Op-Ed: Should We Stop Calling People Of Color 'Minorities"?


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Who identifies as a “minority” when it comes to race in America? Many Fusion writers and editors find the label misleading and misplaced—and we suspect we’re not alone. What makes the word “minorities” (and, similarly, “nonwhite”) so loaded with misdirection is that it defines American people of color by the negative: not white. Using the terms racial “minorities” and “nonwhite” center all of us around whiteness, as though whiteness were the default against which people are determined.

“People of color” is Fusion’s suggested alternative. It doesn’t rely on whiteness as a default in the way “minorities” and “nonwhite” do. Except when individuals prefer identifying as minorities, Fusion supports “people of color” as more evenhanded because everyone should have words that describe who we are, not just who we’re not. The words “minorities” and “nonwhite” are contingent on whiteness for meaning and standing in the United States.

Whiteness itself is a construct. While Anglo-Saxons have always been white in this country, people of Irish and Italian descent were only considered white after gaining positions of power and participation. Whiteness had to be acquired, and only then was the barrier to inclusion lowered. And whiteness has never just been a matter of skin tone; it’s always been about privilege and the placement of power—and which individuals are granted access to that privilege and power.

That’s not to say that the words “minorities” and “nonwhite” never…
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