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AIBU To wonder why and on what basis we attribute colour

(113 Posts)
Joelsnan Mon 21-May-18 12:49:40

I was just thinking why people derived from Africa are called Black, Europeans White, yet we don't call Chinese Yellows, Asians Beiges, South Americans Reds or Aborigines Black?
Does anyone know?

Gerispringer Wed 23-May-18 11:08:39

But like it or not people are defined by their appearance and skin colour is part of that. Of course this shouldn’t be the case but discrimination based on skin colour does have a long and brutal history which can’t be denied. Its all very well saying black people can be racist as well, of course they can, but recent history is of white domination and exploitation and this has shaped many of the social relationships and problems of inequality today.

sarahellenwhitney Wed 23-May-18 11:47:38

Description of a person has to be essential if they should go missing or committed a crime.You cannot just rely on it is or was a male /female.

Joelsnan Wed 23-May-18 12:44:34

sarahhellenwhitney of course it might be helpful in identificationwould, however, you wouldn't describe a Chinese person solely as yellow.

Gerispringer Wed 23-May-18 12:52:51

This is surely a matter of language use and what has become over the years culturally acceptable/ unacceptable.

icanhandthemback Wed 23-May-18 13:11:41

I felt a lot of the use of language was a political hot potato rather than truly offensive until I visited Memphis. A trip to the Civil Rights Museum was illuminating and put a lot of the angst that black people might feel into perspective. I was horrified that the things that were happening were during my lifetime. Is it any wonder that Black people may feel anger about how they were treated?
Later in the holiday we visited a Slave Haven and this really brought home the sheer horror of anybody brought up with slavery. The most poignant moment for me was when they explained that children under 4 could not be used as slaves but they still had a job to a foot warmer for the owners. How utterly degrading would that have been and summed up how the slave owners didn't consider young, innocent children as human beings. They had a lesser station in life than the dog.
I'm not a great one for atonement of our sins committed by our forefathers but I don't know that there is a respect great enough to make up for slavery but if a change in our language is the price, it is small change.

endre123 Wed 23-May-18 13:27:44

It's astonishing and embarrassing to hear someone's skin colour being mentioned as if they are different to white skin. When I was growing up it was never a problem. I grew up in a rural area and it would have been considered rude to mention skin colour. My sisters and I had friends from a variety of nationalities and I doubt we ever noticed skin colour unless in the choice of make up!. Where did this come from? From inner city music?

Davidhs Wed 23-May-18 13:31:57

How the term of description is used makes a big difference, it's the discriminatory term that you cannot use and that applies to any grouping. Applying a derogatory term, lazy, idle, stupid or many much worse, cannot be used with, Black, Woman, Gay or even Old.
I visited a factory a few years ago, the workforce was mixed, Black, Asian and Albanian the foreman was using every swear word you can think of and a few more besides but never referring to race, he was abusing them all equally!.

Is Megan black? Dad is white, mum is mixed race so the Duchess of Sussex is probably 75% white, her ancestry does not seem to have disadvantaged her.

Iam64 Wed 23-May-18 15:28:11

I can’t imagine who would describe a Chinese person as yellow. It was used historically and in derogatory manner, ‘yellow peril’?
Thanks to Gerispringer for your posts, you’re right, like it or not, skin colour defines us.
Icanhandthemback - like you, my understanding of the reality of slavery and it’s legacy in America was better informed after visiting former plantations and the African American museum in Washington DC.
As for seeing it as ‘rude’ to mention skin colour, and suggesting ‘inner city’ (for which read black ) is somehow responsible for the decent into calling black peopke black - I despair

pollyperkins Wed 23-May-18 18:19:49

I think sometimes it is simply a description -if someone said to you in a crowd 'which one is David? ' you might say the tall man wth the beard or the fair haired man in a blue jumper. It would be crazy not to say the black man over there as that would be the most obvious thing if he was the only one. However there is no need to mention it otherwise as for example on a recent thread someone said an Asian family in the street is noisy -is the fact that they are Asian relevant? Somone at work once said to me there's a coloured gentleman waiting to see you - why not just a gentleman? If its relevant to the conversation yes its ok, not otherwise. You wouldn't say a red haired man has come to see you or a tall woman is waiting to speak to you so why mention the colour?

GabriellaG Wed 23-May-18 21:32:12

I want to know why the vast majority of persons of mixed race ie: BlackAfrican/White English or even 1/4 white (which used to be called mulatto/mullato) identify as black. I have yet to hear a person who has one parent who is black and one white, call themselves white.

GabriellaG Wed 23-May-18 21:37:23

Joelsnan You are wrong.
We are not the same beneath the skin. Bones are slightly different in shape, skull is different, blood has different characteristics etc.

