[first thing i ever wrote that caused an uproar, and set me on my path to VNN, because i love the fight. i had not yet learned to fly, and was still making my way among what i heard, read and felt instinctively or intuitively. This piece PRECEDED a cartoon strip by Berkely Breathed making almost exactly the same points. back in these days, 'people of color' was the bruited and bandied locution. it was young, dumb and full of come, and the sophisticates were hot to use it. it still rings to me both pathetic and pretentious. peepole uff colur, homes]
[opinion published in Pomona College's The Student Life (spring 88)]
By Alex Linder
They used to be "colored." Then they were "Negroes." Then "blacks." Now they're "of color." Isn't social change grand? Thirty years later, use of the adjective risks offense, while the prepositional phrase places one on the cutting edge of interracial sensitivity! Such rapid changes in nomenclature serve only to befuddle.
But others have it worse. Consider the Asian, Chicano and Black Studies programs. What are they going to do, merge into one discipline? (Might not be a bad idea considering their declining enrollments.) They could call it "Color Studies" or "Studies in Color." Who knows, might even manage to attract a few wayward art students!
The worst thing about "of color" is that its creators seek to foster a divisive, holier-than-thou attitude on the part of, dare I say it?, colored people. (What race are you? Oh, I'm a person "of color.") Just say the phrase a few times and try to keep your nose level.
The use of the term "of color" signifies haughtiness arising from a false sense of superior morality. There is nothing, however, inherently superior about being colored, or, for that matter, uncolored. But then one doesn't claim to be a person "of whiteness," does one? I believe the choosers of the term "of color" intend to suggest the spiritual brotherhood of Asians and Africans and Native Americans (itself a biased term - did not the "Native Americans" originally migrate here from other continents?). They have created a term that in their minds is a sort of catchall for the bondage of brothers trod on by the same white, imperialist oppressor's heel.
Think about the connotations of the word. Am I wrong, or does "of color" suggest a tribalistic closeness to the earth, a passionate, deeprooted, innate-hence-superior attunement to nature and the mystical quality of life, a sense the creators think absent in the pale-faced people "of blandness" inhabiting the northern latitudes? Does not "of color" convey the impression that those lacking color by the phrase somehow lack excitement, aren't as vivid, and aren't as fully human as those who are "of color"?
Once the whole silly business of name-changing is done away with, we'll all be a lot better off. After all, it's the NAACP, not the NAAPC. 'PC' is an acronym for what I'm typing on. And if "colored" is good enough for the NAACP, isn't it good enough for you and me?