North Texas Daily

No, POC and Black are not interchangeable

No, POC and Black are not interchangeable

No, POC and Black are not interchangeable
November 12
12:00 2020

The term “people of color” (sometimes abbreviated as POC), is used to describe any person who does not identify as white or are of European heritage. People of color are typically considered to be the Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous communities. The term dates back to the 18th century where French colonists used it in reference to people of mixed African and European descent freed from slavery in the Americas. Its modern use began in the 1980s as a substitution for “colored people.” While the term POC is meant to imply a shared sense of community among minorities, it often reduces and erases the complexities and experiences of the Black community.

Oftentimes, non-Black people will refer to them as “people of color” even if the issue being presented exclusively impacts the Black community. Doing this adopts a “one size fits all” mentality when, in reality, specific POC groups face different plights in society. For instance, although the school-to-prison pipeline harshly impacts multiple communities of color, the Black community is hit at a much harsher rate. This is an oppressive trend where children are pushed out of public schools and into the juvenile criminal justice system. Black students are three times more likely to be expelled from school and be in contact with the juvenile justice system the following year, according to an infographic by ACLU.

Police brutality by American law enforcement significantly plagues the Black community, accounting for more than 31 percent of police killings despite making up only 13 percent of the U.S. population, as found by Dara Lind for VOX. Additionally, while all minorities face difficulty with acquiring housing in America due to discrimination, history shows that the phenomenon of “redlining” — the practice of denying services to people or certain areas based on their racial identity — was a reaction to Black Americans migrating to the North by the United States government.

Additionally, non-Black society seems to think referring to Black people as such is something inappropriate or off-putting. To them, it is more polite and politically correct to refer to Black people as African-Americans. Ignorance is well and truly bliss in this instance. Not all Black people are African-American, but all African-Americans are Black. This need to refer to all Black people as African-Americans serves the gaze of white and non-Black individuals who feel it is safer to do so. Similarly, the usage of “people of color” is amplified to accommodate the fragility of non-Black people.

In October 2019, Latina actress Gina Rodriguez uploaded a video of herself rapping along to the lyrics of the Fugees’ song, “Ready or Not,” in which she said the n-word. Rodriguez was met with immense backlash and many people called for her to apologize to the Black community. In her apology, Rodriguez said, “I feel so deeply protective and responsible to the community of color but I have let this community down.”

By using the n-word, Black people were the ones directly offended by her actions. Despite this, Rodriguez addressed them as a “community of color.” Saying this instead of “Black people” is the perfect example of the dismissive sentiments the term “people of color” exudes. Unsurprisingly, her statement was also met with heavy backlash.

“If you can say ‘[n-word]’, you can say ‘Black,’” Michael Arceneaux wrote on Twitter.

In her failed attempt of an apology, Rodriguez’s words seemed to only serve her need to protect her reputation. Her inability to address the Black community minimized the severity of her actions. Non-Black communities of color were not the ones to be offended, nor were they her intended audience in her statement. By apologizing to “the community of color,” Rodriguez erased the pain and the history of the n-word that is specifically used against the Black community.

The use of “people of color” has increasingly become less about solidarity among minorities and more about minimizing the Black experience. Heavy forms of anti-Blackness, which is rooted in colorism, are often deeply embedded in non-Black communities of color. This is the aftermath of an unspoken desire to achieve proximity to whiteness, resulting in a rejection of anything close to blackness. The anti-Blackness in non-Black communities of color heavily contradicts any signs of solidarity.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Michelle Monari

Michelle Monari

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