Why We Use Black, Colored and Coloured when Describing Members

We’ve received concerns from (up to this point) entirely white folks on the internet about our usage of words like Colored and Coloured when regarding some of our members.

We understand the power of words. Our usage of the phrase Colo(u)red is intentional and I will happily explain why we made the decision to include it.

Words have meaning around the world

Many folks are considered Black in places like the United States, but do not identify with this classification. The Colored designation is for those who do not use the term Black but have been historically excluded from opportunities due to their melanated skin. This extension extends to groups marginalized by colonialism or attempts to dissolve their culture and sense of identity. We also recognize that some of these cultures see Black identity with positivity and pride such as the Aboriginal people of Australia. We understand that cultural identity is one of the most important things and we invited them to join us without having to accept a term that we have given them. This includes cultures like the Maori people of Aotearoa (New Zealand), many Samoans, Polynesians and other Pacific Island cultures, as well as many Afro-infused Latin American communities.

Our usage of Colored, while a negative or avoided term in the United States, is not as controversial in the rest of the world and served as the best descriptor for some folks in our community where terms like people of color would be considered too broad.

Some people identify as Coloured

The use of Coloured is also intentional. We understand Blackness is also divided amongst communities of color. Our usage is in homage to the people who identify as Coloured in places like South Africa due to their mixed race.This includes those that were assigned a label for their mixed cultures such as mulattos and mestizos. They often do not identify as Black and in some cases are not accepted as Black in their country, but they are welcomed with open arms in our community.

Our messaging is supported by those it defines

I want to note that our global leadership made up of representatives across 4 continents along with our advisors and hundreds of members support our wording and more importantly its inclusive meaning. We’ve had the challenging conversation of people of Afro-Latin and Indigenous communities who were hesitant to join because of the word “Black”. They appreciate our attempts to include them in both membership and messaging.

We respect that Black identity is not a clear cut designation. We do not gate or police blackness in our community and our Code of Conduct and policies prohibit the act of attacking a person’s blackness.

Our message’s goal is to extend an invitation to other individuals of color that feel closely aligned with the struggles that comes when others perceive you as Black even if their identity doesn’t match our language. I hope we have outlined that our usage of the phrase Black and Colo(u)red people shows our expression intent to create an inclusive community for a group of people who have often been historically excluded from opportunities in tech in part because of how primarily White communities have regarded them. We choose not to bundle them under a single moniker of Black, which in some cases even they would not accept that classification for themselves.

We also appreciate the GNOME foundation’s support and understanding. We predicted that many individuals, especially those from the US, would not consider the immense challenge of finding wording to accurately describe the individuals of our community. An overwhelming majority of our members are not from the US and are happy in the efforts we’ve made to help them feel included.