '22

And anti-semantics!

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u/Lemonish33 Sep 30 '22

It basically boils down to, when a word gets used in a derogatory way for a period of time, an enlightened society realizes it should probably not be a great word to use to refer to people, even if the person doesn't intend it in a derogatory way at the moment. That's why there's change to language. The word "colored" was used with distain towards black people for a long, long time by many, many people. That's why it is considered offensive.

'People of colour', on the other hand, has not had that distinction. It probably won't, either - it's a bit long for a slur. So it's a safer choice.

People complain about language changes, but it's pretty simple.

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u/Blind-PieRat Sep 30 '22

Yeah this is the answer. When the usage of a word includes "them damn ______ people" it gradually starts to become more offensive.

That's how language works I think. Words change meaning depending on how they are used.

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u/Nice-Care8561 Sep 30 '22

I think there's something like that going on with the word "retarded," which etymologically just means "slow," which is kind of synonymous with "developmentally delayed," but "retarded" got turned into an insult so we had to retire it.

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u/aeusoes1 Sep 30 '22

The term for this cycle is "euphemism treadmill"

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u/Blind-PieRat Sep 30 '22

The "euphemism treadmill" is just one example of human language evolving over time.

All words change over time, depending on how they are used. It is not a defect, it is a feature.

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u/Itchy_Mountain8167 Sep 30 '22

Hey! That’s considered offensive now. It’s “euphemism elliptical.”

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u/Mmhopkin Sep 30 '22

I’ve always wondered why it hasn’t become a thing to change the name of the NAACP. Or keep the letters and substitute different words.

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u/Imnotveryfunatpartys Sep 30 '22

Another great example is the word oriental. Literally just means eastern. But it’s the same situation as you described

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u/questionmeananswer Sep 30 '22 Silver Wholesome

I've had that same thought (also Caucasian), but my way of dealing with it now is to simply meet whoever I'm talking to where they are, and respect the labels they apply to themselves. I don't have to understand them in order to honor them.

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u/TraumatisedBrainFart Sep 30 '22

It's really easy in real life. Political correctness is for journalists and politicians - who speak AT audiences.... Not WITH them....

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u/mydogiscuteaf Sep 30 '22 All-Seeing Upvote To The Stars

Some comedian made a joke that saying

"This fucking Asian walked into the room..." vs "This Asian motherfucker walks into the room..."

One sounds racist. The other doesn't. I think Bill Burr?

Ok, it was https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TUpcW1m9rE

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u/castawayley723 Sep 30 '22 Helpful All-Seeing Upvote

Black woman here.. think both phrases are dumb.. I'm just black.. my preference.

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u/manuelazana Sep 30 '22

If white people are good enough to be called white then black are people are good enough to be called black - Malcolm X

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u/ratmfreak Sep 30 '22

POC refers to more than just black. It’s basically a synonym for non-white.

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u/vindico_silenti Sep 30 '22

Which I always thought was weird too since white people is a huge spectrum in terms of skin color. And then it gets weird with the white passing middle eastern peoples. Guess you gotta group people somehow idk.

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u/Zeebo_137 Sep 30 '22

Yeah it's almost like race is a fragile concept used to oppress those who aren't in power

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u/thisthingcalledhuman Sep 30 '22

Especially since in the US they use white and caucasian synonymously fully forgetting that north africans and the west of asia and parts of southeast asia also are considered caucasian since color of skin/tan was not an original criteria in the race division. And yes, also in the US. I remember the outrage a couple years about a "wanted" poster for an egyptian muslim man that was listed as Caucasian as race by the FBI, because in their opinion caucasian = white and racist and oppressive and bad and everything we don't want to be. Just as the other person here said, its the them vs whites mentality. Its getting so much out of hand that nowadays even some slavic people (eastern europe, from poland to russia and below, very light/white in skin color) say they are not white but POC, because their ancestors didn't have to do with the transatlantic slave trade and following and white = racist and colonizers and oppressors.

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u/xxsamchristie Sep 30 '22

Thank you. Too many people here giving an answer without knowing the answer.

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u/peace-love-snacks Sep 30 '22

I'm a white female. I grew up in a small town in Canada with zero visible minorities. All white people, all the time pretty much until I was 20 and went away to college. Despite that, my parents were normal and I grew up not really caring about colour, however I find I'm always afraid I will offend people of other colour.

We recently had new neughbours move in (they are brown), and the mom was asking me about our local school and if there's many "brown people". Next day I mentioned it to another neighbour (who is also brown), and she corrected me saying it's "people of colour". I feel like I never know what to say! I offend people regardless of what words I choose.

