People of Color or Melanated?

POC - People of Color. It seems to capture those of us who have various shades of melanated skin tones but does it do us any justice? For a while, I adopted the term, thus the acronym, POC then BIPOC; however, upon doing some basic research, I have since changed my viewpoint.


Yes, I am a Black woman, a proud Black woman at that; however, the word color as a reference invokes memories of listening to my grandmother, aunts, and uncles when they shared the only places they could go to were for colored people. I am also reminded of reading text where Black people were called colored like we are objects and someone is changing our hues. A few weeks ago, I had my television on and was not paying too much attention to what was on when

I heard an elected official state," ...colored people, Black people, whatever people this individual wants to single out". I immediately turned my head. Why? Because the term "colored people" still invokes pain, trauma, and an immediate "what did he just say" reaction.

Some of you reading this may be saying to yourself or out loud, "There is a difference between saying people of color and colored." Yes, you are correct. There is a distinction between the two, and again, I am having conflict with the term people of color. This phrase places everyone with melanated skin into one group. Which people of color are spoken about? Are we speaking of Latino, Indonesian, Senagalese, First Nation, Korean, Black, Hispanic, Filippino, Jamaican? Who? Be mindful that anyone of the heritage or origin mentioned above could live in the Americas, Canada, Ireland, Egypt, or anywhere else in the world.


Consequently, in the United States, we are among the few countries that identify its people as their ethnic heritage first and country second. For example, African American, Latin American, Canadian American are all words that are used to categorize individuals. However, in the United Kingdom, they do not use the term, African British. They say British. In Ghana, they do not say Irish Ghanian. It is here in North America, specifically, the United States, where we have these separations. But I digress. My overall point is with the phrase, people of color.


Some believe that this term is new; however, it is not. Others will contend that Black people coined the phrase in the 1960s as there are publications that adhere to that. The problem is that it is not true either. One of the earliest acknowledgments arises as far back as the 1800s. The Library of Congress has a document with the following title, An act to prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the United States, from and after the first day of January, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and eight. The legislation was approved on March 2, 1810, and applied to "any negro, mulatto, or person of colour." Please note that the enslavement of Africans was in place during this time. Also, note that the enslavement of First Nation Indigenous individuals took place during this period also.

Therefore no one with melanated skin coined the term, people of color. Instead, it was a phrase used to identify enslaved people by slave masters.

I will consciously refrain from using the term people of color and the acronym POC. Part of what a lifelong learner encompasses is forever learning something new or being reminded of something forgotten and taking action to either correct the matter or amplify the issue. "The paradox of education is precisely this - that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated." - James Baldwin




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