OMARI GARRETT — I do not identify as a person of color. While I would welcome someone to describe me as such, and even associate myself with of persons of color, “person of color/POC” is not a term I use to describe myself. There are a few reasons.
The ethnicities we take up and occupy, although to varying degrees, gloss over our subjective experience. I can find solace in the shared experiences I have, as a poor person, with other poor folks. The term POC cannot accommodate this. The shared experience of being non-white is difficult to translate across race, nationality and culture. While there are some shared experiences I may have with other Black folk surrounding our being Black, there are some wealthy Black people I encounter who, because of their wealth, have not experienced Blackness in the same way I have. So, it is apparent that we have to be intersectional in our gaze; looking only at race may cause one to look pass class, such as in the aforementioned example.
This is even more true for the term POC. It unnecessarily complicates one’s description of their social location seeing that the only thing that is specified in the term POC is non-white. Learning that one is non-white may inform you that this person does not benefit from white privilege, that this person may not benefit from the hyper-exploitation of colonial bodies, and that this person may not experience racism as such cannot be experienced by whites.
The term POC unnecessarily complicates one’s description of their social location seeing that the only thing that is specified in the term POC is non-white. Moreover, this is not a complicated framework. Some of the POC I encounter do benefit from white privilege first in being ethnically ambiguous. This ability to pass for white, or rather an inability to be fixed racially or ethnically, is something I as a Black person will never be afforded.
There are also many people who identify as POC but are white. There is, additionally, an ongoing refusal name white people specifically within the Latinx community.
There is ongoing anti-blackness that exists within the POC community at large and the various ethnic groups the term subsumes. In the Latinx community, there is explicit discrimination of Black Latinx people; the primary example being the Dominican Republic’s expulsion of Black Dominicans. Or the undying commitment of non-Black people electing to say “nigga,” and continue using such language in their everyday speech. (As a Black writer, I exist in a space in which I have the agency to reclaim or not to reclaim the trauma of my people and, thus, have claim to language tied to that trauma).
The lack of cohesiveness, which one may already hard-pressed to find in any one identity, and the lack of honesty that exist alongside this language are non-starters for me. This is not to say that there are not POC who show explicit and intentional solidarity, but rather that “POC” as a term and an ethnic group does not elicit this. For me, being intentional in my solidarity means acknowledging and accepting my social location and the ways in which it is bound up with the oppression of others without attaching myself to, or centering myself in their struggle. Audre Lorde is quoted as having said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.”