To ask someone from an ethnic minority......

(107 Posts)
SuedeEffectPochette Wed 24-Apr-13 17:08:32

......what is pc these days? My inlaws persistently say things like "do you remember that coloured girl......?" and this makes me cringe and I have to tell them that it isn't on to use this phrase any more. I know in America saying "black" is also offensive. So please can someone tell me what is the least offensive way to refer to someone's race (if indeed it is necessary to do that - but sometimes it is)......
And what about people from the Indian subcontinent - will I be causing offence to describe you as "Indian" as you may be Pakistani etc...... I am just ensuring that I don't accidentally cause offence and turn into my in laws!

WilsonFrickett Wed 24-Apr-13 19:30:01

I'm a 42 yo Scot and I wouldn't say 'coloured'. I think our parents thought it was 'softer' than black, and of course there is a big Scottish Asian community who aren't black, so 'coloured' became a catch-all. But it implies that white is the norm, so is best avoided. Likewise half-caste which I've only ever heard here to describe mixed-race.

Feck the blackboard and baa baa black sheep stuff is urban myth and daily Fail fuckwittery. Although my DS doesn't know what a blackboard is as his school uses interactive white boards grin

HazeltheMcWitch Wed 24-Apr-13 19:37:56

Fanjounchained - I'm a Scottish MNer, allbeit living south of the border at the mo. I'm 35. I'd never say coloured, and I'd be really surprised if I heard any of my generation describe anyone as coloured (with the exception of SA Cape-Coloured).

My mum would have sometimes said coloured, but honestly, not in the past decade or so.

Time to consign that word to the past, I think!

NadiaWadia Wed 24-Apr-13 19:38:49

I don't think 'coloured' is meant offensively. Just very dated, and yes, if you think about it, Wilson is right, it does imply white is the norm. Anyway, everyones bodies are 'coloured' aren't they, so it is pretty stupid, really.

'Half-caste' on the other hand, definitely does sound offensive.

Delayingtactic Wed 24-Apr-13 19:41:19

I understand why people want to know where people's ancestry lies but it does grate when someone asks 'but where are you really from?' As it implies that a non-Caucasian couldn't possibly be from Britain really. I have a different accent so understand more so why they ask me but my British Indian friend who was born and raised here gets asked this constantly.

Wabbitty Wed 24-Apr-13 20:15:48

Problem with saying Asian or British Asian it is like someone saying that they are European, it narrows it down to a large part of the world but that is all.

abbeynationall Wed 24-Apr-13 20:31:52

Personally, I would love to be reffered to as a coloured woman than a black woman. I find the term black quite deragotory and offensive to me because its almost always used to cover 'a multitude of sin' or in place of a prejudice of somekind. Its rarely used to paint/refer to something nice, noteworthy,normal , ordinary etc
Example, A marathon champion from Africa would hardly be reffered to as 'black , they'd probably be called the Kenyan man, Ethiopian etc. Now when you want to talk about immigrants or London, then that term 'BLACK' seems 'right' to use.
I hope somebody gets what it is am trying to say , can't speak english grin grin

eccentrica Wed 24-Apr-13 20:32:13

HeyYoni I can't count the number of times I have had that conversation.

Them: "Where are you from?"
Me: "London."
Them: "No, but I mean where are you really, you know, from?"
Me: "London."
Them (slightly impatient): "OK, where are your parents from?"
Me: "London."
Them: "Come on.. grandparents?"
Me: "London."

And so it goes on. What they mean is "oooh you look a bit... ethnic" and I can tell you that having been on the receiving end of it many, many times. My partner thought I was exaggerating when we first got together - now we've been together 6 years, he too is amazed at how often people do it.

To be honest it does come across as pretty rude and intrusive. If you want to know what someone's heritage or ethnicity is, you could ask directly, or you could (better) not ask at all. People will share whatever they want to share, it's very uncomfortable to be interrogated like that - especially if there are other people around.

MalkieFraser Wed 24-Apr-13 20:44:02

I'm from the West of Scotland and would have no problems being referred to as coloured. I'm mixed race. As a child I hated the terms 'black' and 'white' because so few of us are. I brought 'tinted' into use to describe myself amongst friends grin

apostropheuse Wed 24-Apr-13 20:54:31

I'm Scottish, fifty-one years old, and I would always say black. I have done so since the mid seventies. I would have said coloured before that. I'm forever pointing out (nicely of course) to people at work that coloured isn't an appropriate term.

The strange thing is, though, a few weeks ago I heard a black woman describe herself as a "woman of colour" so I suppose people vary in their perception of the term offensive.

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 24-Apr-13 20:57:30

Yes eccentrica: If you are foreign and you tell them sometimes it doesn't get better either.

Random stranger: where are you from?
Me: XYZ country.
Random stranger: Oh I love XYZ country. My best friend is from there too! He/she
is so in touch with nature. And the tribes are so lovely.

