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The term "person of color" (plural: people of color, persons of color; sometimes abbreviated POC) is today primarily used to describe any person who is not considered white. In its current meaning, the term originated in, and is primarily associated with, the United States; however since the 2010s it has been adopted elsewhere in the Anglosphere (often as person of colour), including relatively limited usage in the United Kingdom,Canada,Australia,Ireland,South Africa, and Singapore.
During various periods in United States history, people of color included African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islander Americans, Middle Eastern Americans, and multiracial Americans. The term emphasizes common experiences of systemic racism. The term may also be used with other collective categories of people such as "communities of color", "men of color" (MOC), "women of color" (WOC), or "librarians of color". The acronym BIPOC refers to black, indigenous, and other people of color and aims to emphasize the historic oppression of black and indigenous people.
The term "colored" was originally equivalent in use to the term "person of color" in American English, but usage of the appellation "colored" in the Southern United States gradually came to be restricted to "negroes", and is now considered a racial pejorative. Elsewhere in the world and in other dialects of English the term may have entirely different connotations however; for example in South Africa, "Coloureds" refers to multiple multiracial ethnic groups and is sometimes applied to other groups in Southern Africa, such as the Basters of Namibia.
The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style cites usage of "people of colour" as far back as 1796. It was initially used to refer to light-skinned people of mixed African and European heritage. French colonists used the term gens de couleur ("people of color") to refer to people of mixed African and European descent who were freed from slavery in the Americas. In South Carolina and other parts of the Deep South, this term was used to distinguish between slaves who were mostly "black" or "negro" and free people who were primarily "mulatto" or "mixed race". After the American Civil War, "colored" was used as a label exclusively for black Americans, but the term eventually fell out of favor by the mid-20th century.
Although American activist Martin Luther King Jr. used the term "citizens of color" in 1963, the phrase in its current meaning did not catch on until the late 1970s. In the late 20th century, the term "person of color" was introduced in the United States in order to counter the condescension implied by the terms "non-white" and "minority", and racial justice activists in the U.S., influenced by radical theorists such as Frantz Fanon, popularized it at this time. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was in wide circulation. Both anti-racist activists and academics sought to move the understanding of race beyond the black-white dichotomy then prevalent.
The phrase "women of color" was developed and introduced for wide use by a group of black women activists at the National Women's Conference in 1977. The phrase was used as a method of communicating solidarity between non-white women that was, according to Loretta Ross, not based on "biological destiny" but instead a political act of naming themselves.
In the twenty-first century use of the term and the "of color" categorization continued to proliferate: for example, the Joint Council of Librarians of Color (JCLC), a recurring conference of the American Library Association, formed from the organization's five ethnic affiliate associations: the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, the American Indian Library Association, the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association, the Chinese American Librarians Association, and REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking.
The acronym BIPOC, referring to "black, indigenous, and people of color", first appeared around 2013. By June 2020, it had become more prevalent on the internet, as racial justice awareness grew in the US in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. The term aims to emphasize the historic oppression of black and indigenous people, which is argued to be superlative and distinctive in U.S. history at the collective level. The BIPOC Project promotes the term in order "to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context."
According to Stephen Satris of Clemson University, in the United States there are two main racial divides. The first is the "black-white" delineation; the second racial delineation is the one "between whites and everyone else" with whites being "narrowly construed" and everyone else being called "people of color". Because the term "people of color" includes vastly different people with only the common distinction of not being white, it draws attention to the perceived fundamental role of racialization in the United States. Joseph Tuman of San Francisco State University argues that the term "people of color" is attractive because it unites disparate racial and ethnic groups into a larger collective in solidarity with one another.
Use of the term "person of color", especially in the United States, is often associated with the social justice movement.Style guides from the American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Mount Holyoke College all recommend the term "person of color" over other alternatives. Unlike "colored", which historically referred primarily to black people and is often considered offensive, "person of color" and its variants refer inclusively to all non-European peoples--often with the notion that there is political solidarity among them--and, according to one style guide, "are virtually always considered terms of pride and respect."
Many critics, both whites and non-whites, of the term object to its lack of specificity and find the phrase racially offensive. It has been argued that the term lessens the focus on individual issues facing different racial and ethnic groups. Preserving "whiteness" as an in-tact category while lumping every other racial group into an indiscriminate category ("of color") can replicate the very marginalization the term was intended to counter.
The term has come under fire as an inaccurate modifier for "White Hispanic and Latino Americans" and Spaniards. The term incorrectly racializes this segment of the Hispanic demographic, projecting "coloredness" (or non-Europeanness) onto people who are, in fact, of European extraction. This is particularly (although not exclusively) true in the case of Spaniards and Latino Americans from South American countries with large proportions of "White Latin Americans". While many Latinos are indeed "people of color," many are not, as "latino" is an ethnicity rather than a racial category. In the U.S. context, the Latino group with the highest proportion of self-identifying whites are Cuban-Americans, with 85.4% identifying as white. While the indiscriminate labeling of all latinos as "people of color" underscores common struggles in a racialized society, it obscures the vast racial inequalities that exist within the latino population itself; for this reason, many have found the term unhelpful and misleading. The racialization of latinos in the U.S. has created a situation in which it is possible, in certain contexts, to be both (racially) "white" and (socially) "a person of color"--an intermediary predicament akin to that which Irish Americans and Italian Americans, among others, found themselves in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries respectively.
For example, the person of color (POC) racial identity model describes racial identity development for people of color...
this year Amber Rudd had to apologise for calling fellow MP Diana Abbott a 'coloured woman' and admitted the term was 'outdated and offensive'... The politically correct term at present is 'People of Colour' (abbreviated to PoC).
it is inevitable that Canadians will absorb and be influenced by aspects of American culture - good and bad. But one that, regrettably, Canadian media are adopting with increasing regularity is the American term "people of colour" to describe all those who are not white.
POC, which stands for person of colour, is a term I have heard used more and more in Australia over the past few years, especially online.
Dr Ebun Joseph held an online conversation with people of colour living in Ireland.
Guess what else most people of colour in this country have to pay for once they get their first job?
As a person of colour living in a supposedly decolonized Singapore, I would say that what makes our struggles markedly different from minorities in the West is that we have to deal with Whiteness on top of Chinese supremacy.
The term People of Color emerged in reaction to the terms "non-white" and "minority." ... The term people of color attempts to counter the condescension implied in the other two."