I just read on Facebook that the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota has just released its final slate of people standing for election for their next bishop. Two of the five are POC (People of Color.) The post was celebrating that one was a Latina and another was a First Nations member. I am thrilled for the diversity—I think it is a powerful testimony to the efforts our church is going to, to be inclusive. There’s plenty more to do, but maybe this is an indication of some systemic change.
However, I’m getting a bit tired of the term “People of Color.” On the outside, I’m a “Person of No Color,” a PONC. (Inside is a different story, but people don’t get that right away because, if you look at my reflection in the mirror, you just see an old white guy.) I get the social justice issue, and I’m all for it—I fight for it constantly and I beat at the borders my white privilege continuously, but just electing a POC to a position of power does not necessarily even address the race issue. I saw it time and again in the politics of Ecuador where I was born and raised. The “revolutionary party” promised to establish a “just society,” and when elected, what you got was just a change of people on top of the same oppressive system. Where do people of no color stand in a world of POC? And yes, that last sentence sounds a whole lot like white angst, and maybe it is, but dismissing it as merely white angst is precisely what I’m talking about. It overlooks a deeper justice issue. What I hope for the Diocese of Minnesota is that every one of these people would make a fine bishop, and some of them happen to be POCs because the process by which candidates were selected was not unduly skewed to favor PONCs.
Ultimately, I work and pray for the day when we no longer need the term. Maybe we could learn from our children. A colleague of mine, a PONC who was married to an African-American, related us what her daughter told her one day, “I’m brown. Daddy is dark brown. You’re pink. Pink people need to wear sunscreen.”