Race Issues in College: Are You Politically Correct?

It’s easy to get flustered when the topic of race comes up. What’s socially acceptable and unacceptable is almost always changing and people react differently to generalizations.


I have two Pakistani friends that react VERY differently when they’re mistaken to be Indian. I remember in high school my friend Fatima expressed her frustration when people just assumed she was Indian because it made her feel like her country was being overlooked.

I always kept that in mind and, in college, I made sure to refer to my other Pakistani friend, Saleem, accordingly. He, on the contrary, would get upset and felt that every time I say he’s Pakistani I’m trying to send the message that we’re different races.

Is there a right answer? Yes! Check out these simple tricks that will save you from offending anyone!


This term broadly refers to all races in the South Asian subcontinent including: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal (Translation: Anyone you may generalize to be “Indian”)


Even though technically South Asia is a part of Asia, it’s generally agreed that when we think of “Asians” we think of the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Filipino population. Remember: It’s better to say Asian than to assume someone is Chinese!


There is a lot of ambiguity regarding the actual definition of the two terms. The NY Times states their definition of “hispanic” is “descended from a Spanish-speaking land or culture” even though many consider Brazil to be “Hispanic.” It is acceptable for either term to be used to describe a person; the best bet is to see what they use to describe themselves.


This one had me boggled for a while–which is politically correct? For a while “African American” was considered politically correct; however, many people forgot that many black people were from Haiti, Trinidad and other islands. The general consensus is using the term “Black” is okay, but when applicable, African American is preferred–according to Gallup.


Applies to anyone originating from United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Cyprus, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Palestine. While Israel is geographically in the Middle East, most Israeli’s I know concur they prefer to be identified as Israeli’s.


It’s always best to be specific about race; however, if you’re not 100% sure then play it safe with a generalized term!


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