Wednesday, December 12, 2007

people of color

people of color: gente no blanca

This is a term in English that points to the politics of the person using the term, in particular to a recognition that certain people are racialized and the importance of coalition, that is, of making connections between the ways different 'people of color' are racialized The very mainstream variant would be 'ethnic minorities'. It is similar to the difference between the terms Hispanic and Latino, in the sense that you can peg someone's politics by what term they use. The literal translation in Spanish, gente de color, might make sense to Latinos in the US that know the term in English, or might even use it in Spanish language anti-racist organizing or coalition work, but it is total non-sense in Latin America. One option that was suggested to me was gente de comunidades etnicas, but again, this does not point to racialization. No, I don't think "race" exists, but racialization is a daily reality, that we have to make visible to be able to change. Terminology is important for this work. (Yes, white folks have a "race" too, but they are not racialized in the same way). (note that the term person of color is rarely used in Canada, where the widely used term, in both government and social justice contexts, is "visible minority").

Thanks to Roberto from Highlander for help on this one. I also asked for help on proz and found that most of the answers were really clueless about the politics of this term and the social justice context, so ojo when using proz for politically charged terms.

My friend Jonathan Luna, who is active in people of color organizing in the States, as well as inter-racial organizing in Colombia, argues for trying to teach/introduce the term gente de color in Latin America, given that it makes more sense to define by what people are than what they are not. I get that logic, and if you were going to try to do that I would suggest putting (todas las personas no blancas) after the first use of the term. I doubt 'gente de color' will ever catch on, but hey, you could try.


Margaret said...

"Ojo" when using ProZ for politically charged terms? You ain't seen nothin' yet! Read and weep!

Unknown said...

one more perspective...
i've had mixed experiences with "gente de color" in Colombia and Mexico. for some activists of color -- mestizos and afro-colombians, in my experience -- that phrase is definitely part of the lexicon, so i'd say it's not always total nonsense. two weeks ago an afro-col activist used it several times in conversation w/ me. i agree completely w/ your analysis about racialization, but obvs if people use the term, it has meaning. and i've used "gente no blanca" in the US and been shot done by chicanxs who prefer "gente de color." so lately i've been erring on the side of breathless, "gente de color -- todo la gente no blanca, los afro, indigenas, mestizos; gente arabe y asiatico..." in part because i agree with jonathan's perspective, and in part because it seems like the respectful white ally thing to do here, to assume that there's some concept of racist oppression even if it's very distinct from the US or Canadian context. dos centavos. great blog.

Verónika Miralles Sánchez said...

Sip, este término está difícil... Porque en muchos países de América Latina cuando se dice "un hombre de color" o "la gente de color" se refieren específicamente a afrodescendientes, no a personas "no blancas" en general.

Así que eso de "gente de color" en el sentido estado-unidense puede crear confusión en América Latina.

No sé cuál será el término adecuado... da para pensar bastante.

Unknown said...

This term keeps coming up in translations I am working on and I´ve been playing with it for a while. Knowing that "gente de color" has a pejorative connotation in some contexts (and since the documents I'm translating are for a wide audience, this is a concern), I've thought of using a very brief definition of the term "people of colour" instead of trying to think of an equivalent of the term itself -- something along the lines of:

"grupos y personas impactados negativamente por el racismo sistémico"

I realize this would not work in all contexts, but wanted to share it as a different possibility, and to hear if folks have feedback.

traductoraONGera said...

Muchas gracias por esta conversación. Mi instinto primero me dice que busque otra traducción porque en el contexto de México crea confusión. Mi segunda reacción es que tal vez es hora de que empecemos a usar en nuestro lenguaje diario la postura anticolonialista, lo que hace "personas de color" no solo una frase válida, sino importante. Mi tercera postura es que no me pone muy feliz que venga del gabacho. Mi cuarta es que viene del gabacho pero viene de personas de color entonces está bien. Ya les diré la quinta cuando llegue.

Por lo que entiendo, el término "personas de color" se refiere a todas las personas que no son blancas, pero decir "personas no blancas" y "gente no blanca" se centra en la blancura, lo cual es precisamente lo que se trata de evitar.

Hay un nombre nuevo que me gusta mucho que está circulando: "personas de la mayoría global".

Sara Koopman said...

Gracias por el comentario! Cuando escribí esta entrada del blog en el 2007 no tenia mucha esperanza de que personas de color se entendiera pronto en Latinoamerica, pero en 2020 me parece mucho mas entendible. De hecho fue una de las opciones sugeridas para black and brown bodies - see the entry on that at