What’s In a Name?: The Rhetoric of “People of Color” in Counterpublic Formation

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The term “people of color” has recently come to replace terms such as “minority,” “non-white” and “historically underrepresented people,” as the generally preferred term by members of these groups. The intentional use of “people of color” as a means of identification has risen in usage particularly amongst scholars who situate themselves within the American Ethnic Studies tradition, which takes seriously critical race theory, in short, the idea that race does matter, as well as the power of language to create and perpetuate systemic oppression. Language, therefore, when critically examined and used with proper care and intent can also be used to create a more inclusive reality. “People of color”, then, is a term that allows members of the group who identify as such, to construct themselves positively, that is, according to what they are, rather than what they are not–as is the case with non-white. It is an empowering term in light of the racially stratified social structures, which have traditionally cast them in disempowering terms such as minority and underrepresented.



Rhetoric 350T CKR, Public Awareness, People of Color, Rhetoric