Accurate Language that Contradicts Distress

Racism and genocide overlap but are different. They require different contradictions. In RC we get to use language that is accurate and provides contradiction. I am lucky to call the People of the Global Majority (PGM) and Native groups my home. And in my thinking, they are two distinct but overlapping groups.  

There are people targeted by racism, people targeted by genocide, and people targeted by both. Space must be made for each of them, separately and together, as it makes sense in a given situation. 

In my experience, people struggle with “where to put” and “how to talk about” Native people. “What should we call them?” “Should they be with the people of color? With the non-Native white people?” I think this confusion is a result of racism and genocide. Instead I ask myself, “How can I partner with this person or group to move them decisively toward re-emergence?” The answer will be different every time. 

To use language, we accept, on some level, a set of beliefs about the world. We may or may not identify personally with a term, but we work together to create a shared picture of what it represents. If I say “car,” many of us have a common idea about what that is. Our shared set of ideas is deemed to be the correct view of how the world works. This is one reason dominant groups work so hard to destroy and control languages.    

Barbara Love1 has talked about different types of stories. One type confirms the dominant viewpoint; the other points our minds toward liberation. For example, “I am descended from people who were enslaved” is different from “I come from a rich, resilient culture whose people fought against domination.”    

In RC we try to use language that will move people closer to a complete and accurate view of reality and provide enough contradiction for discharge. “People of the Global Majority” (PGM) is a term that has been created in that effort. I’m sure that new terms will be created and older terms will be used differently over time.

I use PGM to contradict racism. I don’t usually use it to contradict genocide. Racism and genocide do overlap, but they aren’t interchangeable. I contradict genocide with the terms Native, Indigenous, or the group’s name (for example, the Karen, Piscataway, and so on).    

At the East Coast North America Pre-World Conference, I saw work on PGM liberation and Native liberation being done side by side. We met as PGM to discharge on racism. We also met as Native people raised Native, from many lands (including Europe), and people with Native heritage who were raised in other constituencies. We stood in front of the conference and asked others with Native heritage to join us.   

Thank you, Minquan,2 for leading us Natives; and Barbara, for leading all the PGM. Having both spaces reminded me that I belong everywhere and with everyone.    

Leigh Crenshaw  
Hyattsville, Maryland, USA


I am an African-heritage (Nigerian and Black American) female USer. I want to add how I’ve thought about the terms “People of the Global Majority” (PGM), “People Targeted by Racism” (PTR), and “People of Color” (POC). I think it’s useful to discharge on each of these terms. They each give us a different angle from which to work on the impact of racism. 

PEOPLE OF THE GLOBAL MAJORITY

I admit, when I first heard the term “People of the Global Majority” (PGM) I felt cynicism. After time I realized this was from the hopelessness restimulated by racism. I felt uncomfortable and silly saying the term. Later I realized that this was connected to the humiliation and not wanting to be visible that racism installs on its targets. Internalized racism requires that we feel small, and “majority” is the opposite of that.

PEOPLE TARGETED BY RACISM

The term “People Targeted by Racism” (PTR) identifies us with the oppression. However, we are living in a period in which part of the oppression is to not name it or to act as if it were behind us. With the election of Barack Obama as U.S. President, the term “post-racial” is often used and is a good example of the pretense and unwillingness to face that racism still exists. 

Several groups of U.S. people targeted by racism have to deny the existence of racism in order to “make it” (to survive or thrive) in a capitalist economic system. Within my own constituency, a lot of other identities matter when it comes to being able to notice racism. Age, national origin, and class come to mind. In this period, it is powerful and important to notice that racism exists. 

Enforced segregation in the United States in the last century was a clear example of “in-your-face,” blatant racism. The segregation continues, but it’s harder to notice or remember that it’s about racism. This is one example of how confusing the current period can be. Integration, being represented in the media, being elected to political office have made it harder to notice that racism still exists. For many of us, it is not automatic to notice racism. 

When I have worked deeply on racism and counseled others on it, I’ve noticed how terrifying it is and how angry we are about it. To notice and say that we have been targeted by racism is good, if only for discharge purposes. I don’t think it’s something to permanently identify with or be preoccupied with, but noticing it is important. 

PEOPLE OF COLOR

At least in the United States, “People of Color” (POC) is the more common term. I think it is still all right to use—for the sake of solidarity and to refer to the group without saying “racism” all the time. It’s the most benign sounding of the three terms, almost like attention off distress, and it seems like an important tool for building community with others. Under capitalism, our groups are pitted against one another, undermining us and confusing us about the real problem. 

At the same time, this term concerns me. It can soften something that PTR and PGM do not. PTR and PGM can have an effect similar to that of “male domination” in how it has allowed us to work freshly on sexism and other oppressions.

BEING FLEXIBLE

Currently I use all three terms. It’s good to be flexible and to notice what’s useful about each. We can keep revisiting terms. In forty years, perhaps PGM won’t make sense, but because I’m a USer who grew up hearing that I was a “minority,” PGM is still a powerful term for me. 

One last thing: Getting overly preoccupied with the terminology can be a way to keep the feelings associated with the oppression—terror, rage, fear, confusion, isolation, defeat, and so on—at bay.

As we keep building the RC Community and working to eliminate all oppressions, it makes sense to connect with people “where they are” while still holding the widest possible perspective in our minds. We can decide what term to use on a case-by-case basis, especially when explaining RC liberation theory. 

Tokumbo Bodunde
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Reprinted from the e-mail discussion
list for RC Community members 


1 Barbara Love is the International Liberation Reference Person for African Heritage People.
2 Minquansis Sapiel, a Co-Counselor in Old Town, Maine, USA


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07