Or they tell you their colonial past. hmm

eccentrica Wed 24-Apr-13 20:57:46

apostropheuse "of colour" is a different term to "coloured" and has different connotations.

apostropheuse Wed 24-Apr-13 21:00:52

I didn't know that eccentrica So it's an ok term then?

abbeynationall Wed 24-Apr-13 21:01:01

Malkie, good to see am not the only one. I don't like being called black even though am blue black. PC says its not wise to sing baa baa black ship anymore or say blackboard as you risk offending people but insists on calling the same people black? confused

I agree with eccentrica, I find that kind of questioning about where you are 'really' from, very irritating. I know it's often well meant but I find it odd to sort of explore and point out people's differences when you don't know them well. And if you do know them well, it will be revealed without pushing for it anyway.

Tee2072 Wed 24-Apr-13 21:03:55

Person of colour. Covers all bases.

Black is not offensive in America, BTW.

persimmon Wed 24-Apr-13 21:13:54

I feel uncomfortable with the idea that 'black' is offensive, as isn't then the underlying assumption is there is something negative about being black, IYSWIM? I taught at very multi-ethnic schools in London and the black kids there called themselves black proudly. Coloured just sounds odd, like something from Love Thy Neighbour!

My mixed race brother is a hip hop musician and when tipsy one night made up a rap to amuse my dc's with the refrain "My names Davie and I'm a n****r".
I had a lot of explaining to do to a friend the next day when she came back from an outing with my dc's as they'd pointed at a black nan on the bus saying "look a n****r. My brother was in hysterics when I told him but I was not amused at all.
That man on the bus had no way of knowing that my dc's had mixed race family, and not at all racist. They were a lot younger then and were mortified when I told them of the incident recently.

I would like to add I am Glaswegian and would never use the word coloured.

Acantha Wed 24-Apr-13 21:22:55

Black isn't an offensive term at all here. It's used in textbooks. There's Black History Month, Black Student Unions, etc. I use black because it's easier than saying African-American. If somebody wants me to use another term, I will.

I'm not terribly fond of the term person of color because the default person is what? White?

I did have an older lady ask me where I was from once. I was only about 10 and completely misunderstood. She was somehow convinced I was Russian and was sure I had an accent. It was very hmm. I think she might've had too much to drink.

Serenitysutton Wed 24-Apr-13 21:24:50

So many word sound in themselves inoffensive, but it's the connotation and they way they were used to portray a certain idea. Commonly you seem to get a lot of racists saying that paki isn't offensive! It's short for Pakistan! I can't think of anyone of my age (30s) or over who isn't fully aware that if they're referring to someone as a paki, itsnt an incidental way of describing their background.

Yet at the same time I recall my DF telling my mum and I that Someone in a pub had called her a coon, and I had to have it explained even though mum was instantly horrified. It means nothing to me, have no idea if you can even get raccoons in this country. Totally unheard of.

sunshine401 Wed 24-Apr-13 21:39:16

Black is fine if you have to mention me by my colour hmm.

I get a lot of this type of Conversation:
Random Person - Where are you from?
Me- Manchester
RP- No, I mean where were you born?
Me- Manchester
RP- O right well where were your parents born?
Me- Manchester
I even had someone go on to say "yeah but you must of come from another country cause your black"
???????? WERIDO!!!!

My ds has had many arguments with friends because at school lunch break they speak of going to get a "chinky" when they mean a Chinese meal or they say they're going to the Paki shop for sweets. Some of them genuinely don't seem to realise the connotations, it's just how they've been brought up.
There is a large Romanian population in Glasgow now and even they get called Paki's. Geography obviously isn't a strong point with some of these idiots.

Just remembered that in the rap the line wad actually "My name's Davie and I'm a darkie." This seems to be a common term in Glasgow and I hate it. I've never heard it used by anyone who isn't racist apart ofcourse from my brother.

Another Scot here, from the NE. Never, every heard anyone in my family say 'coloured' except for my Great Auntie, and I think she was just using the polite word from her era (bearing in mind she was born in 1901!).

Also, I don't really understand the need to know about someone's ethnic mix, especially when you've just met them. Being interested in someone is one thing, but if they're clearly British (for example) then I'd see it as kind of rude to go on about their colour & family background. You wouldn't interrogate a white person about that sort of thing, probably, and for all you know they might just have a more interesting back story for you than you suspect!

Anyway, if you really get to know someone, they generally share details with you about their lives etc that they deem relevant to who they are. Don't we all?

Someone said something about Australians being taken aback by their use of the word 'black' Would be interested to know where that was- I have never met so many frothing racists in all my life as when I visited Oz. Not saying everyone was, not at all- there just seemed to be so many more people happy to come out with utter crap, quite casually..!

ComposHat Wed 24-Apr-13 22:08:32

Someone said something about Australians being taken aback by their use of the word 'black' Would be interested to know where that was- I have never met so many frothing racists in all my life as when I visited Oz

My partner said the same, ironically a lot of them are Expat Brits, who left in the 70s/80s who rage on about how Britain has gone to the dogs since the pakis, wogs and niggers [insert any vile racial epiphet you can think of] started 'taking over' yet see no contradiction in being emigrants themselves.

When they are over here I refuse to meet them, as if I really want to hear something really racist and stupid, it is quicker and easier to visit my Nan.

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