UMass Boston and its professors stick to a very distinct set of politically correct terminology, both in and out of the classroom. Although I am generally skeptical of political correctness and its ramifications regarding the regulation of free speech, I almost always stick to the politically correct terms surrounding gender and race. If someone requests that I call them a certain pronoun, I always try to remember that pronoun in order to ensure that person is comfortable when I am conversing with them. I do this because I am a civil person in a civil society, and I do my best to respect people’s personal choices, as long as those personal choices do not influence me or anyone else.
Apart from politically correct terminology surrounding gender, PC, or people of color, culture arises in another place: race. When I am describing myself, I always like to specify my race. As Coptic Evangelical Egyptian and Palestinian American, my race is intertwined with my identity as a Christian from the Middle East. However, oftentimes my peers, white or black, use the term, “person of color” to describe anyone not white. As a person who is not white, I have adopted this term to describe myself to be in line with modern, politically correct terminology. I may have even described myself as a person of color in previous articles. Upon further investigation of this term, I am less inclined to use the term to describe my non-white peers, given the historical connotation of the term. Furthermore, I find the use of the term to describe anyone who is not white fundamentally and academically lazy.
I hear the following statements thrown around a lot: “We need more people of color in government,” or “Women of color are especially marginalized.” While these statements might be well-intentioned, they fundamentally ignore the nuances between races. Is someone who appears White from the Middle East or Latin America considered a person of color? Are there any fundamental racial or ethnic differences between an African-American person whose family has been in the United States for seven generations and an African immigrant, even though they may physically appear the same? These are important questions that question the nature of a term such as “person of color.”
During Jim Crow, the term “colored people” was used on bathrooms, tables, and water fountains to segregate Black and White people. All of sudden, in the 21st century, the term is used commonly to describe non-white. Personally, while I am not offended by the term, I do find the widespread and lazy usage of the word problematic for the advancement of non-white people. While in colloquial conversation, this umbrella term is very acceptable, but the usage of this term in academic circles presents issues.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Asians have the highest “Real Median Household Income.” At $81,331, Asians have more than double the lowest racial group, Black individuals at $40,258. Racial income inequality is only one way to differentiate different races, but according to the term “person of color,” those two racial groups are under the same umbrella term. Also according to this statistic presented by the Census Bureau, the White, non-Hispanic Real Median Household income is $68,145, substantially less than Asian Household income. (1)
The nuances of race in the United States must not be overlooked. In no other nation, can people of all different races come together and be called one race: American. Our different racial backgrounds are key to identity and must not be overlooked or oversimplified. I would encourage my white and non-white peers to analyze the differences in race and not use oversimplified language to describe race. Race itself is one of the most complex and historically significant aspects of human history.
In Asia, Chinese, Koreans and Japanese have had a long and brutal war-filled relationship. Within Africa are hundreds of different racial and language groups. In Europe exist different types of Europeans. Prior to the formation of the European Union, these countries were often at war. In Latin America, differences in color have formed variations in culture and language. In the Middle East, the invasion of Islam has formed lots of different types of races, each linked specifically to a religion. In the subcontinent of India, differences in religion created Muslim India and Hindu India (according to the British) which formed modern-day Pakistan and modern-day India, respectively. Race is incredibly complex, and boiling down thousands of ethnicities to a two-letter phrase is lazy, irresponsible, and careless.