In my workshops and classes on bridging cultural differences, eventually someone asks, “What should we call a person with such-and-such background or characteristic?” Here are true examples of how this question has been asked:

  • “Is it better to say Hispanic or Latino?  Asian or Oriental? disabled or handicapped?”
  • “Should I use the term ‘Black’ or ‘African American’? After all, Whites from South Africa who are naturalized in this country are African Americans, aren’t they?”
  • “Why is it okay to say ‘people of color,’ but not okay to say ‘colored person’”?
  • “Why can’t I refer to people with AIDS as AIDS victims? They are victims, aren’t they?”
  • “I don’t see why some of the women in my class object to being called ‘girls’. My wife and her friends all refer to themselves as girls”.
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