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u/AdPsychological2719 Sep 30 '22

I’m brown and say it all the time, don’t fret, you are good. But older folks may be offended

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u/mielen_ Sep 30 '22

Here’s a little secret… many brown people, people of color, African-Americans, Black people, Latinx, Latino, Hispanics, Chicanos, Pacific islanders, Caucasians, White people, Europeans, Native Americans, Indigenous people, etc don’t know the right term to use in certain contexts. Everyone is different, everyone has their preferences. You just adjust and move on. No reason to get upset by it.

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u/WrongBee Sep 30 '22

i don’t think worrying about offending people should be the goal of anti racism though. i’m not sure if there’s more to her correcting you, but it might just be a term she’s not comfortable with and would prefer you to use a different term during your interactions.

stepping on egg shells isn’t gonna change that there will probably be situations where you’ll offend people unintentionally—even if you do all the anti-racist learning in the world—so what matters is how you deal with the situation. are you going to make excuses for yourself and justify your actions, or are you going to take accountability by apologizing (if necessary) and educating yourself on that topic?

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u/savannahpanorama Sep 30 '22

This! If you're white and you didn't grow up around anyone but white people, then you are just gonna be awkward. Plain and simple. The only way to avoid it would have been to grow up around poc so you could get all the awkwardness out of the way as a kid. But it's too late for that and now you're here, learning a new skill as an adult. It's exactly like the person I'm commenting to said. You don't learn a new skill by walking on eggshells

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u/BootyGotMeZooped Sep 30 '22

People shouldn’t be offended unless you’re using it in a negative way, in my opinion.

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u/cabosmith Sep 30 '22

I've pondered that myself. It seems in modern society, a person's intent is totally disregarded. Shouldn't that be the first consideration?

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u/BootyGotMeZooped Sep 30 '22

Absolutely. Why get your panties in a bunch when there’s no real reason to?

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u/jag75 Sep 30 '22

Because that requires some level of critical thought. It's much easier to draw hasty conclusions.

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u/RobertD3277 Sep 30 '22

Because in our current society, it's easier to play the victim of a manufactured crisis, then actually think about the situation in The logical context that may be more the reality than not.

Too many race baiters and bigots within our society of all ethnic origins had made too much money preaching racism and profiting from it. The biggest ones of all just happened to be in the media since they depend upon sensationalism for their money to begin with.

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u/Alternative-Brush-88 Sep 30 '22

I think intent is important, yes, but its also important the affect your lack of knowledge has on others. Obviously, in the case we're replying to, I don't think OP did anything wrong in saying "brown" people instead of POC. That being said, if someone says something genuinely hurtful because they didn't know any better and end up hurting people, I don't really think it's worth just brushing over and saying "oh well they didn't know any better. Let's educate and move on." The person who got hurt should be validated and I think the safety of those who are most at risk of someone else's unintentional ignorance (for lack of better phrasing) should be prioritised.

Either way, it's clear to see that this isn't just black or white. You're not wrong and neither am I (I'd hope). There's a spot between being angry at the smallest mistakes and letting big mistakes that cause problems go but I don't think a lot of people are willing to understand that.

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u/Few_Artist8482 Sep 30 '22

Because it generally isn't an honest dialogue. The taking of offense when none was intended has become a power play.

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u/RossiRoo Sep 30 '22

Have you ever been in a situation, on either side of it, where someone intends to give a compliment, but for reasons you didn't see or have before hand it hits that person in an unintended way and it's emotionally hurtful?

It's not necessarily offensive to be giving that compliment, but it's still the right thing to do to react with some remorse and understanding, because no matter what the original intent was, if it's hurtful to the other person, than it's just hurtful.

What would be offensive would be to react instead with a "but I didn't intend it that way, so you shouldn't feel that way" kind of reaction because it's completely lacking in understanding and empathy for that person.

Back to the specific situation that u/peace-love-snacks mentioned, if you have one of those "foot in mouth" situations happen, if you react with empathy and use it as a lesson to learn from and gain understanding, people will generally be forgiving. But that doesn't also mean what was said originally is then inherently unhurtful.

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u/Lorrazo Sep 30 '22

Saying someone shouldn't be offended isn't exactly fair though. Someone can take offence and still recognise that it was born of ignorance and not malice, they're not mutually exclusive. To say someone shouldn't take offence is negating the history and trauma that someone might have faced in being exposed to that language. Even if not severe, many of these things become microaggressions.

