Terms like ‘women of color’ are not just descriptions, but have political and ideological histories and current meanings. Here’s a clip of Loretta Ross, cofounder and national coordinator of SisterSong -Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, sharing one of the birthing moments of the term ‘women of color’.
h/t to a.p.
“Y’all know where the term women of color came from? Who can say that? See we’re bad at transmitting history. In 1977 a group of black women from Washington D.C went to the National Women’s Conference that Jimmy Carter had given 5 million dollars to have as part of the World Decade for Women, there was a conference in Houston, TX. This group of black women carried to that conference something called Black Women’s Agenda because the organizers of the conference, Bella Abu, Elise Miller, what have you, had put together a three page Minority Women’s Plank (Laughs) and a two hundred page document that these black women thought was somewhat inadequate (group laughs). And so they actually formed a group called Black Women’s Agenda to come there in Houston with a Black Womens’ Plan of Action that they wanted the delegates to vote to substitute for the Minority Plank that was in the proposed plan of action. Well funny thing happened in Houston, when they took the Black Women’s Agenda to Houston, then all the rest of minority women of color wanted to be included to the Black Women’s Agenda. Okay? Well they agreed except that you could no longer call it the Black Women’s Agenda. And it was in those negotiations in Houston the term women of color was created. Okay? And 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 thirty years since then is that people see it as biology now. Like okay, I’m- and and and people say “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. (Laughs.) Now, and I think it’s a setback. When we disintegrate as People of Color, you know, around primitive ethnic claiming, yes, we are Asian-American, Native American, whatever, but 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. And unfortunately, so many times, people of color hear the term people of color from other White people, and think White people created it instead of understanding that, that we self-named ourselves, this is a term that has a lot of power for us. But we’ve done the poorest job of communicating that history so people understand that power.”