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"skin of color"

Posted by ESC on July 15, 2006

In Reply to: "Skin of color" posted by E G on July 15, 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.'"

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