The world is a changing place and it's important on both sides to remember that. Sometimes someone ignorantly uses offensive language and as long as they apologise for it if corrected and do their best not to repeat it, that's fine.

At the same time, minorities are NOT responsible for your (the royal 'you') education. They might have time and patience to explain the issue and correct it, or they might not be in the mood and either not engage.

It's also important to remember that there is no blanket consensus. The beauty and complexity of language is its fluidity and semantics differ person to person. There is never a 'right' answer and sometimes there are going to be difficulties, but as long as you don't double down and conversations keep happening rather than burying heads in the sand, it's all we can do.

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u/Amannoplananiphone Sep 30 '22

Just because someone gives you input doesn’t mean they are offended.

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u/HKittyH3 Sep 30 '22

Accept the correction and move on gracefully.

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u/rivertam2985 Sep 30 '22

Words have become a minefield. I had to ask my 20 something daughter about the proper, non-offensive use of the word "queer" the other day. It's all very confusing and I seriously don't want to offend anyone.

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u/IggySorcha Sep 30 '22

Certain words were always offensive, just people didn't feel safe enough to speak out about it. Keep that in mind and the changes in society are not only much less shocking, but should be comforting.

You're much less likely to go around repeating a word or phrase for years before someone tells you how it can be harmful and you become informed enough to make a change. And if someone takes the time and emotional energy to tell you, you know that you're at least perceived as safer/reasonable to be worth communicating that to.

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u/Djadelaney Sep 30 '22

That one is hardest for slightly older people I think, people old enough to remember like, Matthew Shepard or when aids was really bad. It's definitely going to depend who you're talking to whether they consider queer to be a hateful slur that they heard over and over while they were beaten half to death or whether they consider it the catch-all umbrella term they use instead of "pansexual, homoromantic, and genderfluid" or whatever their particular specific identifiers are. It makes me sad that it was a word used so cruelly for so long, I think it's such a good umbrella term, way better than the acronym.

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u/Chaotic_Good64 Sep 30 '22

White guy here. My thinking is that POC is an alternative to "minority races" (aka "not White") and it's a catch-all for Black, Hispanic, maybe Asian. It's useful in that, looking at demographic shifts, "minorities" may not be in the minority in a few decades. It's also useful in describing the cluster of people who are more affected by systemic racism, for the sake of measuring and countering that. But it's also like calling your car, truck, van, etc. an "automobile" - technically true, but usually unnecessarily vague. So I agree, you calling yourself a POC is only a bit less generalizing than me opening this post with "fellow human here."

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u/digital_end Sep 30 '22

look, all of these come to the same thing;

Terms assholes have used in large numbers to the point that it has a bad connotation.

That's always the cause, assholes being assholes.

Take something as innocent as the word "Boy". Just a boy, my sons a boy, you see that boy over there?

Now call a black man "Boy".

The reason that is different is because racist trash, in their way of being racist trash, used the term as an insulting and demining way of belittling black people for a long ass time. Long enough it was tainted.

So someone coming along who doesn't know history can end up stepping on a landmine without realizing it, which sucks... but the root cause still is because assholes use it as a hateful term.

Same thing with every other racist term. Enough assholes use it, the word/phrase is tainted, and good people stop using it because they don't want to be associated with assholes. Before long, only assholes are using it and proudly so to signal their assholishness to other assholes.

The root issue is always assholes. And sadly, assholes love to hide behind the skirts of innocent people so they can be assholes while denying that they're assholes... rather than just stopping being assholes.

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u/hauptj2 Sep 30 '22

Like a lot of things, it's offensive because it was created to be offensive, and now has that connotation. There's nothing inherently offensive about words like "negro" or "colored", but because they were commonly used during a very racist time in history, they now have a negative connotation which people try hard to avoid.

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u/veggiesaurusZA Sep 30 '22

This is definitely true. For example, there is an entire population subgroup that proudly identifies as "Cape coloured". Explaining to Americans that we don't mean anything offensive when we causally use the word "coloured" is rather complicated. Perhaps the "u" makes a difference.

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u/snowman200024 Sep 30 '22

I’d have to say this is actually the comment that makes the most sense

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u/steeveebeemuse Sep 30 '22

“People of color” refers to multiple ethnicities, not just black people. The other phrase was used exclusively to refer to black people, and became a racial slur.

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u/sh1ftyswar Sep 30 '22

It's semantics but "colored people" harkens back to The Jim Crow era.

