Why we shouldn’t avoid the word “white”

By Ben Sichel | Published August 8 by no need to raise your hand

Many years ago, many people had no qualms about calling themselves “white.”

Today, more people seem to be squeamish about it. Students in class have occasionally asked me if we can use another word in place of “white” to describe people – “technically we’re pinkish”, one once said. In casual conversation people sometimes take pains to avoid the word, substituting terms like “Caucasian” or “of European descent.”

What is “Whiteness” anyway? Like race generally, it’s important to remember that Whiteness is a social construct, not something biological; and one that was deliberately created to categorize people into superior and inferior castes.

The history of racial classification is often quite absurd. In the United States, the infamous One-Drop rule categorized anyone with a trace of Sub-Saharan African ancestry as “black,” no matter their skin tone. Even today, the U.S. census lists five rather arbitrary racial categories: White, Black/African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (with Hispanic/Latino falling under a separate “ethnicity” delineation). Considering how most people’s intuitive idea of “race” relates foremost to physical appearance, it’ll surprise some to learn that while two people with light skin and blue eyes could be categorized in different racial groups (say, White and American Indian), a person from Pakistan and a person from Korea could be lumped together under “Asian.” (Check out this on-line exercise to illustrate this absurdity.)

Read more: http://noneedtoraiseyourhand.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/why-we-shouldnt-avoid-the-word-white/

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