James T. Green is a conceptual artist, designer, developer, podcaster, and writer based in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A..

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Colorism and the Term "Person of Color"

A good friend of mine, Alicia Eler, always has a knack of sending over insightful articles to read. Recently she sent over a great read from the blog Black Girl Dangerous, “What’s Wrong with the Term ‘Person of Color?’” by Janani.

While my mind drifted in a different direction of the article, I drafted an interesting email correspondence reacting to it, sharing where my mind went while studying the article. I’d love to share a portion of it below to further the conversation:

“It was a fascinating read, especially to think about from that point of view. I believe that the term “person of color” is easily and unfairly morphed into a synonym for “ethnicity.” To indulge in that further, I’ve noticed that fairer skinned ethnic groups are many times left out of the conversation when it comes to ethnic diversity.

My own thoughts behind the “person of color” experience does not fall under the categorization of ones’ ethnicity; an example being someone who identifies as Asian-American, West Indian, etc. My thoughts fall under the experience of “persons of color” who are of darker skin. While there are many ethnic groups that exist outside of the White/Caucasian grouping, the few that typically result in darker skin are those of African American and Hispanic descent, as mentioned in the article.

What I found particularly fascinating was the mentioning of asserting one’s racial dominance, or the shared experience of Whites and Asians showing a displeasure against Blacks in that time period, even though Asians did not receive the “benefits” of white privilege. What my mind explored was the act of “colorism”: an instance where one person of a lighter complexion asserts dominance over another of darker complexion, even if they are of a shared racial group. A great example of this is in the Black community where lighter skinned blacks are seen differently than darker skinned blacks, mostly by each other. A great project to check out that straddles the line of colorism is the (1)ne Drop Project by Dr. Yaba Blay.

Not exactly sure if this is what you were looking for but these were the conversations and questions that were running through my brain during the course of reading.”

I especially enjoyed the part of the article that explored how communities benefitted from racism, “reaping systematic advantages from the racist attitudes and structures that are held by our entire communities.” 

A beautifully written read. If you missed the link, here it is again.

“What’s Wrong with the Term, ‘Person of Color?’”

James T. Green