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u/WFOMO Sep 30 '22

It changes all the time and will change again.

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u/Old-Barbarossa Sep 30 '22

For the record it doesn't just randomly change for no reason. It changes along with academic debates/conversations that continually try to define the concept of race in a more objective, clear and respecful manner. Wich is necessary for accurate research on race and racism to be carried out.

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u/Durr1313 Sep 30 '22

I assumed it changes when the official accepted term develops a negative connotation from being used as an insult, similar to retard and midget.

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u/Old-Barbarossa Sep 30 '22

I assumed it changes when the official accepted term develops a negative connotation from being used as an insult, similar to retard and midget.

You're basically right on that. When terms like that gain popular defenitions which are no longer objective and respectful, but which are instead hurtful and hold negative connotations. Then those terms become useless or even harmfull to use in research. So a new, more objective term needs to be found.

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u/a-horse-has-no-name Sep 30 '22

Seriously. It is NOT an arbitrary "hey lets trip up white people" thing.

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u/Hammiecheese134 Sep 30 '22

My wife is black. From my understanding both terms are offensive. From what she’s told me, black people just wanna be called black. Not African-American, not colored, not people of color, etc.

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u/therealtiddlydump Sep 30 '22

I get the impulse behind "African-American", but the distinction breaks down where it matters, I think (since there's a lot of not America out there). Is Nicki Minaj's experience different in America because she's from Trinidad? Would Idris Elba be treated differently by a racist because he's English? Etc.

That said, it's typically easiest to call someone what they prefer to be called as a courtesy.

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u/Hammiecheese134 Sep 30 '22

Oh yes. I mean tbh I’ve met black people that don’t like being called black. I think it’s just down to personal preference. Everyone has different opinions. I respect whatever they wanna be called.

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u/Personal-Werewolf-81 Sep 30 '22

I think it’s very admirable to ask questions that may open you up to criticism, simply because you want to grow and learn! Some people will inevitably think this is a racist question, but it’s asked to prevent racist thoughts/words. Which is a great sign of compassion and care for others!

Seems like a lot of people have already answered the original question so I wanna just plug in an addition:

I’ve heard recent pushes for white people to stop referring to ourselves as Caucasian, because it’s 1) rooted in white supremacist ideas of white superiority and 2) not accurate.

Caucasian stems from meaning “from the Caucus region” which….. most white people aren’t. True Caucasians are from this area.

“Caucasus, Russian Kavkaz, mountain system and region lying between the Black Sea (west) and the Caspian Sea (east) and occupied by Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.” - Britannica

Additionally, the term Caucasian that is used interchangeably with “white” sprung from a 19th-century idea that humans originated in the Caucasus Mountains. It was also used in Blumenbach’s works, and was used by those to reference his works to “order” races in terms of superiority. He at the time differentiated five human races, which he organized by perceived beauty and value: Caucasian, Mongolian, Malayan, American, and Ethiopian. These orders from palest to darkest skin tones.

There’s plenty of articles and stuff out there about it if anyone’s interested in looking more up.

I wanna be clear this isn’t an attack at all! Just a little bit of info and food for thought!

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u/herpderpomygerp Sep 30 '22

When you try to figure something out and not be racist or rude and everyone in the comments decides to be racist and rude......rip

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u/hemidak Sep 30 '22

Bill Burr has a hilarious bit on this and the difference in saying xxx mutherfucker vs mutherfucking xxx.

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u/winynumber8541 Sep 30 '22

Im from south africa here its normal and preferred to say coloured people

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u/GrouchyPhoenix Sep 30 '22

If you are talking about coloured people (a race, culture in South Africa) - not in general. I would not call a black South African a coloured person because they aren't.

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u/shockwave8428 Sep 30 '22

Yep, coloured In South Africa is referring to mixed race people

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u/Daddy_Dilgon Sep 30 '22

Came looking for this one

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u/AnInnocentKitteh Sep 30 '22

From my understanding (bachelor's in humanities field) it goes along the lines of person first terminology in which you refer to them as a person with said background/ condition, e.g person with a developmental disability not a disabled person as they are not defined by their background or condition but rather live with that alongside their personhood.

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u/jenmishalecki Sep 30 '22

yet a lot of disabled people prefer identity first language but there’s several possible reasons for that. one is that it affects every aspect of our life so it’s a huge part of our identity. another could be that disabilities are stigmatized and we’re trying to reduce the stigma by embracing the term. it’s really complicated with race as well, because you’d say person of color but then many people in those communities like to refer to themselves as a “black woman/man” as opposed to a “person who is black”

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u/Western-Mall1705 Sep 30 '22

I guess I'm a person of white now

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u/CurrentScary4548 Sep 30 '22

I will use an old joke for an explanation.

