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!

itsblackoveryonderhill Thu 25-Apr-13 20:37:03

my DH is half african (west) and half bajan (so essentially mixed race himself at face value if you ignore slavery from West Africa to the caribbean), but was born in England. He classes his ethnicity on forms as afro caribbean and doesn't mind being called black.

I'm white and born in England. Our DD is mixed race. On forms we put her down as black-mixed or white - mixed caribbean.

I must admit I really dislike it when people call DD half caste. We don't live in a caste system, so how can be half of something that is non existant?

When DD noticed that she doesn't look quite like DH or I and she was asking about colour I explained that DH is called Black and I'm called White and she is mixed (half mummy and half daddy), but in real life DH is Dark Brown, I'm Pinkish and freckly and DD is light brown.

I won't mind if DD denotes herself as white, black, mixed or other when she's older. Afterall, aren't we all just individual anyway?

Oh and with regards being called black or not being able to sing baa baa black sheep. We went to see DH family at the weekend. His brother has a 'white' partner also (in fact all his sibling are in mixed white/black relationships) and in their living room they had a golly wog and when DD asked me what it was I said a golly wog and the world did not stop, there was no sharp intake of breath, because when I was a child it was called a golly wog. It turned out that it was his brothers when he was a boy and it was a Robinsons golly wog that you saved for from the side of the jam.

DH does think that some black people have a bit of a chip on their shoulder about what to be called because he said, you generally know if what is said is meant offensively.

SconeRhymesWithGone Thu 25-Apr-13 21:25:52

So shouldn't he be described as 'mixed race' rather than 'black?

President Obama self-identifies as black.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Thu 25-Apr-13 21:55:03

Thanks Scone. That's interesting

CoolCadbury Thu 25-Apr-13 22:13:33

As an ethnic minority (or is it minority ethnic?), people asking me where I come from get different responses depending on how they ask and in what context. Usually i just tell them my heritage. Sometimes I get a bit obtuse and say the city where I grew up. Some people won't leave it though and they say "but were you born here?"

Does it matter?

The point is how I define myself is not set in concrete. I am British, I am Asian, I am a Mancunian. I am a mix and sometimes I don't think in terms of ethnicity - sometimes I am just a mum or a teacher.

My DS says he is English. It's up to him how he defines himself. Will others let him though?

BTW, I really dislike the term South Asian because its come over from America where Asian means people who have Chinese/Vietnamese/Japanese etc (and I am sorry I am sweeping a whole host of different heritages into the etc.).

CoolCadbury Thu 25-Apr-13 22:14:47

As far as I know, half caste is now labelled as dual heritage.

I've had those conversations with people who are visibly from an ethnic minority, but have a clearly British accent and I am interested in their home town in the UK. I always mean "where in the UK are you from?", but tend to say "where are you from?" It actually feels a bit wrong to say "where in the UK are you from?" as I probably wouldn't add the UK bit if the person was white and had a British accent.

NadiaWadia Fri 26-Apr-13 17:19:43

It just seems ridiculous that 'Asia' in the UK is only for those with family originating from the Indian sub-continent, and ignoring the fact that China is in Asia, also leaving people from other contries within Asia (from the Middle East to the Phillipines) without a box to tick. Yes there are obviously more people in the UK from India/P/B than from other parts of Asia, but so what?

This affects my family as DD is mixed race, and should really be defined as 'mixed race - white and Asian' but as DP is not from Indian sub-continent you just know the form compilers want her to tick 'mixed race - other'. Which she gets confused and annoyed about.

But I suppose it would be equally wrong to use 'Asian' to only refer to people from the Far East, as Americans do. And I can see that people from Bangladesh/Pakistan probably don't want to be classed as 'Indian'.

So I think we shoud probably use terms like 'East Asian' and 'West Asian' instead. Surely this is descriptive, neutral and non-offensive?

KobayashiMaru Fri 26-Apr-13 17:45:14

Where do you get that idea? Asian means anyone from Asia, including China and everywhere else. South East Asian is a common one, as is East Asian, these are already used.

NadiaWadia Fri 26-Apr-13 17:53:54

On many forms my family have had to complete, eg medical, or for schools, , there is one box for 'Asian' and one for 'Chinese'. Sometimes 'Asian' is subdivided into 'Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi' so it is quite clear what they think 'Asian' means. And people from elsewhere in Asia have no box to tick. Or maybe the bureaucrats in my area are just a bit thicker than average at creating forms? Maybe it is better elsewhere?

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 26-Apr-13 19:14:12

My experience of forms is similar to Nadia's. Took me years to realise Chinese is not Asian. hmm

takeaway2 Fri 26-Apr-13 20:27:57

Same experience too with Nadia.

CoolCadbury Fri 26-Apr-13 22:24:28

There are usually "Asian/other" boxes.

