Is “POC” friendly language? It’s not a simple answer. In this blog, I answer the question what does POC mean?
And, help shed some light on the confusion around POC and IF you should use it (or not).
What does “POC” stand for?
In diversity, POC means “People/Person of Color” in North America and “People/Person of Colour” in the UK.
Basically, people who are not white.
What does “POC” mean in business?
The term POC in business can mean many different things. Here are 5 examples:
- Proof of Concept
- Point of Contact
- Port of Call
- Proof of Correction
- Proof of Coverage
Other meanings…or “POC” slang
In less formal situations (like social media or texting), you might find POC means something besides “people of color,” “proof of concept,” etc.
Here are some POC slang examples:
- Piece of Cake
- Piece of Crap
- Pile of Crap
And, a quick search for “POC urban dictionary” gives you 7 pages of answers to “what is POC?”, some more “friendly” than others. In Urban Dictionary, POC is described as:
- “people of color, as in everybody except causcasians”
- “person of color, or a modern way of saying ‘colored person’ without pissing Tumblr off”
- “Person Of Colour. Its a term to describe anybody who isn’t white. (Black, Asian, Indigenous, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, etc..) keep in mind that Europeans (Italians, Russians, French, etc) ARENT considered POC or WOC. The term WOC is also used along with POC, and WOC means Women Of Colour.”
- “People/person of crime”
- “Person Of Class”
- “POC is synonymous with ‘Crap’; POC literally standing for Piece Of Crap.”
- plus more POC examples I am not comfortable sharing!
Is the “POC” abbreviation “friendly”?
So, is POC friendly language?
POC is considered a politically correct (P.C.) term by some, but it’s not widely accepted (or preferred).
For example, the NPR podcast Code Switch often used the phrase “people of color.” It wasn’t until the rise of the Black Lives Matter protests that they saw social media push-back from Black listeners. One even commented:
“Stop calling me a person of color“
The Code Switch podcast, Is it Time to Say R.I.P. to ‘POC’?, found their listeners unhappy with the POC acronym. Here’s why:
“Many felt that people using the term POC were (intentionally or not) sidestepping the truth: that certain effects of racism — things like mass incarceration, police violence, inability to access good health care — disproportionately affect Black and Indigenous people. Not all “people of color.””
Healthline writer Crystal Raypole also touches on why some might not feel POC is friendly:
“Because the term is so broad, it tends to lose some of its power, particularly when used to discuss the specific, separate experiences faced by People of Color with different ethnic backgrounds.”source: Can you still use the acronym ‘POC’? — Healthline
So, should you use the “POC” acronym?
It depends on the situation.
In an EEO Statement like the one below, instead of using “people of color,” try being specific and using Black, Indigenous, Native American, Latinx, etc. Or, ask a person of color what THEY think the language should be given the context:
“We encourage people of all backgrounds and identities to apply, including people of color, immigrants, refugees, women, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and veterans.”
This goes for language on your careers page, social media, and other types of communications.
In most cases, if you are referring to “people of color,” it might be best to only use POC when you know it’s 100% accepted by someone who is…a person of color.
OR…you can use a more widely accepted (but still somewhat controversial) abbreviation BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) in North America.
But, what about POC in the U.K.?
In the U.K., BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) is sometimes used instead of POC. But neither is widely accepted (or understood). The U.K. Government style guide suggests using “people with a mixed ethnic background” instead.
And, what about POC in business?
Replacing the POC abbreviation in your job postings can prevent job seekers from thinking… “POC, what does it mean?!”. Is it “point of contact,” “proof of concept,” “people of color,” or something else? If POC means something in your industry and is widely used, I say using it internally is OK.
Note: You can read more about BIPOC vs POC (and BAME) in our post BIPOC: The Hottest (Controversial) Word in Diversity?.
Why I Wrote This?
Ongig’s mission is to eliminate bias from job descriptions. As a part of this, we like to explore diversity-related words to help you have more inclusive hiring practices. Our Text Analyzer software scans your J.D.s for biased language and acronyms that might exclude or confuse candidates.
- POC (Cambridge Dictionary)
- Is It Time To Say R.I.P. To ‘POC’? (Code Switch)
- Can you still use the acronym ‘POC’? (by Crystal Raypole)
- Proof of Concept (POC) (by Mary K. Pratt)
- POC (Urban Dictionary)
- BIPOC: What does it mean and where does it come from? (Chevaz Clarke)
- What Does POC Stand For? Common Meanings (by Abbreviations.YourDictionary.com)
- What is the meaning of POC? (by Slangit)