Black vs. POC: A New But Outdated Term
I am not a person of color. I am Black.
This is a sentence that I have said to countless people– each time with more conviction.
When hearing it, I feel as if my blackness is being lumped into a group without notice.
It feels like a politically correct term for ‘colored people’.
The blanket term groups non-whites together despite each group being completely different.
As for Black people,“certain effects of racism — things like mass incarceration, police violence, inability to access good health care — disproportionately affect Black and Indigenous people. Not all “people of color.”
In an Op-Ed from 2019 by our new Vice President Kamala Harris, Harris tackled legalizing marijuana and helping those incarcerated for drug charges.
Her hypocrisy is a whole ‘nother story. I want to focus on the language she uses in the piece.
According to the ACLU, despite Blacks and Whites using pot at the same rates, Black people are 4x more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
As a former federal prosecutor, it’s safe to say she would be aware of that statistic. Yet, in an article about decriminalizing marijuana the word “Black’ is only said once.
“Data shows that a person of color is much more likely than a white person to be arrested for marijuana possession…,” said Harris. “…As a career prosecutor and former attorney general of California, I saw firsthand how counterproductive marijuana laws…[lead] to the disproportionate criminalization of black and brown people in particular.”
In a case where Back people are the center, they are still decentered. Despite those rates, despite making up more than a third of America’s prison population, it is still seen as a “poc” problem.
I think POC is often used as a safe place for those who fear the word “Black”, much like how African-American is seen as a safer choice also. A lesson I have had to teach some is that not every Black person you see is African American. Some are Caribbean America, Hatian American, African and countless other nationalities could be woven into those identities. But as we know, “Black” carries negative connotations for white folks i.e. ghetto, violent, uneducated.
If American is tacked on at the end there, they seem less of a threat because they now see a connection between this person and themselves, once again centering themselves in our identity.
Now there has been an attempt to make POC even more pc: BIPOC. That stands for Black, Indigenous, people of color. I think the two, Black and Indiginous, are correct in being highlighted here. However, us holding onto the POC still doesn’t sit right with me. So many cultures, ethnicities, and races just swept under one rug.
I prefer Black and Brown and saying the specific race of others when known.
Race descriptors have evolved overtime. From Colored, to Minorities, to POC. It feels like we have chosen to rebrand previous versions and call it progressive. Maybe it’s time to actually scrap the old for something new and ACTUALLY progressive.
About Brianna Milon
Brianna is local media professional who loves writing, watching Netflix, and playing with her dog, Weenie and her cat, Fancy. She studied Journalism and Broadcasting at SUNY Brockport and was heavily involved in the campus radio station. Brianna also co-hosts a radio show, “Fat, Black, and Femme”, on 100.9 WXIR. You can find out more on Facebook and Blogspot.
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