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Opinions | Solidarity among people of colour is a scam

By and in Opinions

When it comes to racism and discrimination, people of colour — also known as POC — have quite a bit in common.

Though the term has been used as far back as 1796, when it was used to describe light-skinned mixed people, the term began gaining popular­ity again in the 1970s and was used to describe anyone who wasn’t white. Folks thought it sounded better than just say­ing non-white people.

Because people of colour have experienced, and con­tinue to experience, many of the same issues, the idea of solidarity arose. Why not band together and present a united front against their common issues?

POC solidarity refers to unity and agreement held among people of colour in which we all come together and fight against common issues. This usually involves incidences of racism and dis­crimination.

Though this sounds all well and good, and has definitely been practised successfully in the past, there are some inherent issues that arise due to pre-existing power struc­tures.

POC solidarity is hard to claim when many races barely have solidarity within their own groups. Colourism is a key factor for the divide among coloured people. A dark-skinned brown person and a light-skinned brown person do not experience racism in the same way.

How can we fight for com­mon goals alongside people of other races when we can barely accept people of our own race?

As a light-skinned brown person — Aqsa here, hi — I am noticeably not white, but I do have the privilege of hav­ing very light skin. Within the South Asian community, lighter skin is an aspiration while darker brown skin is looked down upon.

This extends outside our own race and onto other POC. Many brown people are anti-black and racist towards darker-skinned, black and Indigenous peoples. The ori­gin of this issue can be traced back to a belief in a racial hi­erarchy.

This hierarchy organizes certain racial groups as su­perior or inferior to others. White people are at the top and black people are at the bottom, so there is a scram­ble among POC to get closer to the top of the hierarchy — even if it means that you’re climbing on the backs of oth­er racial groups.

Black people usually end up at the bottom of the list, and this has caused anti-black sen­timents to grow among oth­er ethnic groups. As a black woman in Canada — Tomi talking now — I have experi­enced racism at the hands of white people while also be­ing discriminated against by other minorities.

Colourism and racial hier­archy play a huge role in the struggle for POC solidarity. Colourism predates coloniza­tion and is seen in South Asia with structures like the caste system, which divides people by skin colour.

However, POC were pit­ted against each other as the white race colonized their land, increasing the divide between them.

While black, brown and people anywhere in between face racism in North Amer­ica, different groups expe­rience it in different ways. Coloured people have always been in North America — prior to colonization, Indig­enous peoples inhabited this land — yet Indigenous groups are the subject of racism, not only from white settlers but from peoples of all colours.

The crux of the issue is that the term POC gets its mean­ing from what it’s not, as op­posed to what it is. It covers a widely diverse and var­ied group of people who all happen to have experienced racism at the hands of white people, but it also lumps to­gether groups of people who come with vastly different be­lief systems and walks of life.

While POC solidarity is a tall order to ask of people who constantly experience discrimination and are pitted against each other, it is not impossible. Every POC group has different, nuanced needs and issues specific to their communities, and we can’t help each other if we don’t listen to each other.

Listen to the voices of oth­er coloured people, work on your own internalized prej­udices and actively try to be better to the people around you. That is the start of the road to real POC solidarity that works.

This op-ed was written by University of Saskatchewan undergraduate students and reflects the views and opinions of the writer. If you would like to write a rebuttal, please email opinions@thesheaf.com.

Tomilola Ojo/ Culture Editor

Aqsa Hussain/ Layout Manager

Graphic: Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor

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