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Is the phrase “woman of Colour” still acceptable?

(87 Posts)
Whatjusthappenedthere Sat 09-Mar-19 10:20:47

I’m confused, Amber Rudd caused uproar when she used the out dated and now racist term “ coloured” when referring to Diane Abott recently. I grasp why this term is now no longer used BUT yesterday on Woman’s Hour the term “women of colour “ was used in a positive way and this is acceptable.
Any one able to explain ?
I’m genuinely concerned as I brought up in a home where “passive” racism was the norm. The N word was occationally used but not in anger or violence. The local shop was called by the P word. I remember once being asked to see the head master at school in the 1980’s because I had used some racist language and I was honestly dumbfounded as I had no idea what I had said.
I work very intimately with the general public but not in an ethnically diverse area so when I do spend time with someone who is not ( and even here I’m struggling to find the right term) white, hope that’s ok , I’m really nervous of saying the wrong thing.
Can any one explain the right terms to use?
I still struggle to refer to people as Black if required as that was the one word I did here in the 80’s that was often followed by some other derogatory term.
Help. I just want to get it right.

Whatjusthappenedthere Sat 09-Mar-19 10:24:16

Ah, I’ve just seen the other thread. I’ll read it now. But any comments about my other points welcome. blush

Kb8219 Sat 09-Mar-19 10:26:45

People/person/woman/man of colour is acceptable!
Slightly different but my son has Down’s syndrome and it is very important to use person first language so my son has Down’s syndrome syndrome he is not down’s or a downs kid, his Down’s syndrome does not define him similarly Diane Abbott is a woman of colour she is not coloured! The colour of her skin does not define her!

DingDongDenny Sat 09-Mar-19 10:31:04

I work with someone whose family is originally from Pakistan and she was saying she doesn't know the 'correct' term for her own ethnicity. She normally refers to herself as a brown person.

FissionChip5 Sat 09-Mar-19 10:33:41

Some people find “people of colour” offensive, some don’t.

Birdsgottafly Sat 09-Mar-19 10:38:14

There's been a shift lately were the term, Women of Colour, is used to mean anyone not from a White background.

A Friend, who looks like a Black Woman amd who is mixed heritage, was talking on the phone. It was about arranging a conference. Her point was that anyone who isn't White, has the same struggle in terms of Bigotry. So a Woman who is Asian, Pakistani, Indian, Sri Lankan etc, are all Women of Colour.

However wjen talking about a particular person, Black, or (Nationality) Woman is more appropriate.

Because the racist messages that have been sent to DA is promoting a change in our Laws amd those insults are often directed at all non White Women, it's OK to group them.

JoBrodie Sat 09-Mar-19 10:38:47

I found tweets from David Shariatmadari helpful in clarifying the difference

"The connotations of coloured derive from the fact of its use primarily in an era of systematic racism – and the associations it has acquired as a result. "People of colour" doesn't. As a result they are now used in different contexts, by different speakers."

"They don't mean the same thing. They have the same reference. Which is different."


Birdsgottafly Sat 09-Mar-19 10:39:47

Excuse the fat fingers, typos.

Hoopaloop Sat 09-Mar-19 10:51:06

God knows, I can't keep up.

cometinmoominvalley Sat 09-Mar-19 11:00:40

* God knows, I can't keep up.*
Are you a bit hard of thinking then? Or would you just prefer not to bother to 'keep up'?

QwertyLou Sat 09-Mar-19 11:13:47

I am technically a “WOC”.. personally I find the phrase a bit pretentious but totally fine - not offensive at all! Coloured would offend me. I know it can feel like a minefield, you clearly care about not offending so you’ll be fine smile

Fluffyears Sat 09-Mar-19 11:14:10

Apparently I was being racist because I said someone was from Africa. He was African and I still don’t understand what was racist about saying ‘oh yes x is from Africa isn’t he?’ But one guy in my office said ‘well that's racist as fuck!’

Heatherjayne1972 Sat 09-Mar-19 11:26:14

Depends where you are
I knew a woman from an African country where people are white black or coloured ( mixed race) a perfectly acceptable term there
She was baffled when I said it might be seen as offensive here

doIreallyneedto Sat 09-Mar-19 11:36:46

First off, I'm white, so don't have an opinion that counts and always do my best to use the preferred terminology for people. However, I've always felt that coloured, person of colour etc is inherently "othering". To me, it implies that white is the norm and that the person of colour is somehow different. After all, we are all "a person of colour". I just happen to be a slightly pasty beige colour while someone else is, for example, a coffee brown, or whatever.

