People of colour

 
Do you know how to tell which type Irish pub you are in? Ask for a whiskey. I learnt this when I asked for a Bushmills in an Irish pub in Birmingham. The relevance of which will be delt with later.
 
Today I noted that in two articles in the Guardian on the topic of race and racism the expression "people of colour" was used as opposed to "black" or "ethnic minorities ". Has there been a shift in the correct terminology and if so what's the thinking behind it? To answer this question I did what most people do these days and googled it.
 
"Colored people (which in South Africa means 'people of racially mixed ancestry') has in the United States a connotation different from people of color. ... Colored is often taken as a slur, even when not so intended, and so this term is better replaced by Black. People of color, on the other hand, is a phrase encompassing all nonwhites. ... When used by whites, people of color usually carries a friendly and respectful connotation, but should not be used as a synonym for black; it refers to all racial groups that are not white." William Safire 1988 in the New York Times.
 
In U.S. history, "person of color" has often been used to refer only to people of African heritage. Today, it usually covers all/any peoples of African, Latino/Hispanic, Native American, Asian or Pacific Island descent, and its intent is to be inclusive.
 
So the expression person of colour comes from the USA. Don't know why it has taken so long to a cross the Atlantic. People of colour simply identifies those who have in common the fact that they are not white. It includes people of mixed race although president Obama is more often described as black as in the first black president of the United States. In the USA for people of colour the experience of growing up even in the same neighbourhood is different depending on whether you parents were immigrants or descendants of slaves. This distinction doesn't seem to apply in the UK where it is either a religious divide, Muslim and non Muslim or simply a case of first generation immigrants verse second or third generation, those more recently arrived verse those born in the UK. 
 
People of colour is preferred to non white or ethnic minority because these expressions are not as neutral as they may appear to those less aware and sensitive to the language of race. People of colour sounds more positive and is more inclusive. If you are referring to a specific ethnic group then the convention is to use people of african heritage or Asian heritage . I have notice people in eduction use this terminology yet most of us use the terms black and Asian.
 
If this seems all rather politically correct to you then think how confusing it must be to people around the world who simply refer to the "Irish" with no awareness or sensitivity to issues of nationality ,religion, history or culture. ( Bushmills is an Irish whiskey which in Birmingham at that time would only be served in pubs catering for those from the Republic of Ireland ).
 
 
Blair McPherson author of An elephant in the room which is about equality and diversity published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson.co.uk 
 
 
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