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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!

TheHumancatapult Wed 01-May-13 09:49:11

i hate this I tick white britsh for my dc and they then look at my son and say are you sure

But then i say well then do you have a half european box and they still do hmm look and say tick the mixed race box

ds2 is half italian but to be fair he is very dark even for Italian .Hair and skin

VenusRising Wed 01-May-13 09:39:45

LittleRed, I think South Africa had its own special brand of racial differentiation : for apartheid to work there they needed to say someone was white, or black, or coloured.
All the Asian population, like ghandi, who was born there iirc, were coloured, not black.

Fwiw I think that when the economic sanctions were in force, Japan still traded with SA, for the dubious pleasure of being classified as white by J'burg!

So 'coloured' means something quite particular in SA.

I must say I always describe people from their hairstyles: the woman with the short blond hair, the woman with the braids, the woman with the long black hair, the woman with the pink hair, you get my drift.
I'm colour blind, as I think we are all coffee coloured, in our own ways-from espresso to flat white.
I love hearing about other cultures; say, Bavarian, or learning how to cook using ingredients we don't find in Europe.

As for people asking me where I'm from, I don't really know, a lot of my relatives come from all over the world, with Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Buddhist faiths. So I say "I'm from Earth, even though I look like I'm from Venus"! grin

breatheslowly Wed 01-May-13 00:05:24

ComposHat - I thought they would, but I think that ethnicity is a bad area to make assumptions, particularly if, like me, you come from a not very diverse area and have limited personal experience of people from non-white ethnic groups. Thanks for clarifying.

Kewcumber Tue 30-Apr-13 23:16:05

How old is your DD, OP? Because I don't use "black" to describe people when I'm explaining race/colour to my (mixed race) DS. People aren;t black or white or yellow they are all skin coloured and there are almost as many skin colours as there are people.

I explain that people use the word "black" or white as a short cut to describing people whose ancestors were originally from northern Europe and "black" for those whose family came from Africa or somewhere else hot.

DS is also one of those people labelled "chinese" becasue we aren;t used to using the generic "Asian", I generally correct them "central Asian" or "from Kazakhstan" which causes much confusion as most of them aren't aware there is any such place - they think Sacha Baron Cohen made it up!

ComposHat Tue 30-Apr-13 23:04:32

Or do people of those ethnic backgrounds not make this distinction themselves?

Erm very much so. Some African-Caribbean friends have been quite disparaging about British Africans, seeing them as uptight and unsophisticated country cousins. One friend in particular was convinced all british africans were either eternal students, illegal minicab drivers or Internet fraudsters.

breatheslowly Tue 30-Apr-13 20:42:08

Presumably we would need both African Carribean and British African to distinguish between those whose families came from Africa straight to the UK and those of Carribean descent. Or do people of those ethnic backgrounds not make this distinction themselves?

EldritchCleavage Tue 30-Apr-13 01:09:26

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

We do. I would never refer to myself as African-Caribbean ('Afro' is a hairstyle) and nor would any of my friends or relatives. British African (or African British) is common. Your GP sounds v outdated.

Oriental is not used now and causes massive offence in the US.

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?

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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

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!

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.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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."

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

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.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sat 27-Apr-13 01:53:37

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.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sat 27-Apr-13 01:47:50

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.

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.

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

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

There are usually "Asian/other" boxes.

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

Same experience too with Nadia.

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

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?

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.

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