As I said, I don't get up choose the term that other people want to be used to refer to them so will use whatever people prefer. But people being people, the preferred term is different depending on the person.

I don't live in a very diverse area. Pretty much all of the people living here of my age who are not white are foreign born so if I had to, I would generally refer to them as Indian, Moroccan etc. Younger ones, I would use Black for those who are. People of Asian origin, I am not sure what to use. They're not Indian, or whatever, as they were born and raised here and I don't like putting them in a group of "people of colour", as to me, it is othering. Also, it's not a term you hear used where I live (I'm not UK or US, which is where it seems to be commonly used). Luckily, I rarely need to describe someone using their ethnicity.

Sorry, that's a bit of a ramble.

SuchAToDo Sat 09-Mar-19 11:43:07

I'm white but the following is what I do - the easiest way to not be racist by mistake is to just not mention skin colour at all, if you wouldn't bring up other white peoples skin colour in conversations then why bring up the skin colour of anybody else...I don't see why anybody's skin colour even needs to be mentioned unless they themselves choose to mention it...

Just treat everyone the same, and see people for who they actually are with their own likes, dislikes, personalities and quirks, because at the end of the day we are all people, all have feelings, and emotions.

That's just my thoughtsgrin

insideoutsider Sat 09-Mar-19 11:54:31

Diane Abbott is a woman of colour she is not coloured! The colour of her skin does not define her!

As a black woman living in a Western country, the colour of my skin definitely defines me - positively so. What's wrong with the colour of your skin defining you? It's a good thing! (Except if you see black skin negatively)

I hate the term Woman of Colour- we all have some colour, don't we? I guess it's the generally accepted term so I have to live with it.

I prefer the term 'Black' and 'White' as general terms.

MadCatEnthusiast Sat 09-Mar-19 11:56:38

I can't seem to find the other thread, can anyone link?

Alsohuman Sat 09-Mar-19 12:00:08

Dottierichardson Sat 09-Mar-19 12:00:27

OP woman of colour has a particular historical/political meaning:

“Women of color” is a deliberate political designation, not a biological or genetic term. The term has great power because, as Loretta Ross says, we “self-named ourselves.” We use it to recognize solidarity among ourselves and to honor our matriarchs.

It's used more widely in the US than in the UK, some people like to use it to describe themselves, others don't.

The term 'coloured' however has a history related to being used to suggest white as the norm and everyone else as being 'coloured' in, it has very different connotations.

rightreckoner Sat 09-Mar-19 12:03:08

All this semantic stuff eventually breaks down.

I understood that coloured was offensive because it was othering. But woman of colour has the same inherent problem.

I’d understand not wanting to be defined by skin colour which is the argument for ‘person with disability’ not ‘disabled person’ but black person still seems to be widely accepted by the black community so that doesn’t seem to carry much weight.

As for the argument that coloured was used in S Africa and that’s why it’s problematic - well so was black and that still seems to be fine.

As a white person I’ll use whatever terms I’m asked to use. But the correct term does change over time and the rush to put people in the wrong is not helpful imho.

Dottierichardson Sat 09-Mar-19 12:04:17

This article also explains the difference between 'woman of colour' and 'coloured'

annikin Sat 09-Mar-19 12:05:06

Sorry, a similar theme question, as have wondered about this but don't want to offend. In a room of people, if you're trying to describe one person, who is the only black person the room, is it ok to describe them as 'the black girl', in the same way as you'd say, 'the blonde girl', 'the tall girl' etc? To me it's just a description, and not offensive, but is it ok? Sorry if this should be obvious, it's not to me!

TheKingsofCleon Sat 09-Mar-19 12:14:13

I tend to follow the police on this.
So black male
Asian female
Caucasian male
Not sure how they describe mixed race people. Probably mixed race?

There again, I've never needed to give a description to police apart from about an ex. He was white. That was simple enough.

I find you can't even say that someone is a black dude or you're offending somebody. Well I'm not going to say he was a white dude with freckles if he was a black dude am I?

I tend to avoid ever having to state someone's race. Even at work! So you fancy a guy at the office, chatting to the girls to find out who he is, I am actually reluctant to say he's the tall goodlooking black dude. I'll say, he's the tall guy, short hair, looks fit, black hair.

It's a bloody minefield that I rarely step on.

Justanotheruser01 Sat 09-Mar-19 12:15:34

Truthfully if i needed to refer to somebody in that way i would say poc or woc. It bothers me to be honest the thought of offending somebody truthfully as it certainly wouldn't be intended.

TheKingsofCleon Sat 09-Mar-19 12:18:29

I think (hope) black is acceptable? Or have we moved on?

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