A COLOUR PROBLEM
Two children sharing a swing, an African and an Italian, are talking to each other:
- “Excuse me, may I ask you something? When you’re cold, what colour are you?”
- “Ah! I stay the same... What about when you’re angry?”
- “I’m red...”
- “Ah! I stay the same....what about when you don’t feel well?”
- “When I feel sick I’m yellow”.
- “Ah! I stay the same...and when you’re scared?”
- “When I’m scared I turn white, very, very white!!”
- “Ah! When I’m scared I stay the same…I’m quite black! But then…if those who change colour are those like you, why do they call us coloured persons?!?”
For many people, a commonly used phrase like “coloured person” may represent an expression of discriminative behaviour. This is quite odd, due to the fact that this appellation is used with opposite intention: actually, talking to a coloured person is totally different from talking to a “black”.
The intention is laudable, but it is not enough to answer the “incriminated” child’s uncertainty, which is more than legitimate when questioning “why coloured? What does coloured person mean?”
In what way can we avoid the rise of incidents or misunderstandings? One possible solution seems disarmingly simple at a first sight, having to consider the fact that (almost) nobody manages to put it into practice. It would suffice to understand that everybody in this world is equal and it is possible that persons belonging to different native cultures may not always be able to grasp the sense of our terminological nuances. The idiom “coloured person” might be easily perceived by the addressees as discrimination and stigmatization, as something meant to emphasize even more their already negative condition of immigrants.
Certainly, it is not always easy to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes, but sometimes it would be enough to pay more attention to using words in order to avoid giving rise to annoying and useless misunderstandings.
(di Chiara Spina e Barbara Angelucci - Traduzione di Dinca Ionela Adriana - del 2010-03-27)
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