A "Woman of Color"?

Hello, I work at a school and our new principal is of Asian origin. In our staff meeting, she referred ot herself as a “Woman of Color”. Now, I am the only African/ American woman in the building and when she used this term, it really outraged many of my co-workers. I was a bit surprised that she used this term. I was approached by many of my co-workers with the question of “ do you consider her a woman of color? How dare she use the term?” My mother, a women bought up in Deleware and a victim of predjudice as a child and young adult.,was also a bit taken back with the use of the term. I called my good friend who lives in Florida and she is a “woman of color” working in a job that is 90% men, and she says that many of the Latino women use the term “ a woman of color”. Could you help me with this? Was in not the African /American people who began to use this term in place of Negro or Black? If you could clarify this to your best ability, I would so appreciate it. I would like to be albe to give my colleagues an educated answer. Thank you so much, “A woman of Color” Maria

Answer #1

I don’t know where it’s written that any group has ‘exclusive rights’ to the use of that term - not a daroggatory term in any way - a descriptive term - no outrage here. Take care !!

Answer #2

The first time I heard the term “woman of color” it was a collective term for women of african or mixed african heritage (formerly refered to as mulato). Since “women of color” was meant as a term of inclusion adding mixed African heritage with full African heritage women it isn’t suprising that eventually Latina women would be included in the group since Latinas are non-white and also face discrimination from white America. I have only heard Latinas in the South refer to themselves as women of color though. I haven’t heard Asian women refer to themselves this way but they too are non-white. I don’t really understand why you are offended by other non-white groups using the term.

Answer #3

“Person of color” intentionally originated as a term to use in place of “nonwhite.” It was originally used to refer to people who are not white without defining them in terms of whiteness.

On the other hand “colored” and “black” have always referred to people with heritage in the African continent.

To be “of color” is to be nonwhite; to be “black” or “colored” is to have African heritage.

Women of Color organizations in the US unite Native-American, African-American, Asian-American, Chicano-American and other populations - as these groups do indeed have more in common than you might think.

Answer #4

We’re all women of color if you really think about it. America is one big melting pot.

Answer #5

I think it’s a tough issue. For European Americans, if they have Irish ancestry as I do, they can point to many public, well documented issues where the Irish were treated as badly as the Africans, Chinese or other immigrants to the United States.

However, because the Irish look (to most non UK descended folk) a lot like any other “white people” so it’s easy to forget that this happened.

I’d say talk to her about it, privately, and keep in mind that everybody has their own opinion. Race, national origin and skin color are no basis for decision making. Similarly, in a public setting, it’s a bit much to judge others based on their skin color.

The Chinese, for example, when brought over to help with the California rail roads, were treated as the Irish, or Africans were when brought over from their countries: less than human.

Or the Japanese, during world war two, one of the many shameful things that the US government did during that period in history. I’m only 30, so I wasn’t around back then, however many living Americans were.

So, do you know if she went through these issues? Did her family suffer? Wounds, even from history, shouldn’t be taken lightly. Those that remember help the rest of us, so that we should learn from them and embrace our fellow human beings.

I know, I know - not an answer, specifically. However keep in mind the historical and real familial context that this woman might be speaking from.

Perhaps if you could all share something of your experiences with regards to racial issues, it would help you understand one another better? The worst thing is when new staff starts off on the wrong foot…:(

Good luck.

Answer #6

I think that terms like this mean different things to different people at different times and in different places, so it’s very hard to be certain what one person means by them. For example, in the UK, my African/Carribean/British friends describe themselves as ‘black’, but I gather that this wouldn’t sound right in America.

I taught for a short while in Manchester (England) in 1991, and the headteacher, who was of Indian origin, I think, explained to us that the City Council’s policy for politically correct language was to descibe her as ‘politically black’ - ‘black’ no longer meant a specific racial origin but described her non-European origin and pride in her darker colour. She was very happy with this description. But it might not have worked outside Manchester!

To my ears, ‘coloured’ brings to mind the old South African designation, which I think applied to Asians or people of dual heritage, and was meant to indicate ‘not as subjugated as black people, but not as privileged as white people’, so that’s another (very unpleasant) meaning for the word.

Answer #7

to be completely honest I feel that anyone who is not caucasian is a person of color. whether they be hispanic,asian,indian,black,hawaiian,pacific islander and so on…because the definition of color is having pigments, or being pigmented. which all of those races are and were considered to be back in the day. but dont get me wrong, some people do misuse, or over use it. but I am personally not offended when someone of non caucasian backgrounds, and non african american refers to themselves as “colored” for two reasons…

  1. They recognize that they are of a pigmented ethnicity
  2. They are proud to be called and referred to as a person of color, when it is normally seen as an African American label, that in some areas is considered negative. And them knowing that, willingly attach themselves to that name that could later give them a harder time in society. which to me is cool.

just to make things clear, I am of a mixed ethnicity of African American, Native American Indian, and Caucasian. SO im not “hating” on or favoring a particular race. to me it doesnt matter. we’re all human beings in the long run =]

Answer #8

well ya but her people have been disciminated against as well, what would you want her to refer to herself as. why be mad if she is using a trem that helped your people. but then again I am white and probably wouldn’t understand

Answer #9

If you want to be all racist about it, she IS a ‘woman of color’. She’s ‘yellow’. But I don’t see why her being a ‘woman of color’ in any sense of the word has anything to do with anything…

Answer #10

I’m 1/2 spanish and black but wut duz woman of color mean?

Answer #11

Haha…Taking things too seriously… o_o; okay its not so funny

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