POC is a Political Identity. It is not a cultural identifier, a racial identifier, or, for the most part, a personal individual identifier. It is a rejection of the divide-and-conquer rule of Whiteness. It is a handy footnote descriptor for anyone non-white regardless of their literal melanin count.
POC is also a self-desciptor for POC; a term designed to replace the white man’s descriptors for us as Coloured or Non-White. A term which makes no reverence to Whiteness as Non-White does, nor carry the stigma of Coloured.
Ok. Serious question/daily personal struggle. I welcome any and all responses:
My patient, radical queer friends (read: family) who are white and of color have made words like Latina, Chicana, Woman of Color mean completely different things to me, and have helped my self-identity go further in a year than it ever has. The intersections of my life: working poor roots, religious family, my queerness, etc… make Whiteness and language feel all kinds of different than what “White” means when linked with power. Yet, I have all the white privilege in the world. I have blue eyes. This certainly impacts my Latina experience, my queer experience, my poor experience. All combinations and intersections of my identities.
Online is easy. When I’m with a group of living human beings, and staring them into the face, I would never in a thousand years try to claim Woman of Color, to any group of people. Even when I’m one on one with a close friend of color who is opening every door to let that be okay and drag me through it. This isn’t rooted in white guilt, I just know that the level of passing privilege I have will never mean the same thing as someone who has had to live through what it means to be a Latina who has anything else other than white skin and blue eyes.
The first spoken word piece I gave was to a WOC group on campus—but it was a mixed audience in terms of race and gender etc. I read my piece, about growing up straddling that white/Latina line and what it meant in my particular neighborhoods and schools. I talked a lot about language, family, my queerness, and sexual violence. One thing I kept doing was qualifying myself as a “white Latina.” I did that mostly because I knew the space I was going into and kept thinking, who am I to claim this?
Well. I now know it’s mine to claim, forever and always. A friend quickly pointed out how problematic qualifying myself as a white Latina was. It’s important to acknowledge and not ignore.
But I’m still not settled into how to talk about myself racially. In a way, I hope I’ll never be because, for me, being a Latina is like being queer. It requires more explanation. And I want to hear about what you can and can’t call yourself. I want the conversation that should come with how we introduce ourselves and self identify. I’m not going to fight to be in my own skin anymore.
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