Does the term POC need revision?

By: T. Olajide

My relationship with the term ‘POC’ is dicey, while I appreciate the collective effort of minority groups to advance as one, I can’t deny the fact that the term is used incorrectly colloquially and I believe that this impacts the power of the term in practice and theory.

I feel that now more than ever the term POC has been reduced to nothing more than a buzzword. It’s the perfect safe word for mainstream media outlets to incorrectly use to tick a ‘diversity’ box and avoid controversy. I find myself reading articles focused on a subject that might be Latinx, Black or South-East Asian and see the term POC littered around the page, instead of lumping every person into a basket why not just highlight the subject’s specific ethnic/racial background? When one racially ambiguous, ‘conventionally’ attractive woman is cast for a role (still in a sea of whiteness) — it isn’t necessarily a win for POC.

This is erasure and silencing. It is also a reminder that to many everything ‘other’ is one in the same. The same way a win for a white woman isn’t a win for all women, is the same way a win for a black man wouldn’t necessarily be a win for all Asian or non-Afro Latinx men simply because people tend to find kinship in people with a shared heritage. There is no power in forced comradery, it’s lazy and boring. How much effort does it take to recognise individual groups for what they are?

Maybe it’s too PC for people.

When you forcefully meld all POC together, you tell us that individually our experiences aren’t worth exploring and also that the systemic oppression we face is grey-toned; you tell us that there is no depth or nuance to varied experiences and that the micro-aggressions, prejudice and discrimination within our communities don’t exist. Solidarity is a very problematic social structure that should be deconstructed and not inflated, poor use of the term POC is destructive! I find that the issue of false equivalency is very pressing, certain communities already struggle with coming to terms with the fact that their cultures are laced with things such as anti-blackness and some still fail to accept the ways their affinity for whiteness influence relations with other groups and even themselves.

When we tell a group of people from different walks of life, with different experiences, which face varying levels of oppression and systemic hardship that they are all the same you do two things, (1.) Delegitimise the complex issues some might face and others might not, and encourage this culture of false equivalency which in turn heightens inter-racial insensitivity (2.) Indirectly favour more densely populated groups over others, for instance Black/African-Americans make up 12.2%, while Asian Americans make up 5.6% of the total American population, it would only make sense that some groups are more vocal or gain more visibility, than others due to the fact that there are simply more African American’s than Asian Americans in the States.

In conclusion, I think that the use of the term needs revision — I don’t necessarily think the entire term should be scrapped. It wouldn’t be a pragmatic move because we would have to find a more suitable alternative. But then again, would that be such a bad thing?

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