In September, we had a conversation in the CBE Voices of Color Facebook group about this question: “Where do non-Black racial and ethnic minorities fit into the conversation about race in the U.S.?” Here are some of the insights that were shared.
The term “POC” (people of color) includes all racial and ethnic minorities.
Although when people say “POC,” they sometimes imply that they are only discussing black people, the term is intended to include all people who are not white.
Different People of Color have different histories of racial discrimination.
At the same time, the term “POC” is not meant to erase the distinctive legacies of racism for different groups of people.
Although there can be commonalities that are important to discuss, every People of Color group’s experience of racism is different, whether across or within racial and ethnic categories.
Discussions of racism should also be intersectional, meaning that they take into account how different aspects of your identity (e.g. gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, ability) are not independent, but interact with each other when shaping your life experiences.
“Passing” (or not “passing”) is another dimension of racial experience.
There are some people who are not always seen as POC (i.e. who could “pass” for white), and there are others who are quickly read and recognized as POC (i.e. who cannot “pass” for white).
Experiences anywhere along this spectrum can result in hurt and frustration, but the latter is often associated with more vulnerability to racist harm.
While discussing the varieties of pain associated with issues of racial or ethnic recognition, we should be especially attentive to the urgency of issues exemplified by movements like Black Lives Matter.
Colorism is related to racism, but not equivalent to it.
The phenomenon of colorism involves lighter skin being viewed more positively than darker skin.
Race is not reducible to skin color, although they are often connected.
Within racial or ethnic groups or across them, darker-skinned POC often face greater discrimination in a wide variety of settings, including education, health care, housing, politics, employment, law enforcement, marriage, and media.
Representation is important.
In conversations about race, there needs to be full representation of the range of identities and experiences that are faced.
Racism does not result in POC having a monolithic perspective, and people should share their own experiences as relates to their racial or ethnic identity, with attention to places of similarity and of difference.
As a diverse body of people come together to discuss racism, a diverse set of voices allows for more places of connection, with people more able to see themselves reflected in the conversation and more ready to get involved.
[There is current debate concerning whether to capitalize the words “black/Black” and “white/White” and concerning the political and social implications of such choices. I have followed several style guides (e.g. APA, ASA, New York Times) in capitalizing neither of these words, but I invite dialogue and discussion on this choice. -Haley Gabrielle]
Haley Gabrielle is a final year, graduate student of Master of Arts in Religion with concentration in “Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies” at Yale Divinity School. She hopes to pursue a PhD program in New Testament. She is a non-denominational charismatic Christian and a biblical equality ally who is currently part of both a Vineyard church and an Episcopal church, .