Julia over at Unwritten wrote a thought provoking post about race, particularly in the adoption context, which I felt compelled to comment on. This was after her and I had had a discussion a couple of weeks ago about race and there was a phrase that she used in her post that hit home for me – unconsciously racist.
It reminded me of a conversation I’d had a few week’s ago with an acquaintance about the racial heritage of my girls. In this conversation, the phrase non-white was used. Can I just say that it is my opinion that that word is for me, a prime example of unconscious racism.
Non-White – Person of color (plural: people of color; persons of color) is a term used primarily in the United States to describe any person who is not white. The term is meant to be inclusive among non-white groups, emphasizing common experiences of racism. People of color was introduced as a preferable replacement to both non-white and minority, which are also inclusive, because it frames the subject positively; non-white defines people in terms of what they are not (white), and minority frequently carries a subordinate connotation.
This term, which is meant to be inclusionary , lands up coming off as exclusionary and I love the Wikipedia explanation that non-white defines people by what they are not.
When people ask about my daughters racial heritage, and believe me, when you have adopted children, Joe Public seems to assume that they have licence to ask anything about your children, in front of your children, offending your children, merely because they are adopted, I do get offended. Firstly it’s none of your business and secondly, my children have nothing to be ashamed of so please don’t talk about them in the context of “non-white”. Or proudly inform me of how you are raising your children to associate with “non-whites”.
I also don’t like terms that airy fairy race. In a perfect world, none of us should feel ashamed of our racial heritage. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will know that my girls are “mixed” race. Just another label really, but in adoption terms, “mixed” race means that they have one birth parent of colour and one birth parent who is white. I prefer to think of my girls as coloured. A beautiful & perfect blending of cultures, religions and races.
Edited to clarify, depending on your adoption agency, the race classification may vary. For some, mixed race is always when there is one white birth parent, while for others mixed race then has sub categories of light mixed race, medium mixed race and dark mixed race. Which ultimately are blends of the various races. Both Ava & Hannah are considered light mixed race as they both have one white birth parent.
Saying someone is coloured is not offensive or racist in my book, but saying they are “non-white” is and for me, speaks volumes of unconscious racism.