When I visited Columbia University in the fall of my senior year of high school, the tour guide there said that a significant percentage of the students at Columbia identified as people of color. My father later remarked to me that I am a person of color, as well.
Obviously, this is true. I have as much non-caucasian heritage as Barack Obama. My mother’s mother is Chinese, and my mother’s father is Filipino. I do, however, have light skin, and people have differing opinions on how Asian my features are.
It never would have occurred to me to identify myself as a person of color. Part of the reason for this is my light complexion. Another reason is that I don’t think of Asians as people of color, for whatever reason. And yet, I fit in this category.
This makes it sound odd to me when people describe people of color as a single group, particularly in the context of racial discrimination. While all the different ethnic groups falling under the umbrella term “people of color” have faced racism in the United States, they have faced it at different times to different extents in different places.
Indeed, I have faced no racial discrimination, except maybe for when I applied to college.* And I’m not even sure whether schools actually discriminate against Asians in the admissions process, so I’ll just round down to zero. If some people of color have not been “marginalized” for their race, then does the term even make sense? What characteristic is the term supposed to capture besides non-whiteness, if not the experience of being oppressed by white people? And if there is no other characteristic besides skin color, then why should all of us “people of color” be grouped together?
For this reason, I think the term “person of color” is not particularly useful, except as a way to sneakily draw an arbitrary line between white people and everyone else.
*The table below shows the relative disadvantage that Asians supposedly face in college admissions.