Posted by Bob on July 16, 2006
In Reply to: "Skin of color" posted by Smokey Stover on July 16, 2006
: : : I have been unable to locate the origin and meaning of the phrase,
: : : "skin of color" that is being used today to describe individuals who are non caucasion. Can you help me locate the phrase's origin and meaning and tell me where you found it as well, and where it dates back to.Please contact
: : I've heard "people of color" and the less acceptable "colored people." But not "skin of color." There is a detailed history of the first two phrases in "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993). Page 570:
: : "In the late eighteenth century, French-speaking colonials used 'gens de couleur liberes,' 'free people of color.'...'People of color' is more inclusive than the term 'colored people,' long used in South Africa for 'people of racially mixed ancestry.' That term was first expressed as 'coloured countenances' by the historian John Speed in 1611 and is now considered a slur, while 'people of color' is often used as a self-description.'"
: : The article says "colored people" fell out of favor in the United States and was replaced by "black." But the National Association of Colored People figured the NAACP was so "embedded in the national consciousness" that they'd keep it as is.
: : "'People of color,' when used by whites, generally connotes respect. The term includes all nonwhites, however, and should not be considered a synonym for 'blacks' or 'African-Americans.'"
: For many years "negroes" was the normal, and acceptable, term for the people now called African-Americans. It has fallen out of favor, but not into disgrace, and the United Negro College Fund, founded in 1944, has not found it necessary to change its name.
I thought the phrase odd, but googling found quite a few uses. It seems to be current, at least in some circles. It's also silly. Some day we'll all outgrow the unscientific concept of "race," and ignore superficialities like skin color, but human society will have to evolve a bit more for that to happen. In the 19th century, social "scientists" eagerly divided the world into hundreds of "races," manhy of them "inferior," making distinctions we snicker at today. Cullture and language differences are quite real, meaningful, and measurable, but "skin of color"? Useless. Hey, I'm pink. Do I qualify?