In India, there is a broad spectrum of skin color. When I was growing up, I saw children, men and women of colors ranging from very black (which is often offensively referred to as the back of a frying pan in some regions in India), to varying shades of brown (which is objectively called wheatish in the notifications of matrimony or lost person reports) to fair complexion ( pale white or yellow, or pink). I, like most other people I knew, thought each of these shades as colors. A very fair person fair has a skin color and so has a person who is dark complexioned. Thus, because every person was a person of color, there was no concept of person of color.
Living in New York City, I hear the phrase ‘people of color’ quite often. In the discussions about economic and social equality, researchers and policy makers often use this phrase. We understand that, African American and Hispanic communities have suffered oppression and inequality historically, and that’s why there is vital need to work for empowerment of people of colors if those are the races we refer to by ‘people of color’. But what surprised me was an Indian woman referred to her as ‘people of color’. She came to America two years ago and she is asserting her right to be given more opportunities. As I observed further in various situations, including in employment forms, anyone not white Caucasian is a person of color. All of my life, I didn’t consider myself or my family any special because everyone was born with some color. So seeing this identity given to me – ‘person of color’ confused me. Indians, who come to America, for most part, are smart and bright people with reasonably decent socio-economic background. By the time they reach the American shores, they have had enough opportunities to get over any opportunity gap they might have suffered in life so far. They come here on fellowships and scholarships and pursue excellent careers. They don’t need special treatment from the perspective of ‘opportunity gap’. Putting them in the category of ‘people of color’ seems grossly inaccurate. This phrase has meanings beyond the literal meaning about colors.
And speaking of colors, it is not still not clear that why is white not a color? And you know who is white? – People having Albinism. Everyone else is actually not white if we are discussing literally. By calling every non-white-Caucasian as a person of color, are we not exercising a latent form of racism? Are we not referring to one voice as a main stream voice, and everything else as streams of voices that need to be heard?