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”.