The Oddity of Skin Color Labels to Identify Race


Society gives skin color labels to people to identify race. When I was a child, I learned that Asians like me were “yellow.” I recall looking at my skin and thinking, “It’s not yellow. Looks kind of tan to me.”

Later on I heard the term “olive” to describe Asian skin, which I identified with a pukey green color kind of like a space alien. I certainly did not look like that.

American Indians were “red” but they didn’t look red to me, more like a darker tan. Hispanics were “brown,” but so were a lot of other races and ethnicities.

Then of course there’s “black” and “white,” though within each race there are so many variations. For example, some minority races are paler than Whites, but no one is calling them “white.”

I understand these words are just societal terminology, but as a child trying to find her cultural identity, these color labels were confusing.

My daughter is a Chinese and Caucasian mix. She has traditional Asian features such as my dark hair and almond-shaped brown eyes, but she is much lighter than me. If anyone ever told her that she was yellow or olive based on her race, she’d be puzzled.

At the end of the day, most of us are just shades of tan, don’t you think so?

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