GabriellaG Wed 23-May-18 21:45:47


People answer the door and describe the caller so that the wanted person can better identify who it is. The postman, the man next door wants a word, a woman with a Russian accent...etc.
Don't tell me you've never asked 'who is it? when someone other than you answers the door and says 'there's someone to see you mum', or similar.

pollyperkins Wed 23-May-18 22:08:39

Yes but this was at work and someone neither of us knew. I didnt say anything at the time but thought it had been unnecessary to say that and have remembered it!

Joelsnan Wed 23-May-18 23:15:42

GabriellaG Of course we are the same under the skin and of course every single one of us may have slight differences just as I and my three sisters don’t look like each other. We all have the same number of bones genetics defining our looks but we all have two eyes ears, kidneys lungs etc. etc.
We all have the same rhesus blood groupings, some of south a Mediterranean descent may suffer from the blood condition Thallasaemia and those of African heritage may have the blood condition Sickle cell anaemia. These conditions do not mean their blood is any different to a white persons blood just as someone with asthma does not have different lungs to anyone else.

BlueBelle Thu 24-May-18 06:21:11

Gabriella that’s really picking holes, of course we all have blood and bones under the skin which is what the poster meant, she didn’t mean doing an X-ray or a blood test

As for why mixed race are referred to as black if not noticeable it s usually down to what the person themselves want to be known as My mixed race kids identify with their black heritage in varying degrees, one far more than the other two but if someone had to describe them They would call them black because a darker skin colour is more obvious. If we were placed down in the middle of an African village we d be referred to as that white woman even if we had a deep tan My grandkids come in all shades and all levels of interest in their background I have one grandchild with fair hair and blue eyes who totally identifies with being black and loves his heritage

Joelsnan Thu 24-May-18 08:36:00

BlueBelle your comment about those with mixed African and European heritage often choosing to identify more with their African heritage is interesting in that in this day and age those of African descent still consider themselves disadvantaged.

Gerispringer Thu 24-May-18 09:53:48

But its how others would view them isn't it? Anyone of black ancestry , no matter how little were historically black and treated as such. Megan Markle told a story of how, when she was acting in Suits her father in the story was introduced played by a black actor, one online reaction was - "EWWW...she's black, I thought she was hot"

Iam64 Thu 24-May-18 16:43:58

Joelsnan- are you suggesting those with mixed African and White European heritage would be wiser to self identify as white?

Joelsnan Thu 24-May-18 17:09:32

Iam64 No I am not suggesting they should identify as white, they should be whatever they want to be, just interested though that many choose to identify with a group who consider that they are disadvantaged.
This is where i think identifying by colour is wrong

maryeliza54 Thu 24-May-18 17:17:25

It actually wouldn’t make any difference if they chose to identify as white because they would still be identified as black or mixed race by others. Also I think many also chose to identify as black as a deliberate act of pride after centuries when blackness was so denigrated - that’s what black pride black power and black is beautiful was all about

Iam64 Fri 25-May-18 07:48:26

I agree with you maryeliza. I had a work colleague who only identified as white. His father was black West Indian origin, his mother white British. He’d been brought up in England, went to private school and been ‘privileged’. His skin colour and facial features made it clear his heritage was mixed. He suffered serious mental health problems later in life
I worked with one 18 year old black youth who spent hours in the shower, trying to “wash himself white”.
I don’t mean to over dramatise this discussion but I don’t believe we do anyone any good by denying or minimising the oppression of black and ethnic minority countries and communities.

Eloethan Sat 26-May-18 00:28:30

I am so pleased to see the last few contributions.

joelsnan You expressed puzzlement as to why "many [mixed race] people choose to identify with a group who consider that they are disadvantaged."

First of all, black people don't just consider they are disadvantaged. A great deal of research has shown quite clearly that they are disadvantaged in education, employment, housing, and the justice system.

As others have already pointed out, mixed race people tend be viewed by the predominantly white population as being black. I'm sure anyone on here who has mixed race children/relatives born in this country can give examples of them being asked where they come from, surely indicating that their skin colour sets them apart from the mainstream population? I don't think either of my children spend too much time thinking about whether they feel they are white or mixed race but occasions have arisen when the behaviour and comments of white people have forced them to do so.

Elrel Sat 26-May-18 01:01:42

Waiting for someone from the sub-continent to comment on 'wheaten' young women being more sought after in matrimonial advertisements.

Gerispringer Sat 26-May-18 08:13:27

A non white friend is often asked “ where are you from?” When she say “London”, the follow up question often is: “ But where are you from originally?” She then replies “London”. It will be good when people stop asking such questions.

Jalima1108 Sat 26-May-18 17:44:39

^ It will be good when people stop asking such questions.^
should we be hesitant to ask where someone is from if they are a different colour to us? I recently met someone and asked where he was from because his accent was similar to mine (not the same town in fact, but nearby) and we had a chat about it.