“Non-whites” versus “Visible Minorities” versus “People of Colour”

The terms “non-white”, “person of colour”, and “visible minority” mean different things. These categories overlap, but these terms are not interchangeable.

A non-white is a person who is not white. Mixed-raced individuals who are “part white” or “also white” are not “non-white”; however, they may be visible minorities or people of colour.

A person of colour is a person who self-identifies as a person of colour. A person of colour may pass as white. Mariah Carey self-identifies as black, and she may self-identify as a person of colour. However, she can pass for white and is not a visible minority. She may be white as well, if she self-identifies as white.

A visible minority is a person who cannot pass as white. A visible minority may be white, in the case of mixed-raced individuals with white ancestry. A visible minority may not necessarily be a person of colour, as there are some visible minorities that do not self-identify as a person of colour. In the Canadian Census, aboriginals are excluded from the “visible minority” category, which is problematic.

Some people think that the term “visible minority” is racist, but the concept of “visible minority” is important to understanding racism. People of colour who can pass for white have fewer barriers compared to people of colour who are visible minorities.

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3 Responses to ““Non-whites” versus “Visible Minorities” versus “People of Colour””

  1. chinesecanuck Says:

    If a mixed race person can pass as white, then they are white, should they choose to identify that way. If you look like Keanu Reeves, Dean Cain or that guy from Prison Break (he’s multiracial), then you can check off white on a census form.

  2. Restructure! Says:

    Yes. I guess I should add that in and state that explicitly. *adds*

  3. “Non-whites” vs. “Visible Minorities” vs. “People of Color” | illvox: anarchist people of color, race, anarchy, revolution Says:

    […] Restructure Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and […]


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