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  • Technorati: graph / links

    Not liking ‘people of colour’


    by Sunny on 18th August, 2008 at 1:31 am    

    Over at F Word, Helen G writes about the brutal murder of a trans-gendered woman Kellie Telesford. I agree with Helen when she says:

    I wonder what the inclusion of the idea of “kinky sex” says about the attitudes of both the mass media and certain sections of wider society. As has been suggested elsewhere, this defence strategy could conceivably be applied to all similar cases, especially within the queer community. For example, the media depiction of lesbians inevitably seems to focus on sex aids and strap ons: the implication being that they are, somehow, indulging in “kinky sex”.

    In other words, women who partake in a varied and experimental sex life are somehow threatening the established order and therefore inevitably leave themselves open to victim-blaming accusations, such as “What did she expect? She was asking for it wearing that miniskirt”, or as in this case, “If she hadn’t been indulging in ‘kinky sex’, she wouldn’t have died”.

    Nothing to disagree with the post, except that Helen starts off by describing Kellie as “a 39 year old woman of colour”. I find that phrase uncomfortable, and rather out of date. As I pointed out in the comments, the phrase is a misnomer because it assumes white women don’t have colour. White women also have colour. They also have an ethnicity and culture. Its an obvious point to make, but this sort of language feeds into the view (in some leftwing circles, not F Word per se) that ethnic minorities should be fetishised because they have colour or culture.

    It also sometimes feeds into the view that ‘people of colour’ think the same or can be generalised about. I just think its an old general term which should be ditched. If you wouldn’t use ‘white woman’ for a white woman who was murdered, why use ‘woman of colour’ in this case?
    What do you folks think?



      |     |   Add to del.icio.us   |   Share on Facebook   |   Filed in: Culture, Race politics




    43 Comments below   |  

    1. Desi Italiana — on 18th August, 2008 at 2:57 am  

      “What do you folks think?”

      I think you are totally inconsistent. Over on the other thread (Ala’s post), it’s ok for you to say White Middle Class males- ie grouping them- but not ok to say “woman of color” over here. Furthermore, I think you want to have your cake and eat it too- it’s ok to be ‘liberal’ w/r/t to everyone else’s opinions, but perfectly acceptable for you to group and label people based on their gender and race and tie it into their opinions, i.e. telling a female commentator of South Asian origin that she is the ‘brown’ version of Michelle Malkin (another woman who is a minority), because she said that “Again, assumptions. Also, many cultures– not just your own– are oppressive of women. In fact, oppression exists on various levels in each society. You might want to read the UN report on women’s situation around the world.”

      “if you want to be the brown sanctomonious version of… I don’t know, Michelle Malkin or something - fine. “

    2. Nav From Canada — on 18th August, 2008 at 3:26 am  

      I agree with you completely, Sunny.

    3. Sunny — on 18th August, 2008 at 4:13 am  

      . telling a female commentator of South Asian origin that she is the ‘brown’ version of Michelle Malkin

      If you want to be Ann Coulter, that’s fine with me Desi.

      White Middle Class males– ie grouping them– but not ok to say “woman of color” over here.

      In that thread I was referring to the people posting on that specific thread not making a generalisation about white males in general.

    4. Desi Italiana — on 18th August, 2008 at 6:56 am  

      Sunny:

      “If you want to be Ann Coulter, that’s fine with me Desi. ”

      How about neither?

    5. Desi Italiana — on 18th August, 2008 at 7:43 am  

      I totally agree with your post, Sunny. Absolutely and entirely!

    6. douglas clark — on 18th August, 2008 at 9:10 am  

      Sunny,

      Apart from the fairly obvious, that ‘colour’ seems to be tied to extemely conservative values, I’d have thought your point was well made.

      I hate Michelle Malkin and Anne Coulter, but I quite like women, generally. Does saying that they are complete tits make me a mysoginist?

      I don’t think so, but others might disagree….

    7. Rumbold — on 18th August, 2008 at 9:54 am  

      I agree Sunny. ‘Women of colour’ sounds patronising, and tends to be used in that snese as well.

    8. Sid — on 18th August, 2008 at 10:36 am  

      I also detest the term “brown” when used for Asians, something this blog goes in for quite a lot. I don’t use it and I don’t like seeing it used. It’s up there with the term “yellow peoples” when used to describe East Asians.

      The term “brown” is especially worthless as a term of description when you consider that SouthAsia people benefit from a veritable colour chart of skin pigmentation. The whole black/brown/red/yellow descriptors for racial provenance is a self-negating throwback to colonialism, and one that isn’t redolent of irony and therefore not worth reclaiming. Not big nor funny.

