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Person of color (plural: people of color; Commonwealth English: person of colour) is a term used, primarily in the United States and Germany[1], to describe all people who are not white. The term is meant to be inclusive among non-white groups, emphasizing common experiences of racism. People of color is preferred to both non-white and minority, which are also inclusive, because it frames the subject positively; non-white defines people in terms of what they are not (white), and minority, by its very definition, carries a subordinate connotation.



Although the term citizens of color was used by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963, and other uses date to as early as 1818, people of color did not gain prominence for many years.[2] [3] Influenced by radical theorists like Frantz Fanon, racial justice activists in the U.S. began to use the term people of color in the late 1970s. By the early 1990s, it was in wide circulation.[4] Both anti-racist activists and academics sought to move understandings of race beyond the black-white binary then prevalent.[5]

Political significance

According to Stephen Saris, in the United States there are two big racial divides. "First, there is the black-white kind, which is basically anti-black". The second racial divide is the one is "between whites and everyone else" with whites being "narrowly construed" and everyone else being called "people of color".[6] Because the term people of color includes vastly different people with only the common distinction of not being white, it draws attention to the fundamental role of racialization in the US. It acts as "a recognition that certain people are racialized" and serves to emphasize "the importance of coalition" by "making connections between the ways different 'people of color' are racialized."[7] As Joseph Truman explains, the term people of color is attractive because it unites disparate racial and ethnic groups into a larger collective in solidarity with one another.[8]

Linguistically, the term person of color "stands nonwhite on its head, substituting a positive for a negative." [9] Whereas nonwhite defines people by what they lack (whiteness), people of color positively defines people by their connected experiences.

[P]eople of color is a phrase often used by nonwhites to put nonwhite positively. (Why should anybody want to define himself by what he is not?) Politically, it expresses solidarity with other nonwhites, and subtly reminds whites that they are a minority. When used by whites, people of color usually carries a friendly and respectful connotation, but should not be used as a synonym for black; it refers to all racial groups that are not white. [2]

Furthermore, the term people of color has been embraced and used to replace the term minority because the term minority implies inferiority and disfranchisement.[10] In addition, people of color constitute the majority population in certain US cities.

See also


  1. ^ Kien Nghi Ha, Nicola Lauré al-Samarai, Sheila Mysorekar (Hg.) (2007): re/visionen. Postkoloniale Perspektiven von People of Color auf Rassismus, Kulturpolitik und Widerstand in Deutschland. Unrast Verlag, Münster. ISBN 978-3-89771-458-8
  2. ^ a b William Safire (November 20, 1988). "On language: People of color". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  3. ^ "The Black Press at 150", editorial, The Washington Post, March 18, 1977
  4. ^ Rinku Sen. "Are Immigrants and Refugees People of Color?". ColorLines. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  5. ^ Elizabeth Martinez (May 1994). "Seeing More Than Black & White". Z Magazine. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 
  6. ^ Zack, Naomi. American Mixed Race: The Culture of Microdiversity, 1995
  7. ^ Sara Koopman (December 12, 2007). "people of color". Blogger. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  8. ^ Tuman, Joseph S. (2003) (in English). Communicating terror. SAGE,. ISBN 9780761927655. 
  9. ^ "§ 56. person of color". The American Heritage Book of English Usage. 1996. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  10. ^ "Real Definitions". Colours of Resistance. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 


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