Term: “Women of Color”

The political term “Women of Color” surfaced in the violence against women movement in the late seventies to unify all women experiencing multiple layers of marginalization with race and ethnicity as a common issue (Source: The Women of Color Network).

We use the original definition of Women of Color as described by Loretta J. Scott, a human and women’s rights activist and expert on women’s issues and racism:

It was in those negotiations in Houston, the term women of color was created. Okay? They didn’t see it as a biological designation. You’re born Asian. You’re born black. You’re born African-American. Whatever. It is a solidarity definition, a commitment to work in collaboration with other oppressed women of color who have been minoritized.
Now, what’s happened in the 30 years since then is that people see it as biology now. You know? People are saying, “I don’t want to be defined as a woman of color. I am black. I am Asian-American.” Well, that’s fine. But why are you reducing a political designation to a biological destiny? That’s what white supremacy wants you to do, you know?
…The point is, when you choose to work with other people who are minoritized by oppression, you have lifted yourself out of that basic identity into another political being, another political space.
Unfortunately, so many times, people of color hear the term “people of color” from other white people; then they think white people created it. Instead of understanding that we self-named ourselves this. This is a term that has a lot of power for us. But, we’ve done a poor-ass job of communicating that history so that people understand that power.

The term “Women of Color” has been questioned (e.g., click here, here, here, here, and here) for valid reasons, especially because of its lack of specificity.

We acknowledge these concerns. In our work and practice here, the term “Women of Color” is meant to unite, transcend, embrace, and welcome Women of Color from all shades of color and all walks of life and experiences, and it is intended to focus on the lived experiences of women who have been historically and systematically marginalized and excluded because of their race, ethnicity, and/or the color of their skin.

We are sure that with time the terminology will evolve and we are open to change. For now, we think Women of Color is the most unifying term to come us together. We recognize and celebrate the intersection of our identities including but not limited to gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality.

We hope you will join us in rising above language for unity and liberation.


Resources on the terms “People of Color” & “Women of Color”

The Journey From ‘Colored’ To ‘Minorities’ To ‘People Of Color’
Click here

People of Color by Salvador Vidal-Ortiz
Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Society
Click here

Feminism And Race: Just Who Counts As A ‘Woman Of Color’?
Click here

Loretta Ross: History of Term “Women of Color”
Click here

Women of Color and the Rewriting of Western History: The Discourse, Politics, and Decolonization of History
Click here

Unifying & Dividing Labels: POC and Global South by Maha Bali
Click here

How We Talk – Shifting Language
Click here

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