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The Protected Class of Color

Definition

The North Carolina Office of State Personnel defines "color" as "the complexion of a person's skin."

See also Facts About Race/Color Discrimination from the EEOC.

What is the Difference between "Color" and "Race"?

The term "color" usually refers only to skin color or pigmentation.

The term "race" usually refers to both physical characteristics and ethnological classifications. Physical characteristics sometimes associated with "race" include facial features, hair texture, and skin color. Ethnological classifications sometimes associated with "race" include Oriental, Negroid, Caucasian, Mongoloid, African, European, Jewish, Asian, Polynesian, and Native American; many people find some of these terms outdated or offensive.

NC State uses the following to define racial categories:

  • White (not of Hispanic origin): Having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.
  • Black (not of Hispanic origin): Having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
  • Asian or Pacific Islander: Having origins in any of the peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent or the Pacific Islands. This includes, for example, Taiwan, China, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, and Samoa.
  • Hispanic: Those of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
  • American Indian or Alaskan Native: Having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintain cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.

The terms "race" and "color" are sometimes used interchangeably, and discrimination based on "color" can occur in conjunction with discrimination based on "race." However, discrimination based on "color" can occur absent discrimination based on "race." Likewise, discrimination can occur (and can be grieved) based on "race" absent discrimination of "color."

One should avoid assuming another person's "race" or "color." For example, some Hispanics are light-skinned while others may have darker skin.

NC State Policies and Procedures Regarding "Color"

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