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Not your BIPOC, POC or WOC

I talk about this a lot because I see way too many people using these acronyms without care or intention in writing and while speaking.

A Black person stands in front of a brick wall pointing forward saying "Let's get to it." which is captioned in white lettering.
A Black person stands in front of a brick wall pointing forward saying "Let's get to it." which is captioned in white lettering.

Do not get it twisted, I used to use these acronyms just as well as the next person. I stopped using them after a White woman called me "a BIPOC" in conversation. I shared this interaction with Xin Yi Yap (She/Her) last year and it still stings now. I am not your BIPOC.


Before we get into why these acronyms sting and do none of the things they claim to do let's break down what they're supposed to stand for.


Acronyms

BIPOC-Black, Indigenous and People of Color

WOC-Women of Color

POC-People of Color


No one knows for sure how or where Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) originated but the origin of Women of Color (WOC) has been described by Loretta Ross, cofounder and national coordinator of SisterSong -Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. It was originally used to establish solidarity and a deep connection amongst women from different cultural and racial backgrounds. People of Color (POC) finds its roots from “groups like the Black Panther Party for Self Defense and the Brown Berets came together in solidarity as people of color, which was a new instantiation of the idea of people having color.” These terms have have since their origin been carelessly turned into acronyms and used in every fashion imaginable under capitalism.

The Sting

The terms above were used to establish solidarity and move away from hurtful language like "colored people" which began being used in the late 19th century to describe Black people. They once formed solidarity for a common goal.These terms now turned acronyms for convenience and marketing have lost their original meanings and intentions.


Daily I see people who could not identify with the terms above using them to describe anyone and everyone. They lump all issues together as if they are one and the same. As if one person with melanin in their skin is a complete replica of another and that their experiences surely are the same. They assume our communities, families and needs are the same and differentiating them from one another would not only be too much but unnecessary. They assume the color of my skin is the only information needed to assume various details about me and my life to the point that they deem themselves able to force an identity upon me without my consent.

I am not your BIPOC, POC or WOC.

Alternatives

Hopefully at this point you have taken what you've needed from this space and decided to find alternatives for the terms turned acronyms above.


In conversation and writing I often use "people that share my identities or my lived experiences."


Now, some of y'all would not be able to say that and be correct in context.


To that realization, I ask :

  • Why the fuck are you talking about these people?

  • Why are you not allowing the people you are talking about to speak for themselves?

  • Why have you centered yourself in a conversation about people you share no relation to?

Lil Nas X is dressed as a judge in a courtroom yelling "ANSWER THE QUESTION!" which is captioned in white lettering.
Lil Nas X is dressed as a judge in a courtroom yelling "ANSWER THE QUESTION!" which is captioned in white lettering.

Here are some other places to look as you as you search for alternatives:


Some thinking points to take with you:

  • Be as intentional as possible

  • Decenter yourself daily

  • Don't force an identity on another person, especially out of convenience


Thank you for reading through! Hi, I’m K Mataōtama Strohl (They/Them). I’d love to be able to continue to share stories like this but I need your help to be able to do so. Please visit my Ko-Fi page to tip what you can and gain access to my other work. You can learn more about me and my work at the link below.


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