THE TERM "people of color" has always struck me as a hollow phrase meant to make non-whites feel that we share a common history and circumstance.
In truth, we don't. Native Americans were brutalized in a quest to steal their land. Asians were excluded for their color and their culture. Latinos were colonized and stripped of their language. Africans were enslaved during centuries of stolen labor. But now, despite those distinctions, we label ourselves "people of color" and pretend to be unified.
In practice, however, we are often set against one another, trying in vain to prove the very thing we fight against - that one group is somehow better than the other.
That changed in the last two weeks when two incidents involving Asian Americans became public. Now, amid cries of "Chinese Lives Matter," a phrase borrowed from the modern black struggle for equal treatment, Asians have again been reminded that they are indeed people of color. And in the age of Donald Trump, they are just as susceptible to racism as the rest of us.
That truth came roaring into focus for me when I watched video of Dyne Suh, a 25-year-old Asian American woman from Southern California who was denied lodging in February by a host through Airbnb - an online home rental company.
Suh, who has text messages to back her claims, was on her way to the host's California mountain home after agreeing to rent the property for a weekend ski trip. When Suh contacted the owner to check on her arrangement to pay extra for additional friends, the owner refused to rent to Suh, calling her a con artist. Then it got worse.
"I wouldn't rent to u if you were the last person on earth," the host wrote in a text message that Suh saved as a screenshot. "One word says it all. Asian."
Suh responded that she would report the host to Airbnb for being racist.
The host replied, "Go ahead . . . It's why we have trump." Later, the host added, "And I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners."
A nearby news crew from a Los Angeles TV station was covering a snowstorm in the area and interviewed Suh. The story aired recently on the NBC affiliate in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
In the video, which has since gone viral, Suh recounted what the host texted to her. Then she broke down.
"I'm an American citizen," Suh said. "This is my home. I was - I've been here since I was 3 years old. America is my home, I consider myself an American but this woman discriminates against me for being Asian . . . I just feel so hurt . . .
"I mean, people thought . . . with the election of President Obama, like, racism is over in this country. No. It's very much alive. It exists and it could happen to anyone. There's no bounds to racism, no matter what class you are, no matter what your education level, no matter if you're an American citizen. What they see is that I'm Asian, what they see is my race, and this is how we get treated."
After the story aired, Airbnb, which has also had issues with hosts refusing to rent their homes to black customers, banned the host from using their service.
But Suh isn't the only Asian whose story has come to light recently. Dr. David Dao, an Asian American United Airlines passenger, was dragged from a plane last week, bleeding and semi-conscious, after refusing to relinquish his seat on an overbooked flight in exchange for money and vouchers.
Some would argue that race played no role in that April 9 incident. But for me, an Asian man being forced from his seat by authorities is reminiscent of a black Rosa Parks being forced from a bus for refusing to give up her seat to a white man.
Others might argue that any passenger would have suffered a similar fate for refusing to give up their seat in that circumstance. To those folks, I would ask that you close your eyes and imagine a white woman having her head slammed on an armrest and then being dragged from a plane with her glasses dangling from her face as horrified passengers looked on.
Yeah, I can't see it either . . . because that would never happen.
But for Asians, African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans, such treatment is a painful reality. It is born of historical discrimination, perpetuated by learned behaviors and solidified by a president who ran on a platform of hatred.
Perhaps "people of color" is no longer a hollow phrase.
Given what we've seen since the election of Donald Trump as president, our experiences are more similar than we thought.
Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books. Listen to him mornings from 7 to 10 on WURD (900-AM).