I recently had a conversation with someone I hold in high regard. We have known each other all our life. He recently looked at me with a deep scowl and said “I’m sick and tired of this person of color crap – I’m a Black man”.
He went on to say that it devalues any race of people when you lump them into some undefined category. A person of color could be Black, Asian, Native American, Jewish, or any number of peoples of middle eastern descent, etc. In fact, the very definition of a person of color is intentionally broad. Wikipedia defines a person of color as “a person who is not white or of European parentage.” Dictionary.com simply states “a person who is not white”. So why the frustration? I found part of the answer in an article by Trinity Bland, a staff writer for the Daily Aztec. In, Opinion: The term ‘people of color’ fails to be properly inclusive of the black community, she writes that, “Although each minority group faces its own challenges on a day-to-day basis, a “one size fits all” mentality toward diversity takes away the specific needs of our most vulnerable communities”.
She goes on to say, “I believe black people are ignored in the discussion of people of color because the term still bases value on one’s proximity to whiteness. Non-white is not synonymous with black. “Women of color” does not mean black, either. Too often, when a person or brand uses these labels, it excludes black people with or without intention. Other minority groups do not face the same challenges and struggles as black people do and people who use these broad terms may not realize that.”
This young writer captures experiences probably well beyond her years. Many black people have sat in meetings and conferences where their Blackness stood out despite the clear, or sometimes not so clear, attendance of other “people of color” whose race or ethnicity wasn’t readily apparent. Being Black is inescapable whereas being a person of color is more homogeneous. Being Black doesn’t always blend in. It’s provided the battle scars that permeate our existence in this country.
That also raises the question of whether all people of color share the same interests. The simple answer is – no! But what happens when those interests diverge? The fact is that Blacks and Hispanics suffer disproportionately than other non-whites. Pew Research Center notes in there 2017 study that Blacks and Hispanics face extra challenges in getting home loans. It reports that “Home ownership in the U.S. has fallen sharply since the housing boom peaked in the mid-2000s, though it’s declined more for some racial and ethnic groups than for others. Black and Hispanic households today are still far less likely than white households to own their own homes (41.3% and 47%, respectively, versus 71.9% for whites), and the home ownership gap between blacks and whites has widened since 2004″.
Statistica highlights that while the number of Hispanic and Asian CEOs rose significantly from 2004 to 2018, the increase in Black CEOs decreased.
The reporting on the lack of Black professionals and their presence at executive levels is depressing.
- Why so many black business professionals are missing from the C-suite – www.cbsnews.com
- One of the only 4 Black Fortune 500 CEOs just stepped down — here are the 3 that remain – Business Insider
- The number of black CEOs in the Fortune 500 remains very low – Fortune.com
- The Dearth Of Black CEOs: How Corporate Diversity Initiatives Ignore People Of Color – Forbes
On top of all of this, Covid-19 has cast a bright spotlight on the economic and health disparities related to Black people. The cautionary tale here is that although it sounds all-inclusive and even trendy – words matter. Racial identification matters. Being a part of a race or ethnic group is as important as inclusiveness. The goal is not to forge forward hurling towards a race-neutral, color-blind nirvana that will never happen. The goal is to reach past color and gender differences and reach equity and justice despite them. In the end, it sounded odd coming out the mouth of someone I’ve known and respected all my life, but he was right. I’m not a person of color – I’m a Black man.
Other interesting articles on persons of color: