IS IT TIME TO SAY R.I.P. TO ‘P.O.C.’? On the Code Switch podcast, we often use the term “people of color.” And it’s not something we thought a ton about until the Black Lives Matter protests reignited in May, and we saw a refrain across social media, particularly among Black people: Stop calling me a person of color.
Many felt that people using the term POC were (intentionally or not) sidestepping the truth: That certain effects of racism — things like mass incarceration, police violence, inability to access good healthcare — disproportionately affect Black and Indigenous people. Not all “people of color.”
The popularization of BIPOC only furthered the debate. Was this relatively newer term highlighting the particular experiences of Black and Indigenous folks? Or was it an homage to wokeness with no real teeth? …
We heard from a lot of listeners about how they felt about the label, and their opinions were everywhere. Some felt it was useful to describe a coalition of people who have experienced racism. Others thought it flattened people’s wildly varying experiences with racism into a beige monolith. And many had mixed feelings about BIPOC. Here are some of the most thought-provoking responses. …
Many Black listeners would rather just be called “Black.”
“I self identify as Black. I mean, African-American is cool. But I look in the mirror and I don’t think of myself as a strong, intelligent African-American or BIPOC man. I consider myself to be a Black man.” -Brandon Smith, 45 years old
I feel that the term POC is nonsense, and I think it’s a way for non-Black people to sit comfortably in their anti-Blackness because they’re so afraid to say Black. So they come up with these terms that make them feel comfortable, with their whiteness or their adjacency to whiteness. And I get irritated—not irritated, vexed—when people refer to me as POC or BIPOC. Like, no, absolutely not. I’m Black, don’t play me.” –Christine Harris, 21 years old