I've spent time engaging in the Black vs. African-American terminology debate, now it's time to learn about the origins of Caucasian vs. White. In America, it's obvious that the terms "black" and "white" have very little to do with the exact Pantone hue of any one individual's skin, but has everything to do with descent, family of origin, and the history of slavery and eugenics. Thankfully, we embarrass when discussing previous methods of determining race; measuring the size of ones skull or the slope of ones nose (anthropometry), and I never hear Asians referred to as Mongoloids. However the word Caucasian continues to be used colloquially as a synonym for White? Why is this? Personally, I find myself using the the term Caucasian instead of White, as it feels to be more polite. Am I guilty of being infiltrated by @@our society's obsession with giving things, words and people more legitimacy if they've been prettied up in some way?@@
Franchesca Ramsey and MTV break down the origins of this word in the video below. She postulates that the natives of the region of Caucasus exhibited the idealized physical appearance. Based on this fact alone, Caucasus were believed to be the birthplace of mankind. The logic behind this idea is the assumption that Whites exhibit the best physical appearance. Yikes! Give it a watch.
Shortly after the Tsarnaev brothers (Boston Marathon bombers) were caught and discovered to be Muslim, I remember reading debates about what to make of the fact that they are from the Caucasus region. During jury selection, Salon.com ran a think-piece entitled "Are the Tsarnaev Brothers White?" It turns out that there was substantial ambiguity which caused some to speculate about whether they'd receive a lighter sentence because of their whiteness. Is this an example of White Fragility in motion?
Minority groups seem to be able to easily categorize whites as a specific people group that wield certain powers, and have a history of exclusion, whereas I get the feelings that White folks feel uncomfortable with being associated with these historical facts and thus try to distance themselves and use the prettier and more ambiguous word; Caucasian.
I'm so satisfied to learn more about this invented hierarchy and the prevailing structures. Learning the history of terminology and linguistics is so much fun (just a hint of sarcasm there)! As we continue the arduous march towards equality, @@no longer will I try to appear a faux-sophisticate by using the term Caucasian. I will now refer to White people as White people.@@