LemonsLimes Fri 26-Apr-13 23:07:33

In the context you gave, when you are needing to identify which person you are talking about i think it is fine Bunbaker. But some people will use it when there is no reason for it. eg. "Oh this black woman in the supermarket really annoyed me today." etc. In that context I would just say "This woman in the supermarket" etc etc

ComposHat Sat 27-Apr-13 01:05:44

Yes I am always puzzled that people feel mentioning some one's skin colour is shameful or to be avoided in a purely descriptive sense.

I used to share an office with a bloke who was a similar age, height and build to me. The ley distinguishing feature was that I was white snd he was black. The receptionist used to tie herself in knots trying to describe us to clients. .. go and see John he is in office on the right he's the one with err the frizzy hair.

It's ever so late, but ...

'Black' is often used as a political identity, espcially in the US, isn't it? I was reading a compilation of essays, one of which was by a woman whose parents were Chinese - she was identifying as 'black', so far as I could understand, to identify herself with a political movement that differentiated itself from white people.

I think increasingly, these words are going to be as much/little references to colour as 'blue' is a literal description of Tories!

Anyway - I wanted to post because I wanted to ask about something. I grew up thinking of 'coloured' as being an out-of-date term that had, by the time I was growingup in the 80s, become known as racist. And I knew of 'woman of colour' as a term mostly used in the US that was not racist. A man I know - who is far too superior to me for me to ask him about it - refers to himself as 'coloured' and I know he's South African. I've googled an I know 'cape coloured' refers to a particular background - but can anyone help me, would he have meant this term as a normal term to use if you're from SA, or was he more reclaiming it in the way people do other terms? I've no need to use the word, I just wondered.

Btw, I think one reason people over-compensate about not referring to skin colour, is because as I understand it, we know that people over-emphasize those details without meaning to. If someone who seldom sees someone who is white, they will actually not register many visual details, because their brain is telling them not to take up an unnecessary amount of visual memory. It's not racist - it's a feature of our brains' efficiency - but we do have to compensate for it occasionally IMO, or it can be upsetting to people.

Cravingdairy Sat 27-Apr-13 02:24:43

Fanjo 36, Edinburgh, would never say coloured. No one I know under about 60 would say it.

Tenacity Sat 27-Apr-13 02:29:30

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
Three bags full;
One for the master,
And one for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.

I can see why the lyrics have been considered dubious by some. wink

LinusVanPelt Sat 27-Apr-13 02:44:46

"Black" in the US is not offensive at all, but it is often used interchangeably with "African - American", which typically refers to people whose families have been in the States for many generations, often with ties to the South, often with their roots in the country beginning with slavery.

So some people whose families are from the Caribbean, or from Latin America with African roots, or who are otherwise of African descent but with a different family cultural history than the 'Black American' experience, prefer not to be referred to as "Black".

Not because it's an offensive term, but because the culture and traditions associated with the term do not reflect their own culture and traditions.

For example, a member of my family was born in the US of (Black) Jamaican parents. She refers to herself as "Jamaican" or "Jamaican-American", not as "Black". Her children, whose father is African-American, she would describe as being "half Black and half Jamaican."

wreckitralph Sat 27-Apr-13 02:52:07

I live in Asia and am friends with a lot of ladies from around the region. They generally call themselves:

From China - Chinese
Japan - Japanese
Korea - Korean
HK - Chinese
Singapore/ Philippines/ Vietnam/ Cambodia, south east asia - Asian
India - Indian.

I've never heard an Indian lady refer to herself as Asian.

sashh Sat 27-Apr-13 06:49:10

So that conversation can sometimes be totally innocent. That was me overthinking things!

I've been on the other end

Me: where are you from originally?
Him: well my parents were born in Jamaica
Me: No your accent, I can't place it, it sounds a bit Manchester

I also use the radical idea of asking people

One of my friends says when she was growing up she was coloured, which she liked, it was different, and flowers were coloured so that was nice.

Then she hit her teens and suddenly she was black.

Also why don't we say British African or similar rather than Afro Caribbean as standard?

Lots of the kids at my DCs school have been born and brought up here so British, but the parents are originally from Ethiopia/Nigeria and not the Caribbean - there's no other box for them to tick at the doctors except Afro Caribbean,, which they aren't.

I am barely British by blood as my family have always married foreigners - my DM is Swedish, my DG German/Mexican and the same for DH - his DF is half German, and his DM Irish/Scottish - I am never quite sure what box to tick for the DCs! I often just tick Other and then get this look from the receptionists!

mamaggie Sat 27-Apr-13 07:35:33

Is it politically incorrect to use the term 'oriental' to describe someone from the Far East? It sounds as if it is but I'm not sure. My mum, almost 80, refers to her Japanese neighbours, as 'the oriental family' and I always want to correct her - but am I wrong to do so? confused

Altinkum Sat 27-Apr-13 07:39:28

fanjo I'm Scottish and now live in the NE of England, I was also brought brought up to say Coloured, alot of my family still use it if needed.

Its only when coming to England that I noticed black was the correct and non offensive way of describing someone's ethic race.

KobayashiMaru Sat 27-Apr-13 11:02:55

Oriental is colonial and therefore non-U.

asking if something is politically in/correct is arsey, how about asking if something is polite instead?

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