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To have called this lad "black"...

(164 Posts)
ExitStageLeft Sun 17-May-15 20:18:11

Genuinely unsure about this and need the bluntness of AIBU.

I work at a college, was working with a group of young men and one wandered off. I poked my head back into the office and asked if anyone had seen the missing student. My colleague asked what he looked like and I said:

"He's wearing a denim jacket, got dark rimmed glasses on – black lad."

My colleague was shocked I used his colour to describe him.

Totally prepared to be told AIBU...not in the least bit racist and will be quite embarrassed if I've got it to wrong....


ThroughThickAndThin01 Sun 17-May-15 20:20:59

I think it's fine. If you had said he 'had ginger hair' to describe him, would that be a problem.

BluebeardsSidekick Sun 17-May-15 20:21:05

Of course you weren't. You described the man and in doing so gave a major identifying feature. Your colleague needs to get a grip if that's all it takes to shock them!

Dosydoly Sun 17-May-15 20:21:28

I can't see why it would be racist to describe someone by their colour. To say it is would suggest to me that ones colour is something to be ashamed of.

partialderivative Sun 17-May-15 20:22:08

Your desciption was accurate.

Theycallmemellowjello Sun 17-May-15 20:22:09

No not racist in the least imo. I think that if you start randomly mentioning people's races where it's not relevant ("my Asian friend") then it shows you're defining people by race and it is a bit racist. But that doesn't mean that it's rude ever to talk about race. Describing someone, as you were, it's obviously very relevant. And it's actually pretty offensive for your colleague to have acted like there is something bad about being called black.

SaucyJack Sun 17-May-15 20:22:45

No, it's fine.

I don't think there's any offence in calling a black person black.

thetroubleis Sun 17-May-15 20:24:44

I used to work in an FE college and had a black colleague. It made us both laugh till we wet ourselves listening to all the descriptives students would use before the word 'black.'

I think it's ok.

ExitStageLeft Sun 17-May-15 20:28:05

Ha! I can imagine trouble....

My original post has come out weird. Thanks all!

BigChocFrenzy Sun 17-May-15 20:29:22

You described his clothes & glasses as well, so it's not as if you defined him solely by his colour. I think black is fine as an adjective, just not as a noun.
I'm mixed race, btw, but I'm 58, so maybe out of date with terminology smile

Notfootball Sun 17-May-15 20:30:58

I think it's fine. She asked what he looked like and you described him. I'm sure if he had blonde hair you would have narrowed it down by saying blonde (and in effect saying he was white).

Lorialet Sun 17-May-15 20:31:03

Why should describing the colour of someone's skin be any more offensive than describing the colour of their hair or their eyes?

ExitStageLeft Sun 17-May-15 20:31:05

DH is now saying it is "un pc" saying what I said. He says its like saying someone is "a spaz..." hmm

I wholeheartedly disagree. Spaz is a vile, derogatory word. The boy I was talking about was/is black.

Charis1 Sun 17-May-15 20:31:11

apparatnly we are not allowed to say "black" now, the correct term has changed to "person of colour", so I'm told


Kampeki Sun 17-May-15 20:31:44

No, it isn't racist to talk about skin colour when you're trying to describe someone's appearance.

In fact, I think it is probably more racist to skirt around the issue as if it's something that shouldn't be mentioned!

ExitStageLeft Sun 17-May-15 20:32:30

This is it Bigchoc, I don't know whether saying "black" is even the right thing to say...

WorraLiberty Sun 17-May-15 20:33:30

FFS is your colleague 5 years old?

Of course there was nothing wrong in the way you described him.

If he was wearing a denim jacket, had dark rimmed glasses on and was a white lad, would they have a problem with that too?

Lorialet Sun 17-May-15 20:33:44

Why do we have MOBO awards if the therm "black" is offensive?

WhetherOrNot Sun 17-May-15 20:34:49

I don't know whether saying "black" is even the right thing to say...

Nobody knows any more, OP! And what is right today will be wrong tomorrow. Tis a minefield out there!

Notfootball Sun 17-May-15 20:34:57

Exit I'm black and I like to be described as black. Someone will come on shortly and contradict me...

ScarlettDarling Sun 17-May-15 20:35:00

Wow, I think your Dh id being unreasonable. In what universe is being called black comparable to being called 'spaz'? Black is a description of skin colour, spaz is a nasty insult. No op, yanbu, but your colleague and DH definitely are.

WorraLiberty Sun 17-May-15 20:35:27

Of course black is the right thing to say.

And WRT your DH and 'spaz', there really are no words at all...

Hoppinggreen Sun 17-May-15 20:38:24

I have done similar and my 10 year old DD was totally horrified - she said that saying the word " black" in reference to a person is racist.
I checked with a couple of friends who are Jamaican and they told me that it's fine and they would have no issue at all being referred to as black as long as it was as a way of describing them the than a derogatory term.
I remember trying to describe a boy in a group to a friend who is black and totally tied myself in knots trying to avoid a reference to his colour, having tried " green jumper" ( they were in uniform) and similar,my friend said " oh, the black boy"
My friend tells me she would NOT want to be referred to as a person of colour as we are all coloured - hers happens to be black!

BigChocFrenzy Sun 17-May-15 20:38:43

You weren't making out a police report with IC2 male etc.
I'm sure your manner was no different to if you had said "denim jacket, glasses, white lad"
I can't keep up with terminology. We need somewhere that issues official etiquette updates < flips frantically theough Debretts >

ExitStageLeft Sun 17-May-15 20:39:32

No Worral, he wasn't using the word Spaz...he was saying it would be like saying that...

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