Who are the “people of color”?

(featured photo found on “The White Man’s Burden”)

From time to time  it is important to have an extensive conversation about race. A good conversation in which one should ideally practice listening skills, provide an abundance of context, and give feedback. Last night, instead of bedtime stories, Jeff and I had a filled conversation about race in hollywood which spilled over into a conversation about my use of the term “people of color.” As an interracial couple, it’s important that we get our facts straight about what the other person thinks about race and specifically what language they deem appropriate in description of or conversation of minority communities. I absolutely hate the term minorities and always have because (in my mind) it has a negative connotation of lesser than, so I say people of color quite frequently.  I have never heard anyone question the term “people of color” before, but then again Jeff’s inquisitive personality usually brings that sort of excitement into a conversation. He made me sit and think about who do we call “people of color” and why do we feel we can group black and latino and asian and middle eastern, etc, all together in struggle?

I went straight academics on him, explaining how in the US we are ignorant to the struggles of other countries and communities. For example, colonization in latin america and the near extinction of indigenous people and their culture or how the atlantic slave trade included countries like Cuba and Colombia and Guatemala and Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, just to name some. I explained to him that in the foundation of understanding latin american history is the learning of the haitian revolution, the praising of the same leaders that many caribbean people praise for the independence of their countries today. In regards to black nationalism and contributions to US civil rights history I can talk about Arturo Schomburg, Carlos Cooks and The Young Lords Party off the top of my head, but I had to go to college to learn the place of latinos in american history.

He went straight street knowledge on me, how do we immerse ourselves in diversity when latino neighborhoods are on the come up before black neighborhoods are? When you must travel a distance to get soul food, but indian food and sushi and even latin food can be found within a one block radius of every apartment in NYC, the struggle of “people of color” is distant. He questioned why every major city had a celebrated “chinatown” yet the black communities are still “underprivileged” places to live. We currently reside in Miami, FL which is an interesting setting for this conversation to take place because it is a major city mostly populated by latino people. What is the purpose of grouping our struggles together if they are not the same?

The lack of narrative of different histories in a nation as diverse as the United States grouped someone like me to “people of color”. I can speak expertly to the experiences of diasporic people (a people not easily recognized as American). We know a history that is affected by the US but is not directly American, experiences like imperialism. Those are the experiences that, to me, bring together the struggle of a people of color, but they aren’t going to be made general knowledge or taught in your US history I or II or AP which keeps us separated.  POC’s are a marginalized group of people, they have a reason to continue in the struggle… a purpose to want to redefine “americana” and be included in the narrative of freedom and attaining the american dream.  We keep in mind the revolutionaries who fought for our existence, we deserve to be more than a third world people. We empower the notion of humanity and carry the responsibility of leveling the playing field for future generations.

Our conversation ended on an optimistic note. The beauty in being an interracial  couple is that we can see a world where in race will be so ambiguous that it won’t be a question of importance. Our children will have known that there was a black president in american history, they will read american classics like “the bluest eye” and “the house on mango street”, they will have seen their black and latino parents celebrate homecoming (insert Scarlet Knight pride here) and hear crazy college stories. They too will have parents who have been there and done that. The hope is that with each generation races will melt into each other and children will begin to brag about how many different cultures they have in their family trees. Their norm will be different than ours. Maybe then a couple will just be a couple.