By Jasen Frelot and Katharine Strange
Language is a slippery thing. In many ways, it feels like we’re trying to pin down abstract concepts with words that never fully do the job.
In the last several months that I’ve edited this blog, I’ve worked to develop consistent editorial standards on how we talk about race. After much discussion, we decided that we would capitalize the titles of racial groups. “Black” and “White” are capitalized the same way that “Asian American,” “Native American,” or “Latinx” are. We’ve decided that consistently capitalizing these groups lends clarity to our posts and treats groups with dignity.
We strive for clarity and prefer that ideas are accessible rather than precise. We want to be understandable more than we want to be right about everything. We also acknowledge that what’s accessible to someone in Seattle may be different than what’s accessible to someone from Eastern Washington.
Above all, we hope to inspire honest dialogue and empathy between our workshop participants and readers, whether they know the right terms or not.
But there are times when precision helps. Take the term “people of color”--this is the current fashionable term for people who are not white. But there are a lot of problems with this phrase. For one, it lumps in many different peoples with different experiences. While Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinx, and African Americans may have some common experiences, such as being “othered” by White culture, the concerns within each group may be radically different.
The second problem with “people of color” is that it splits people into two groups: White or not-White. It sees Whiteness as the normal way of being, and being a “person of color” as something else.
At Kids and Race, we will strive to be precise about which groups we are talking about. When speaking about an issue like colorism, we will use the more specific “Black and Brown people” rather than “people of color.”
Furthermore, we’re experimenting with using alternate terminology such as “Majority World” people. Jasen favors this language because, in America, we’re often tempted to think that White people are the center of the universe. In reality, White people are only 12% of the global population. 12%. White men makeup only 5% of the Earth’s population. Everybody else--Native, Asian, Latinx, Black, makeup the majority of the world, hence the term. White people would be, therefore, “Minority World” people.
What do you think about this language? Could you wrap your brain (and your tongue) around “Majority World” and “Minority World”?
Photo credit: International Youth Coalition