This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 16, 2009 - The recent gaffe of Peter Alexander, a reporter for MSNBC, spurred me to address the imperfections of language. He congratulated "this country's colored people" on the NAACP's hundred years. He later made a vague reference to his comments and congratulated "all the people of color."
I chuckled watching the clip, but to be honest I hear students frequently make the same misstep struggling with language. I teach about race, which is not a topic most of us discuss on a daily basis, so we are left hoping we don't offend others and unsure of what terms to use.