“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” — George Orwell
The words “people of color” are no different than the words “colored people.” Those words were used to show dominance over people who had more melanin in their skin. For those who seek to be politically-correct, the term “people of color” appears to be the clear respectable winner. However, this seemingly inclusive term may not contain the meaning you expect.
Although the term “people of color” is a recent trend throughout inclusive communities (Fig. 1), the phrase can be traced back to the early 1800’s.¹ “People of color” was used directly as a synonym to “colored people” in a journal article published in 1886 as quoted below.²
The census shows that the white population is 1,220,335, and the colored population 48,207, or 25 whites to 1 black. In 1865 the population was 9 white to 1 colored. It should said, also, that the 48,000 people of color in Kansas are in no sense a public burden.
Despite Kansas being a “free state”, not involved in slavery, people who were not white were still referenced under the terms “colored people” and “people of color”. As seen in the above quote, White people remained “white.” Even in the present, we do not classify people as “people of color” and “people of non-color”. Imagine we flipped the switch to have people categorized as one of the following: Black people or “people of lighter skin”. To be clear, none of these terms would be productive. All of these dualities lead to destructive thought patterns by creating us vs them separation. It does not acknowledge the different identities which people claim.
Psychologically, negative self-evaluation comes about when there is an upward comparison or comparison with a more successful person or group³. In contrast, confidence in oneself and one’s identity yields a positive result both for the individual and the community which they are apart of. Rather than defining ourselves in comparison to one main group, but as an individual group with its own unique qualities and traits, we can bring value to our identities. Additionally, this type of language ensures that people not apart of a given group can begin to recognize and appreciate the achievements and traditions of said group.
Every day I breathe, I will advocate for myself and my identity. I do not desire to be given special treatment that is undeserved but simply to be recognized and appreciated for who I am as a person. I ask to be recognized for who I am in contrast to being recognized as apart of a group that is different from another group. I am Mexican-American. I am Latino. I am Chicano. I am a person.
- The North American Review Vol. 15, № 36 (Jul., 1822), pp. 279
- The Progress of Kansas. John A. Martin. The North American Review Vol. 142, № 353 (Apr., 1886), pp. 352
- “My Daughter Has a Career; I Just Raised Babies”: The Psychological Consequences of Women’s Intergenerational Social Comparisons. Deborah Carr. Social Psychology Quarterly .Vol. 67, № 2 (Jun., 2004), pp. 135