    9. Ala — on 18th August, 2008 at 10:48 am  

      I suppose the ethnicity of a minority person is always mentioned. For some reason I’ve noticed we do it in everyday life (not you), but me and the people I know. For instance, if an Indian man knocked on our door, we’d say there’s an Indian man at the door, but we’d never say there’s a ‘White man at the door’. But I suppose in America, they’d mention he’s White, as Whites are fast becoming a minority. Similarly, Brian Paddick was described as a gay former policeman on Sky News, While Boris wasn’t described as a heterosexual womanising MP.

      Would it have been better if Kellie was described as Black?

    10. Desi Italiana, Michelle Malkin, and Anne Coulter all rolled into one — on 18th August, 2008 at 10:56 am  

      Sid:

      “The term “brown” is especially worthless as a term of description when you consider that SouthAsia people benefit from a veritable colour chart of skin pigmentation. The whole black/brown/red/yellow descriptors for racial provenance is a self-negating throwback to colonialism, and one that isn’t redolent of irony and therefore not worth reclaiming. Not big nor funny.”

      Spot on. And yet, I shamefully confess that during several moments (both in ‘real life’ when joking and on my blog), I’ve used the word “brown,” while vociferously protesting its usage elsewhere for other reasons (here in America, the ‘brown’ label has taken off in the last couple of years and used in the political context- i.e. ‘we’ are demonstrating solidarity with ‘brown people,’ which translated as ‘working class,’ which then didn’t take into account people who are exploited but not politically ‘brown’, etc, and that was my issue).

    11. Sid — on 18th August, 2008 at 11:24 am  

      Quite true Desi. The term here seems to be appropriated by a new generation of SouthAsian immigrants who use it to assert a new found confidence in their role in British society and very little with “political brown-ness”. Actually I don’t know which useage of the term is more toxic.

    12. Leon — on 18th August, 2008 at 11:46 am  

      I find that phrase uncomfortable, and rather out of date.

      It can depend on the context, I’ve met women who are African-Caribbean and refer to themselves in that way as a positive. I’ve never felt it was patronising or a negative in that context tbh.

      I agree Sunny. ‘Women of colour’ sounds patronising, and tends to be used in that snese as well.

      How much experience do you have of non white people and their various social/community groupings? I ask because you’ve made a generalised claim and I would like to know what you’re basing it on.

    13. Rumbold — on 18th August, 2008 at 11:54 am  

      Leon:

      “How much experience do you have of non white people and their various social/community groupings? I ask because you’ve made a generalised claim and I would like to know what you’re basing it on.”

      I don’t claim to have made a definitive study of the socio-cultural aspects of the term, but the few times that I have heard it or read it, it comes across as patronising.

    14. Sid — on 18th August, 2008 at 12:00 pm  

      Come on Leon, If Rumbold finds that term patronising, why should he be questioned on the extent on non-white people in his orbit?

      A lot of non-white people consider describing themselves in pigmentation terms as completely acceptable. That doesn’t make it correct. For example, I know South-African “coloureds” who resent being reminded that they are part indigenous African!

      It only shows how ingrained and deep-seated these oldschool colonial terms of division are.

    15. Leon — on 18th August, 2008 at 12:08 pm  

      Come on Leon, If Rumbold finds that term patronising, why should he be questioned on the extent on non-white people in his orbit?

      Because he said ‘tends too’, I’m curious as to what that generalisation is based on.

      It’s something I see all to often on PP, people voicing opinions as pseudo fact, or assertions without any clear basis…figure the best way to resolve that is to apply higher standards to myself and others.

    16. Sid — on 18th August, 2008 at 12:17 pm  

      Yes I agree “tends to” throws new light on the findings. Rumbold, there’s simply not enough black/brown/yellow/red people in your milieu. Go back to Hampshire where you belong.

    17. El Cid — on 18th August, 2008 at 12:19 pm  

      “figure the best way to resolve that is to apply higher standards to myself.”
      Yeah, by never saying much.

      Seems to me PP has lost its way a bit. Having initially appared to want to transcend race it seems increasingly obsessed with racial labelling and tilting at racial windmills.

      We’re all s

    18. El Cid — on 18th August, 2008 at 12:22 pm  

      … we’re all squabbling more than was the case, say, three months ago. You are entitled to draw your own conclusions but I think it is sad. Thankfully, I will be on my hols very soon.

    19. Sid — on 18th August, 2008 at 12:26 pm  

      Rubbish. I think we at PP have arrived at a consensus and we’re merely sweating the details.

    20. Leon — on 18th August, 2008 at 12:29 pm  

      Yes I agree “tends to” throws new light on the findings. Rumbold, there’s simply not enough black/brown/yellow/red people in your milieu. Go back to Hampshire where you belong.

      Um..ok?

      Seems to me PP has lost its way a bit. Having initially appared to want to transcend race it seems increasingly obsessed with racial labelling and tilting at racial windmills.