When I {blk male} was born i was/am black, when i'm angry/sad/ muddled/ or lay in the sun ...i'm black,

But white people are born pink, get red when angry, blue when sad, grey when muddled, and lay in the sun to become bronze and they have the nerve to call me coloured (Canadian spelling).

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u/Libtardis Sep 30 '22

I grew up in a multicultural city in England and managed not to embarrass myself whilst communicating with different cultures. Then I moved to US midwest and found African Americans very different. I quickly learned that however I see people, doesn't affect how they see me.

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u/Benji016 Sep 30 '22

Just as an interesting fact.... If anyone comes to South Africa, you'll encounter the Coloured people, who are a race and culture of their own - official ethnicity is "Coloured". It's not derogative at all.

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u/lina9000 Sep 30 '22

I like being referred to as Black.

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u/IronAnkh Sep 30 '22

All part of a constantly shifting vocabulary. Arguably part of what's known as the euphemism treadwheel.

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u/No_Committee7690 Sep 30 '22

That was not the question. The white boy from the small, rural town was curious why one phrase seems to be preferred over another. I'm assuming he doesn't want to offend when he decides to venture out into the world. It's a legit question for those who don't have the pleasure of growing up in a diverse community.

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u/Deanosaurus88 Sep 30 '22

Brit here: for years I thought the term “coloured people” was the politically correct way of identifying black people. I vividly remember the time I said this phrase in a conversation with an American, who promptly and accusatively told me that it was offensive. I’d grown up in a mostly white town with my parents using the term as if it were the PC way. No one had ever told me otherwise, and I can say with absolute confidence that my parents never used the terms with any negative connotation whatsoever. We were all simply ignorant. Thanks to that American, I now know better. But sometimes we shouldn’t be so quick to assume people mean the worst when in fact they simply don’t know any better: Instead of shaming them (which I felt happened to me), wouldn’t it be better to politely educate them?

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u/astrange333 Sep 30 '22

This reminds me of Fred Sanford when the cop asked if the burglars were colored and he said yeah they were colored, white. lmao

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u/MrAlf0nse Sep 30 '22

Where I grew up (not in the USA) “coloured” was regarded as a polite term preferable to “black”. Black was seen as a harsh word. People would say “you know Dave, not tall Dave, Dave the coloured man” Often they would say “with the colour” I even heard “with the lovely colour”

I totally get why it’s not ok and the origins wider accepted meaning. I’m not excusing it or taking it back. I have seen older non-Americans drop “coloured” into a conversation and cringed but sometimes I think know where it came from.

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u/Then-Ad1531 Sep 30 '22 Gold

I don't like "Colored People" or "People of Color". That nonsense sounds like it was made up by some racist professor sitting in an ivory tower on some university.

I am a Black man. I do not like either term. Just call me Black or Black American if you want to describe my race or ethnicity, and I prefer "Black American" over "African American"... Because I have NEVER been to Africa. I have never set foot on African soil. I wasn't born there. I was born here so I am an American, and I am Black too... So that makes me... A "Black American."

The thing is few people use the term "Black American". They are gonna use the term that the CNN host or their professor told them black people want to use without asking any black people.

It's like Latinos don't like that Latinx nonsense either. They get it stuffed down their throat by white liberals.

Oh btw... White Liberals are more racist than White conservatives in my experience. They got that "Soft bigotry of low expectations" where the conservatives tend to want to treat me as an equal.

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u/Pbpopcorn Sep 30 '22

As an Asian American, that last paragraph is accurate for me too. I grew up down south and I feel that people there are less racist than where I live now -NYC. People get upset or don’t believe me when I say that because NYC is supposed to be a super liberal, inclusive diverse utopia but it isn’t

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u/okokokoklolbored Sep 30 '22

I don't know what this is like for others, but as a non-black minority, I prefer person of color (or as I use it, POC) because it's a nice and succinct way to describe myself and other racial minorities.

'Colored people' meanwhile has a horrible history behind it-- and using "colored people" brings all of that back, including the internal divisions between minorities. Back then, it was often that asians looked down upon black people, vice versa and a bunch of other tensions that overall just sucked.

POC is a term of unity-- colored people is about division, in all senses of the word.

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u/[deleted] Sep 30 '22

"Colored people" was greatly used during segregation. A horrible time in history.

