Are Immigrants and Refugees People of Color?

By The News Jul 17, 2007

This Month, ColorLines Magazine publisher Rinku Sen poses this very question and provides some compelling answers in an essay she hopes will provoke some reflection and dialogue. In "Are Immigrants and Refugees People of Color," Sen argues immigrants and refugees have to become people of color, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. She supports this with a narrative retrospection into the time she became a person of color and with conversations she’s had with immigrants. Read her full ColorLines piece here. Sen explains for RaceWire:

As the immigrant rights movement prepares for the next round of fights for legalization and humane immigration regulation, it should take this opportunity to examine the decisions of immigrants to identify (or not) with U.S.-born Blacks, Latinos, Asians and American Indians. In “Are Immigrants and Refugees People of Color,” published in the July issue of ColorLines, I reflect on the resistance I have encountered from immigrants to discuss the role race plays in the lives of their communities. All identities are a little bit forced. Some labels are imposed on us by oppressive social structures. Others we pick up to define ourselves in opposition. I wrote this piece because colleagues and activists asked me about the origins of the “people of color” identity, what it was for and whether it still seems useful. The questions led me to think hard about the role of identity in political action, and how the two change each other. While I was reporting it, I was surprised at the large number of intense reactions the term seems to generate. But "people of color" is an identity that heavily shaped my politics, and that, I argue, should shape those of the immigrant rights’ movement today. I’ll be taking all comments and new questions as fodder for future writing, so send them in.