race and language

Anna Kist (holmstrl@SONOMA.EDU)
Wed, 6 Jul 1994 09:01:54 -0700

I appreciated Cal Eastman's post regarding the term people of color.
It has interested me lately that those of us who are Euro-American
struggle to name the "other" in some way that does not offend or
diminish. This whole dynamic reminds me of the unmarked category in
linguistic anaylsis. Since Euro-Americans are unmarked we become the
"norm". Certainly the term people of color is highly problematic as
it also implies that "white" or people of Euro-American descent are
not "of color" which is completely misleading and gives added weight
to the feeling that Euro-Americans "have no culture" or ethnic
identity. While it may seem cumbersome in speech and writing to
always designate origins it appears to be at least a step in the
right direction. Thus Euro-American, African-American, Asian-
American, etc. In a recent course I took on Racism and Sexism in the
U.S. the instructor argued that the terms "Black" and "White" were
actually ideologies, not ethnic markers per se. I also heartily
agree that there are probably no "races" and it behooves us to keep
affirming that skin color is a manifestation of the variation in the
*human* genetic pool - we are all one "race" as it were.

Laurel Holmstrom
Sonoma State University