Race relations is a sensitive subject for obvious reasons. It’s difficult to speak about the issues without running into walls of political correctness on one end or accusations of racism on the other. Being a minority, I’ve weathered charges of racism pretty easily. It seems that calling a white person racist is one of the worst insults imaginable to that person. Given the history of Caucasian discrimination in this country, I can see how whites would be especially offended by any sort of inferences of racism. However, as a child of immigrants from a country where racism is not a forefront issue like it is here, it’s just never seemed like a big deal. As I’ve gotten older however, I’ve become even more sensitive to subtle racism when the effect is too easily downplayed.
Whatever my feelings about racism, I hate the term “person of color.” At its simplest level, it splits people into a dichotomy–either you’re white or you’re not, as if that distillation is all that’s required for intelligent discussion of race. At least when you use the word “minority,” there could be instances where that minority, within a given population, could be white. But with “person of color” that can only mean that they are nonwhite. I don’t believe the charges that “minority” has connotations of subjugation. Not only that, but the idea of categorizing based on skin color is archaic and should not be perpetuated in use.
I suppose that this is a necessary term when you’re talking about diversity programs, but that overlooks the problem that diversity programs that only seek to ensure a significant “person of color” population is inherently flawed. It is easy, living in a diverse city, to forget that most of the country is predominantly white and in many communities, minorities are so few and far between that they might as well be grouped together for a coherent antimajoritarian agenda. However, this parochial outlook should not represent the country any longer. Sure, there are still parts of the country where being Asian means you’re conceived of as either Chinese or Japanese, but the country as a whole is a pluralistic society.
As alluded to, the cloud hanging over this whole discussion is affirmative action. My stance is that affirmative action programs that simply seek to achieve non-white diversity would not be respectful of the diversity within the nonwhite community. These days, most affirmative action programs likely will group minorities into broad categories and seek adequate representation of those groups. Yet any time you set an arbitrary group, there will always be underrepresented subgroups. This has been a big problem with Asians and Pacific Islanders, commonly grouped together as one, but actually representing very diverse cultures. When the public perceives too many overachieving East Asians and proceeds to pass judgment on the achievement of South East Asians, it unfairly discriminates against that group that actually should benefit from affirmative action.