      You complain that PP has lost it’s way (perhaps you’d like to submit a piece for us to take us back onto The Path) then attack someone for attempting to do something constructive about it. Odd.

    21. Sid — on 18th August, 2008 at 12:38 pm  

      It could be worse. We could be the Drink.Soaked.Twats.For.War.

      haha!

    22. Ravi Naik — on 18th August, 2008 at 12:48 pm  

      In that thread I was referring to the people posting on that specific thread not making a generalisation about white males in general.

      If you wouldn’t use ‘white woman’ for a white woman who was murdered, why use ‘woman of colour’ in this case?

      Indeed. Which begs the question: why did you use “white” or “male” on the other thread for that matter? It almost seems like you are playing the race AND gender card. Sounds greedy to me. :)

    23. Ravi Naik — on 18th August, 2008 at 12:59 pm  

      The term “brown” is especially worthless as a term of description when you consider that SouthAsia people benefit from a veritable colour chart of skin pigmentation.

      That’s probably the least convincing argument to ditch “brown”. Most East Asians are not yellow and can be lighter than whites or light brown, whites can go from light brown to pinkish white, and blacks go from black to light brown. And Native Americans are not red. The point is that we use “colors” to denote race, not skin color.

      Personally, I don’t like the term “coloured” because it has an apartheid connotation - as it comes from a mindset where society is divided between whites and others.

      As for Sunny’s post, I don’t see the problem apart from using an outdated term - Helen G also mentions that the victim was a 39-year old, which also doesn’t add much to the equation, but like the “coloured” descriptor and the fact that she lived in South London as a florist and beautician, gives us a profile of the victim.

    24. Sid — on 18th August, 2008 at 1:02 pm  

      Most East Asians are not yellow and can be lighter than whites or light brown, whites can go from light brown to pinkish white, and blacks go from black to light brown. And Native Americans are not red. The point is that we use “colors” to denote race, not skin color.

      yeah, but I didn’t coin the term “yellow” for East Asians. I’m just registering my distaste for what is, essentially, a colonial term in the same way that “coloured” is. And the term brown seems to be falling for the same thing. I’m averse to colour coding when referring to large swathes of disparate people.

    25. Rumbold — on 18th August, 2008 at 1:20 pm  

      Sid:

      “It only shows how ingrained and deep-seated these oldschool colonial terms of division are.”

      Agreed.

      Leon:

      “Because he said ‘tends too’, I’m curious as to what that generalisation is based on.”

      Personal experience. How amny people have you met that describe themselves as ‘persons of colour’, or for that matter, BME (black and minority ethnic)? I suspect if you called the average South Asian the latter you would probably get a clip round the eaar.

    26. halima — on 18th August, 2008 at 3:24 pm  

      I thought .. only very old people used the word ..’coloured’ and we forgave them coz they are from a different generation.

      sometimes women of black descent do use the term women of colour as a positive valorisation …

      and I don’t like to say i am this and that, but would always politically be inclined to say ‘black’ as a political catogory - something that South Asian Brits aren’t comfortable doing. It would seem.

      I don’t personally think I am ‘black’ in a cultural sense, but I am black politically in relation to a state that is homegenously white to me - though this is changing slowly.

      But as Stuart Hall said a long time ago, the term ‘black’ was only constructed in opposition to another dominant term that is ‘white’… and that before he immigrated to the UK from the Caribbean he’s never given his skin pigmentation any thought. He was never aware that he was brown or black.

      It is, in a the end, a socially constructed term, as with all such terms, they mean different things in different contexts.

      So a white woman using the term a woman of colour would be misplaced .. to be kind. And especially misplaced coming from a feminist site - when we know feminism usually is concerned about allowing women/men multiple identities and expressions for how they live/label themselves.

    27. El Cid — on 18th August, 2008 at 3:44 pm  

      “I think we at PP have arrived at a consensus and we’re merely sweating the details.”

      Deep down I suspect you’re right. I have been here since 7/7 broadly. I think that’s 3 years. I know about the good stuff. But right now that consensus doesn’t transcend race enough for me. There’s too much short-termist and blinkered racial posturing going on these days for my liking. I’ve got higher expectations (That’s proper higher Leon).
      Admittedly, it’s making me bitchier than I would like to be. Maybe a holiday will chill me out.

    28. Dalbir — on 18th August, 2008 at 3:55 pm  

      ———-
      I don’t personally think I am ‘black’ in a cultural sense, but I am black politically in relation to a state that is homegenously white to me - though this is changing slowly.
      ———-

      Any slower and it would be going backwards……

    29. bananabrain — on 18th August, 2008 at 4:50 pm  

      personally, i think mr tracy morrow has quite the point:

      http://www.asklyrics.com/display/Ice-T/Race_War_Lyrics/132759.htm

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    30. Amrit — on 19th August, 2008 at 12:39 am  

      Um…

      Saying ‘woman of colour’ is a bit old-fashioned but for some reason, when I read that, I didn’t think of race at all, but of the expression ‘colourful character’ that you use to indicate that somebody has a varied and interesting nature.

