"American" = white?

I’m a British-Indian guy in living in the US.

Why is it that a lot of people call white Americans “American”. I’ve heard this from many minorities born and raised in the US.

To me, they’re all American!

Have you guys heard the similar things? Why do people say this?

I don’t get it. What are they calling non white Americans?

YouTube: I am an American.

IIRC, James Baldwin and Michelle Obama made similar comments after visited abroad. “I’ve never realized that I’m so American” Many Blacks, for example, think of themselves as Black first, American second. White has been the majority, the power and the face of America for most of its history, but that is changing.

To JXJohns - non-white Americans get referred to by their ethnicity in that case.

It’s similar to the, “Where are you from?” question[sup]*[/sup].

In my experience, it does seem to be more commonly used by non-whites. I’ve heard it enough that I can usually catch its usage, but it does give rise to occasional confusion. I also find it slightly annoying when I’ve run into people from other countries who assume American = white or that non-white = non-American. Although I don’t think I’ve heard the word used that way outside of the US.

As to how it came about, I imagine that in many cases it was used in immigrant communities and has somehow persisted. It wasn’t much more than 50 years ago that some immigrants simply couldn’t become American citizens. This is a complete WAG on the word, though.

“Anglo” is even more inaccurate but more comprehensible since as far as I know it’s not used in any other context. (I find it very mildly offensive, though, partly for its inaccuracy).

*Often a staple joke for non-white American comedians.
The question “Where are you from?” is often asked based on a mistaken assumption that all non-whites (& non-blacks) are immigrants. Sometimes it will be asked of someone the questioner knows to be American and means “What specific ethnicity are you?”.

Maybe I’m missing something here because I happen to be a white American but I’ve never noticed what the OP is referring to. Can you give me some examples of what you’re talking about?

Yeah, I’m not getting this either. Does the OP mean that

  1. only white Americans are called “American”? By whom?

  2. racial-minority Americans are assumed to be not American? By whom?

  3. or what?


I think we share the same affliction.

I’ve got a friend who’s Korean-American, his sister is married to a white American guy. He refers to him as “American”.

I know many Asian-Americans who call white Americans “American”, as if the word “American” implies that the person is white. To them “American” = white. They usually refer to Americans of other races by their ethnicity.

Yep, my dad once praised a local handyman by saying “He’s American, too. He’s Polish.”

Of course, by “American”, he meant “white”. That was a politically charged usage, though; he claimed to be against illegal immigration. (In reality, he hired illegal immigrants to do housework and moving all the time.)

Hostile Dialect,
Hostile Dialect, Narcissist

Edit: Changed my mind. Wasn’t funny.

Is this something that is only heard among non-whites? Because I, as a white American, have never heard of it.

(And I do wish we’d call ourselves USers.)

Among Mexicans whites have always been referred to as ‘americanos’ or ‘gringos’, blacks have always been ‘negros’ Blacks or ‘morenos’ Tanned.

I, however, have always thought of both groups as Americans, they have so much in common and yet they never realize it.

There’s plenty of stuff non-whites say about whites, that whites never hear

I would’ve liked to have heard a couple different languages in there, and maybe more than 2 or 3 people with an accent.

Chicanos usually call us anglos. They call dark-skinned Mexicans morenos and sometimes blacks, but usually blacks are negros.

Canadian = Blacks
American = Whites

Just admit it, you yanks are messed up…

Count me in as another person who’s never heard this term used with such a furtive implication.

I just noticed this with my son, who is Korean - and who is ten. He has some Asian American friends - some with Asian names and some with “American” names and he was talking about this using those words - Ho Li has a Chinese name, but he and Austin (who is Hmong) have American names. All the kids are American kids, but we don’t have a common usage word for “white culture” (Anglo?).

I wouldn’t go that far. So far, a good portion of us whiteys have no idea what the OP is even talking about. If I ask an non-white “where they are from” I typically mean what state, what city, etc. Not what their ancestry is. Most whites in the US are mutts. A combination of various European groups that make it hard, or silly to identify with one. I am 1/4 German, 1/4 Norwegian, 1/4 Sweedish, and 1/4 Irish, and that is somewhat unique having only four main ancestral groups. What a mess. It’s far easier to identify myself as an American sans the hyphen. Perhaps it’s easier for others to do so as well.

So you are white and a citizen of India. Its true though, every time I think of the citizens of India, I think of them as all ethnically Indian. I suppose Asians generally see America as white as well.

But as far as minorities in the US go I’ve never got the idea they view whites as distinctively American.