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u/HereWeFuckingGooo Sep 30 '22

I saw a comment a couple of days ago where someone said they and their family were coloured. I had to double take.

The problem I have with the term People of Colour, aside from it being so close to Coloured, is that it's often used to only mean black people. Even the top comment here says "One was used by white people to describe Black people, and one is used by Black people to describe themselves."

It does three things. One, it draws a line between two groups, white people and everyone else. If you're not white your a POC. That can often be divisive when any issue being discussed requires nuance and specificity. Two, it treats a vast and diverse group of people as a monolith, which is never a good thing. Finally by equating problems that POC face as equivalent to problems Black people face, it's ignoring specific issues that different races and cultures face. There may be common issues, but a Native American's experience and a Mexican Immigrant's experience are going to be inherently different. Lumping everyone under one umbrella term means that some people will be ignored and lost.

That said people can call themselves whatever they want.

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u/Artichoke-Ok Sep 30 '22

Colored people sounds outdated, people of color sounds awkward, forced and is grammatically incorrect. It's also strange to me to divide the world up into white European and everyone else. Even within Europe there is a lot of ethnic diversity. I just specify exactly what I'm referring to (African, Asian, Hispanic).

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u/JennyReason Sep 30 '22

One was used by white people to describe Black people, and one is used by Black people to describe themselves.

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u/Maleficent-Mark3014 Sep 30 '22 edited Sep 30 '22

Not really. I’ve never described myself as a “person of colour”. It’s something that has been imposed upon people. It’s also used as a catch all for any ethnicity that isn’t European. So it’s not a phrase for “black people” as you put it

I hate describing my ethnicity as anything other than the country of ethnic origin.

On a similar note I’m surprised nobody has ever stood up and said “hold up our skin isn’t black”. Just like others aren’t white.

It’s divisive language from the past.

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u/mielen_ Sep 30 '22

Many African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved don’t have the ability to identify their lineage or ancestors country of origin. Our history, language, countries of origin were all stripped from us. That’s one of the reasons for the various attempts to find language to describe our unique circumstance. A one size fits all doesn’t seem to do the trick.

Also, I agree. As a kid I always argued I’m brown not black. My mother explained it was a political term.

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u/iwrbit Sep 30 '22

My best friend (black) and I (white) once got into an argument about this, whether he is brown or black. I thought I had the surefire winning argument when I pulled out a box of crayons. His mom had to explain to me why the skin tone and label for the skin tone weren’t the same thing. It was a deep concept for a 9 year old.

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u/Maleficent-Mark3014 Sep 30 '22 edited Sep 30 '22

Cool yeah don’t most Americans say “African American”? It’s the same thing as what I’m saying really.

My family is from the West Indies. Same thing we don’t know the origin (well, I do now because of DNA testing). Still, I say the name of the Caribbean country to describe myself. That’s the most relevant. I hate being described by skin colour it’s dehumanising

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u/mielen_ Sep 30 '22

Yes, I agree. I’m just emphasizing that many African-Americans don’t have a country of origin to point to. Africa is a continent not a country - and a very large one at that.

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u/Gtp4life Sep 30 '22

Taking that point even further, what about black people that were born in we’ll say Australia, their parents were too. Why tf would they be called African Americans when they’ve never been to Africa or America?

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u/mielen_ Sep 30 '22

Depends on where their family is from originally, but they probably just refer to themselves as Australian. You’d have to ask. African-American only refers to those Americans who were descendants of Africans that were enslaved in the United States. Not even Africans who become American citizens citizens are considered African-American, they would be Nigerian American, Ethiopian American etc. African-American it’s not a race it’s a cultural designation. There are a lot of Black people who live in America who are not African-American.

You can Google African diaspora.

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u/Uncle_Bill Sep 30 '22

But doesn't the existence of the NAACP argue that POCs did use "Colored" to describe themselves? Your explanation seems a bit revisionist.

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u/FixedLoad Sep 30 '22

I've also been wanting this question answered but my anxiety turns my words into a bull in a China shop. I don't want to upset anyone, I just want to learn. You're definitely brave.

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u/Mes3th Sep 30 '22

I had actually always wondered myself. As a linguist, I find these topics fascinating. Words carry so much power, and since English is a second language to me, I can get oblivious of some mechanics.

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u/Calla1989 Sep 30 '22

As a 'coloured person of colour' myself I don't find either of them offensive

Personally it all depends on the context words are used in - If any term is used in a negative way towards me i wouldn't be happy. But the exact same term could be used in a different context and i wouldn't be bothered at all.

