Earlier this week in lecture, we were discussing why people of color don’t mobilize their rights when they experience various forms of discrimination. There was a particular comment in class that stood out to me and was something along the lines that “colored” people had been silenced in one of our classmate’s interactions with a group. It immediately caught my attention. Being a person of color, I surveyed the room to see the reactions of my fellow black classmates. We all shared the look of disbelief on our faces that the word “colored” has been used in class even after Professor Levitsky repeatedly used the term “people of color” to describe minorities. I was shocked and yet I said nothing to address the comment; no one said anything. Why didn’t anyone speak up?
I wanted to know the thought process behind not only my black peers but everyone else in the class. I know personally I didn’t say anything because for one, I DON’T think her comment was made out of malice and I completely understood the point that she was trying to make, even though I didn’t agree with the terminology. Even though I knew that she wasn’t trying to be offensive, I still felt slightly offended. Never in my life have I been colored. I am a black American, and I have never seen myself differently.
Believe it or not, this is not the first experience that I have had in a class at the university where a person of the Caucasian race has used the term “colored” to describe black Americans. However, when it was used before, I happened to be the only black person in class and I felt obligated to speak up. I addressed my discussion section and asked if we’d all use the terms black or African American to describe a person of color. In a small discussion it was easy to say something about the comments made in class but in lecture I didn’t. Maybe I thought that someone else would say something so I wouldn’t have to. I know I also didn’t want to be characterized as the angry black woman making an issue in class. I also didn’t want Professor Levitsky to see me or label me as a troublemaker. I feared retaliation and I didn’t want to be called out in class. What are your thoughts? Whether you happen to be a person of color or just a person who noticed the comment, why didn’t you or why do you think no one said anything?