Colored Person of Color

Something I have been wondering. Why is it that saying colored person is considered offensive and even racist while saying person of color is politically correct? Aren’t the two phases saying the same thing? If colored person is offensive then why isn’t the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) offensive? Shouldn’t they change their name to the National Association for the Advancement of Persons of Color (NAACoP)? I can understand why the word negro might be a problem since it sounds a lot like another, less polite word, but negro is not really the same word. Still, if negro is offensive, then why hasn’t the United Negro College Fund changed its name.

African-American is the current politically correct word for a Black person, but Black and African-American are not synonymous. It is possible to be a White African-American if you are a White immigrant from South Africa or North Africa. There is a tendency to refer to any Black person as an African-American even in science fiction or fantasy. A dark-skinned person in a story set in the distant future need not be an African American. He could just as easily be from Africa, France or Rigel 5. People who refer to all Blacks as African Americans may be trying to be politically correct, but sometimes they are simply being foolish.

The politically correct way to refer to people from places like China, Japan, and so on is to call them Asians. Orientals, the old word is no longer acceptable. Why? Neither word is accurate. Asia is a large continent and the word Asians covers a large and diverse population.  Indians, Iranians, Arabs, Turks and many other people could be described as Asians. Oriental simply means easterner. Anyone could be from the east. To a person living in France or England, a German, Russian or Greek could be an Oriental. Traditionally, Oriental was used to refer to people from what we now call the Middle East. Either way, it seems strange that Oriental is suspect while Asian is politically correct. Why is this?

The people who lived in the Americans when Christopher Columbus arrived used to be called Indians because Columbus thought he had discovered the Indies. This, of course, is more than a little ridiculous since the “Indians” have nothing to do with India or the Indies. More recently the proper term has been Native Americans. The problem with Native Americans is that the Native Americans are not the only people who are native to America. I am a native American. I was born here in America. I did not immigrate here from anywhere else. As far as I can determine, my ancestors have been here for two hundred years. How am I not a native? Lately, the proper term has been swinging back towards Indians or American Indians. Why?

Who decides what names are acceptable and politically correct and what names are wrong and why do the correct terms keep changing? Is there some committee somewhere that decides these things? Do they keep changing the politically correct nomenclature just to mess with the rest of us? Is this a way to get people in trouble by changing the vocabulary so that people who use old words can be condemned as racist when needed?

It seems to me that the people who are the most concerned with using the proper, politically correct jargon are less interested in promoting tolerance and harmony among people than in bullying and pushing people around. They may claim to be trying to eliminate racism and prejudice, political correctness really seems to be more about enlightened and tolerant few asserting power over the benighted and deplorable many. I have observed that these people who are overly concerned that every little group be called by the proper terms, lest they be offended and marginalized, are not really very concerned with treating their fellow human beings with tolerance and consideration.

It seems to me that how we treat people is far more important than the precise words we use to describe them and that If no offense is intended, then no offense should be taken. It is the actions and intent that matter, not the precise words we use. It matters less whether we say Asians rather than Orientals or Person of Color rather than Colored Person than whether we treat people of whatever race and color with justice, charity, and tolerance. Maybe we would all get along better if we worried more about how we act rather than what we say.