The Uncommon Man

December 23, 2005

The Color of Love

An essay on ethnicity and the men's movement to end violence against women:

The Color of Love
César Alvarado

You are in the Deep South; the year is 1913. While walking into an old public building in search of water you see two water fountains. Above one, the cleaner one, a bold sign states, “Whites Only.” Above the other, a sign stating, “Colored Only”. Which one can you use? Which one do you use?

The Jim Crow Era fountain picture came to mind when I first heard the term “people of color” at a Family Violence conference. Moreover, it pops up again and again every time I hear the term.

I have worked in the progressive Movement to End Men’s Violence Against Women and Children in several parts of the country. For instance, I have been and continue to be a piece of grassroots organizations and institutions in the forefront of the Movement. My work has blessed me with deep conversations in the midst of all kinds of people. Various aspects of accomplishing the work like the dynamics and foundations of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and the Intersectionality of Oppressions have been discussed. These profound conversations have been with women, men, teens, Christians, atheists, Muslims, gays, transgenders, heterosexuals – people from various ethnicities, and an assortment of others.

I believe the last named identifier, ethnicity, is the key when speaking about the term people of color. Personally, I identify as a young Chicano on a spiritual path. I also identify as a poet, partner, son, brother, Tejano, friend, and the list could go on. If you challenge yourself to think about your identity you can more than likely come up with at least 14 adjectives. Sadly, the term people of color only focuses on one part of me, the color of my skin.

During the deep conversations mentioned earlier, I have spoken with others in the Movement about the term. Many of them are as uncomfortable with it as I am. They told me they hesitate when they hear it and stutter so slightly when they use it.

The term is easy and lazy. An Anglo American who chooses to use the term can lump all “others” into this category. How convenient for them. Not only are we being oppressed time after time by an Anglo American controlled world but we are also placed in the ‘non-Anglo American’ category so effortlessly. This term and others are vital tools of oppression. Furthermore, using the term people of color is stepping backwards into the Jim Crow Era of “colored people”. Does anybody know the difference between colored people and people of color? If you sincerely want to get in touch with me and other Latinos, Africans, Asians, Natives, Jews, and so forth, you have to know who we are, not only who we have been. More importantly, please do not categorize us as who we are not. For instance, not Anglo American or, in other words, not white.

All of us have color. White is a color just like brown, black, and the other colors. Surprise, my Anglo American colleague! You are a person of color. Besides, what about my sisters and brothers in the movement who are light-skinned? Where do they belong? I have heard them talking about struggling with being a light-skinned person of color in a people of color group. Should they be ostracized because they are not dark enough? More importantly, are they accepted into better positions because of their light skin?

Some of you may be saying, “What about the People of Color Institute, the Women of Color Network, and similar groups”? Others may be thinking, “What are we supposed to be called then or what do we call you”? Great! Let us ask and converse. However, please think about whom you really are and who you want to be. Do you want to be a color (some-thing) or do you want to be celebrated as some-one?

I truly believe that we in the Movement to end Men’s Violence Against Women and Children want and need to do better. We can gently demand that we be portrayed as the wonderful, complex beings that we are and resist being defined only by our color, whatever that color may be.

Ultimately, I am hoping this article will spark discussion about the use of the term people of color in and around the Movement. Will the women who lead us please chime in? The grassroots are growing and sending you a message. Do you want to have this discussion with us? I am confident the Movement will reach out welcoming arms to those of us who know they are more than a “colored person” drinking from one water fountain or the other. Let us drink from one … the color of love.

César Javier Alvarado was raised in San Juan, Tejas, within el Valle del Rio Grande, and weaned in Central Tejas. Inspirational guides have helped and continue to assist César in learning about the intersections of Family Violence and Sexual Assault. His experience has gifted him with working at grassroots organizations and institutions in the forefront of the Movement to End Men’s Violence Against Women, Children, and others. Currently, César is providing Consulting for organizations in and around the Movement and readying himself for his next occupational journey. He loves to write poetry, enjoy time with his partner, and play/listen to music which will help him remain grounded and committed to the Movement for the remainder of his life.

Posted by Russell at December 23, 2005 11:19 AM

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