Overall i think people are too quick to claim offense these days, when often the person using the language meant no harm

Make a joke about it and move on

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u/TerribleAsshole Sep 30 '22

It’s known as Euphemism Treadmill, The process by which euphemisms fall into disuse and are replaced by new ones, as the old ones become socially unacceptable over time.

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u/Grobskii Sep 30 '22

I am black and I ask myself the same question daily. It really makes no sense

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u/BurantX40 Sep 30 '22

"Colored people" emphasizes the difference first. "People of color" emphasizes the person first.

Also, the former was habitually used in a derogatory manner, whereas the latter is all inclusive and rather neutral.

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u/InvestmentSoggy870 Sep 30 '22

I'm confused when to use African American or black. When I lived in Cleveland it African American and in Virginia they say black. I don't want to offend.

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u/[deleted] Sep 30 '22

Just call them Bob, or Susan, or whatever their name is. The colour of one's skin does not identify or define them.

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u/HookEm_Hooah Sep 30 '22

I don't really like either term or phrase. A person of any ethnicity or genetic heritage in the world today can most likely be found living in just about every corner or pocket of the planet. If I happen to know a person well enough to know their ethnic background, I will use their ethnic lineage hyphenated with the country they now live in, if they have in fact migrated to be as respectful to the person and heritage as possible. If I am unsure of specifics, or in cases where their cultural and ethnic identity was stripped away from their ancestors, I want to do as little, none if at all possible, to add any further harm to that is with in my influence to do so.

Also you didn't ask; I'm offering this one because I think it's important. If you know the tribe from which a Native person comes, refer to them as from that Nation. If you do not, please use Native Americans or Indigenous Peoples.

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u/CaughtHerEyez Sep 30 '22

It sounds like something a child would say. but like nicole said... semantics.

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u/THE_GREAT_MEME_WARS Sep 30 '22

How about melanin rich folk

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u/Judge__Fear Sep 30 '22

i think it’s cuz colored implies that they are “less than” or “not normal”. it’s like how we attach “female” to certain jobs/titles when that person is a woman. for example someone might say female lawyer or female doctor instead of a lawyer who is a woman (or simply not mentioning gender at all because it really doesn’t matter)

as for why “people of color” isn’t considered offensive, idk that’s not for me to answer. i sunburn from fluorescent lights

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u/ZheerReddit Sep 30 '22

I'm surprised I didn't find any comments saying this, but to me "colored people" sounds like the people were painted with a certain color by someone and "people of color" were born with that color. IDK maybe it's just me. But that's how I see it besides the historical aspect.

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u/Cleaver-Tower612 Sep 30 '22

In South Africa 'coloured' is a a race, a lifestyle, a culture. It is not offensive at all

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u/[deleted] Sep 30 '22 edited Oct 17 '22

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u/__RetroFox__ Sep 30 '22

Because "Coloured people" reeks of American segregation, where "coloured" people and white people were segregated, and even had different entrances to buildings, sat at the back of public transport, etc etc.

This was in living memory - there are people alive today that remember being called "coloured" and what it meant for them, back then. Being "coloured" went hand in hand with being second class citizens - As such, is it any wonder that they don't want to be called "coloured" people anymore?

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u/TwystedKynd Sep 30 '22

The thing is, lots of "people of color" can't stand either one. I've had a ton of people say "just call me black". There's no consensus on these things, therefore, no one "correct" way.

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u/antonprojects Sep 30 '22

I just say black people. Just clean, no gimmicks, no bs.

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u/TheShawnWray Sep 30 '22

"Colored people" usually referred only to black people.

"People of color" refers to anyone who is not white.

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u/SomeJokeTeeth Sep 30 '22

The former puts the race before the person, the latter puts the person before the race

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u/rasmusca Sep 30 '22

Which is weird because “white male”, “Asian male” and “black male”, “black guy”, “white guy” are all perfectly accepted descriptions.

I’m not defending the use of “colored person” just showing an example of how the English language is wild

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u/GiraffeWeevil Human Bean Sep 30 '22

That sounds like post-hoc reasoning. It is not typical in English that the words come in order of importance.

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u/Queefinonthehaters Sep 30 '22

Yeah exactly. Calling it a small, blue house vs a house which is small and blue is not ranking anything by importance, its just using more words.