      So I can see how it could be used positively as well.

      With regards to all the people talking about Rumbold… he might actually have a better idea of things than you think, because he lives near me, and my area is definitely ‘ethnic minority.’

      I see why Sunny and others resort to using the term ‘brown’ - because it is easy - but I suppose it is lazy too, to do so. Lord knows I ain’t brown, though I wouldn’t mind being so! Perhaps a more specific term needs to be used.

    31. Helen G — on 19th August, 2008 at 12:16 pm  

      Sunny,

      I’ve only just seen this post which is why I’m so late responding.

      I apologise for using language that makes you feel uncomfortable.

      I’ll amend the blog entry today.

      Sincere apologies again.
      Helen

    32. Helen G — on 19th August, 2008 at 12:33 pm  

      I’ve now removed two references from my blog post and once again apologise.

      Helen

    33. Leon — on 19th August, 2008 at 12:46 pm  

      How amny people have you met that describe themselves as ‘persons of colour’, or for that matter, BME (black and minority ethnic)?

      Hmmm….for person of colour quite a few (upwards of 70 odd, never heard of Colourful TV I take it?), for BME, maybe a thousand or so? Maybe more…

      I suspect if you called the average South Asian the latter you would probably get a clip round the eaar.

      Not in my experience, even those who are not sure of the term have always been interested with it once it was explained…

    34. Leon — on 19th August, 2008 at 12:47 pm  

      It could be worse. We could be the Drink.Soaked.Twats.For.War.

      Heh, amen to that brother! :D

    35. sonia — on 19th August, 2008 at 4:20 pm  

      its what the PC term in the States …’ person of colour’ and people seem to like to hold onto it, and the woman of colour thing seems to be quite important in feminist circles. you know if you’re a gay woman of colour then you hit all the boxes so people have got to listen to you, otherwise they’re insensitive (like your average “automatically empowered because of gender and colour regardless of individuality) white male is meant to be..)

    36. Stephanie — on 19th August, 2008 at 7:41 pm  

      Hello, saw your reply on thefword. Just wanted to say I agree with you, I think the term is quite American and see it alot on american feminist sites. I don’t really like the term but it’s not as bad as ‘coloured’ which surprisingly I hear quite a lot, even at work!!!

      Stephanie

    37. Rumbold — on 19th August, 2008 at 8:16 pm  

      Leon:

      I think we must move in different circles.

    38. Katy Newton — on 19th August, 2008 at 9:04 pm  

      I have been reading about the intersection between racism, sexism and other prejudices on various different US-based feminist and size acceptance blogs recently and “persons of colour” seems to be the new accepted term in the US for non-white people both by white people and non-white people. I think it’s partly to do with wanting to encompass black, Asian, Oriental, South American etc in one phrase. It’s often abbreviated to “POC”, again by both.

      I am not really a fan of it, because it is uncomfortably close to “coloured”, which I was raised to consider extremely offensive, and neither term really makes any sense to me, because, as several people have commented, everyone has a colour. But it is definitely in vogue in the US at the moment.

    39. Katy Newton — on 19th August, 2008 at 9:05 pm  

      If I’d seen Stephanie’s comment before I commented, I’d just have said “what Stephanie said” :-)

    40. Don — on 19th August, 2008 at 9:15 pm  

      I just don’t think it conveys information beyond ‘Not white’ and is therfore redundant.

    41. Leon — on 19th August, 2008 at 9:21 pm  

      I think we must move in different circles.

      Heh yeah very true.

    42. Sunny — on 19th August, 2008 at 11:06 pm  

      Hi Helen - please don’t apologise, I was just expressing an opinion. I don’t get easily offended and we have much thicker skins than that :)
      Let’s not get over-sensitive here, I just wanted to express a thought.

      Ravi - my point about using ‘people of colour’ isn’t the term itself, because people are right in that there are different implications and different contexts.

      My worry is more than it denotes only ethnic minorities have ‘colour’. That is especially worrying because the implication in certain circles that we are different because we have ‘colour’ and white people don’t.

      We are all people of colour - just different colours :)

      Its an American term, and a very political one at that - as Halima points out. But as ‘Black’ is phasing out here (probably for good), I think this too should be phased out.

    43. sonia — on 22nd August, 2008 at 2:31 am  

      “The whole black/brown/red/yellow descriptors for racial provenance is a self-negating throwback to colonialism, and one that isn’t redolent of irony and therefore not worth reclaiming. ”

      Sid said it all.

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