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Every Human Being Has a Skin Color…So Why Is the Phrase “Person of Color” Only Used To Describe “Non-White” Individuals?

Updated on April 24, 2020

One of the most vivid memories I had as a child was when I was four years old and I learned the color chart. I was in pre-school at that time and the first three colors I remember learning were black, white and brown. This is basic knowledge that is taught to most children, typically before the age of 5, which makes me wonder why so many people don’t think of white as a color? When people describe African-Americans, Latinos and Indians, they refer to these groups of people as “people of color”. However, a group of Norwegians would be called white. My question is since when did white stop being a color? Even though anyone that is considered white is usually beige or tan, these are still colors.

It is mind-boggling how this phrase has been embraced, so much to the point that even the most powerful people in the media and politics use it. It has been embedded in our culture and I don’t think that it will disappear anytime soon. It’s just as ignorant as using actual colors to describe people. I often hear people in the media say “blacks” and “whites” to describe human beings. I get confused because I am never sure if these people are describing people or laundry. And that’s exactly what that type of rhetoric does-separate people, similar to the way we separate our laundry.

There are a few reasons why the phrase, “person of color” bothers me so much. First of all, I think it is very divisive and defeats the purpose of progression. I am a true believer that we should all think about what we should be doing in the future while learning from lessons of the past. I don’t see how this country can makes progress if the most powerful people constantly use words that immediate causes the segregation that stops us from growing. For example, Ali Velshi, an anchorman for MSNBC, recently had a segment on his show about the economic indifference of African-Americans. He constantly used the “people of color” phrase while asking one of his guests why there is so much inequality between black and white people. I was baffled. Here is someone with good intentions asking why different groups have varied experiences while literally using a phrase that separates those groups from the “non-whites”. How does this help his mission of equality for all?

Another example of this phrase defeating the purpose of progression is when people use the phrase “person of color” when it comes to protesting racism. I am speaking specifically about groups such as “Black Lives Matter”. This is an excellent group with great intentions and they have made a change in this country that should be appreciated. However, I think that more progress could have and can happen if they change it to the phrase, “All Lives Matter”. Though I understand the purpose of their cause, they could have had a much larger reach and could have brought many people together. One of the reasons of forming such a group is to let the world know that all people are created equal, no matter what skin color they were born with. Wouldn’t the decision to include everyone in the cause make more since? Wouldn’t their message be amplified by showing with both words and action that we are all the same?

Using the phrase “person of color” can promote more racism and bias from people those already have these traits. The reason people become racist or biased is because of upbringing, societal influences, and/or anger of some kind. So, when someone with power uses divisive phrases, it only brings fuel to the racist fire. For example, if someone is biased against a Latino because they think that all Latino men are rapists, how would using divisive language be helpful?

For instance, I recall watching a segment of Chris Cuomo’s show about 2 years ago. It was after the Charlottesville protest and Trump made the statement “there are fine people on both sides”. Because the Charlottesville event turned racist, Chris pointed out that since Trump thought of all of the protesters as “fine” then he is racist. Cuomo even broke down a list of the examples of how Trump is racist. One of them included the time Trump called African-American football players that kneeled during the Star Spangled Banner, “son-of-a-bitches”. Cuomo said that Trump has issues with “people of color”. While he said this, I immediately became confused as to why he thought that using such a phrase at the time was appropriate. It was hypocrisy. How can someone accuse another person of looking at someone differently because of their race while they are doing the same thing?


This is a beautiful country to live in but there is still work to be done as far as racial equality is concerned. But we all have put work into it. Using divisive phrases can be detrimental to our growth as a country, even if the phrase is used for a good purpose. We should all address everyone the same because we are all the same in so many ways. And, we must always remember that the only race that truly matters is the human race!


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