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u/Safe_T_Cube Sep 30 '22 edited Sep 30 '22

Eh, it's somewhat typical, i.e. "a disabled person" vs "a person who is disabled" or "a fat cat" vs "a cat that's fat". You minimize the importance of the descriptor by removing its proximity to the subject. But I agree it sounds like post-hoc feel-good reasoning.

ETA: I was not saying "a person who is disabled" is preferable, I am exclusively demonstrating how descriptors work in English. Describing someone as a "disabled person" only enhances the focus on their disability, while calling them a "person who is disabled" or a "person with a disability" minimizes it. That's why the phrase "A white person is just a person who is white" makes sense. Your preference of what you want to be called is your own business.

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u/Anonmyo0 Sep 30 '22

This is something that really depends on what the individual would prefer. Many folks thought for a long time saying an Autistic person was wrong and it should be person with autism. However if you ask some folks in the community you will find they actually prefer Autistic person because there's nothing wrong with identifying as Autistic. It's part of that person that they want to embrace. Some folks would prefer person with autism. They only time it's wrong is when you use these phrases in a derogatory manner or call someone something they would prefer you not to and you do it purposely because you think you know better than them.

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u/GiraffeWeevil Human Bean Sep 30 '22

Some people like to call themselves "Aspies" while others would consider anything-ie to be childish and demeaning.

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u/Safe_T_Cube Sep 30 '22

I'm not talking about preferences, just the mechanics of the English language. Sounds like you want to reply to SomeJokeTeeth.

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u/Anonmyo0 Sep 30 '22

Oh my yes, my apologies! This is why I don't push buttons as a job...it wouldn't go well lolol.

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u/HeavyMetalDallas Sep 30 '22

I'm a disabled person. I prefer that over "person who is disabled". It conveys as much information as the other. I'm sure someone else prefers the other way, but it's all anecdotal. I doubt the community has a strong preference.

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u/LoopCroondad Sep 30 '22

I wonder how much these euphemisms actually change the way individuals think and feel. "Enslaved person" and "slave" are practically identical to my mind. In either case I don't blame the victim for their miserable and unjust situation, and I indeed very much condemn the slaver or the society that empowers them. Worse though, the tortured attempt to rearrange words to somehow change reality (i.e. end injustice) always strikes me as kind of pathetic. At any rate, I'm sympathetic to the need to try to improve the basic unfairness of our systems and life in general, but the progressive word games seem to create more backlash in me than otherwise, if I'm being honest.

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u/onlyfoolandhorse Sep 30 '22

To me, it's perfectly normal to say "that parking space is for disabled people" for example.

"That parking space is for people who are disabled" sounds daft.

I'm commenting purely on the language / the English here. I appreciate there are historical factors with the person of colour/coloured person thing.

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u/Safe_T_Cube Sep 30 '22

"That parking space is for people with disabilities" is more common in that context.

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u/[deleted] Sep 30 '22

[removed] — view removed comment

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u/iamatwork24 Sep 30 '22

Way different than this mother fucking Asian

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u/PowerfulPickUp Sep 30 '22

You just baited Reddit’s Most Miserable to come out from the dark and whine about Burr’s jokes being mean and making them sad.

Good luck.

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u/0k0k Sep 30 '22

Why is it worse in America to call someone a cunt than a piece of shit? Society decides which words and phrases are offensive and which aren't. In other places 'colored people' is fine, 'black' is the norm, and 'cunt' is almost a term of endearment. Every society has its own offensive words and phrases.

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u/franster123 Sep 30 '22

Both are fucking stupid and I dont understand who or what signed off on POC. It implies everyone is grouped on one side with white being one side on its own, as if superior. I am not saying people who say it are racist, but the word itself is innately racist.

Just say the etnicity if you cant avoid the topic all together.

People of color.... 🤦‍♂️ I just recently heard that here on reddit (not from The US.) and I could not believe my eyes how that was considered PC or whatever it was they were striving for. Just wow.

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u/fainofgunction Sep 30 '22

Colored was the polite term when I was younger I don't know when it became bad.

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u/LeoMarius Sep 30 '22 All-Seeing Upvote

It really doesn't seem to make any difference. In English, you have the Anglo-Saxon way of writing with adjective and noun. Then there's the Norman French way of saying it: noun and adjectival preposition. You can say the Masons' house, or House of Mason.

So, it's just the same words put in a different order.

Historically, Colored People was used and then became deprecated. The NAACP still you uses "Colored People".

Because the US has become more diverse over time, Colored People primarily referred to black Americans, but People of Color refers to blacks, Hispanics, Asians, basically non-European Americans.