Being "white" or "not white"

This is kind of lame, I know, but this has been on my mind for a while, so I’m going to ask this anyway.

Here in America, why are all non Europeans and European descendants described as not being “white”? Or, conversely, why do only Europeans and European decentness get labeled as white? That doesn’t seem too terribly accurate, does it?

For example, I use to work at a pizza parlor, and there was this cashier that was either full, or half Native American (I forget which exactly) and I constantly heard her using the words “white man” this, white man that, but her skin didn’t really seam any darker than mine or our other white coworkers.

And then there’s the Latinos. When hearing discussions about them in the news or on the radio they’re all described as being brown skinned. Where I work, and at one store where I shop, there are plenty of Latinos, and from what I see, their skin color ranges the gamete from light to dark. In fact, I have a coworker who’s Mexican, well, part Mexican on his dad’s side. Now if you look at his face, there’s no mistaking that he’s a Mexican, but look at his skin, and you’ll see that it’s white.

And I’ve seen plenty of Asians who don’t have dark skin, or what some describe as “yellow” skin.

And finally, it seems that there are some groups of dark skinned people that are still classified as white. Take some southern European groups for example, a dark skinned Greek or Italian would still be considered white.

On an intellectual level, I guess I know that the term “white” isn’t strictly defined to skin color, but I still find it hard to think of some people as non white, when their skin color closely matches my own.

Take a kraft paper grocery bag and…

It’s a loose term, like Latino. It is essentially a cultural ID, if your looking for hard biological logic, um, keep looking and get back to me. “White” used to include only protestent Northern Europeans and their descendants, but they eventually decided to let those of us bearing many consanants in our last names join too.

ok - i may be weird but i have always objected to being called ‘white’.

i am PINK, dammit. PINK!

Agreed, pink it is then.

“The pink man is keeping me down” just doesn’t work quite the same…

Actually, I’ve always considered myself fleshtoned.

It did? I could have sworn that the Irish and French were always considered to be white depsite being primarily Catholic.

The Irish, like Italians and Jews, were once upon a time viewed as “less than white”. There’s even some pseudo-scientific literature from back in the day that set out to “prove” relatedness between the Irish and Negroes as a way to justify that prejudice mainstream Americans had against the former.

I know many Latino/Hispanic individuals who consider themselves white, and would be by most standards if not for the language they speak. I’m sure on census forms et al., they put down “White Hispanic”. Perhaps they don’t even put down the “Hispanic” part.

The question raised by the OP reminds everyone of the inanity of race. The fact that one drop of “black” blood is enough to classify someone as black, but one drop of “white” blood is insufficient for “whiteness” shows that the concept of “whiteness” is not neutral or harmless. It is laiden with some twisted connotations.

White is the default word for the majority as a remnant of language from the period when whites (Northern European descendants) were an absolute majority. The word made it into laws, deeds, Supreme Court decisions, and popular culture. As the absolute hegemony of Northern Europeans declined, various fearful people began to “pull in” the meaning of the word to deliberately exclude immigrants from the Mediterranean and the Middle East or the region south of the U.S. border, despite the obvious point that most of those people are certainly as “white” as Northern Europeans.

There is a tiny bit of fact behind it, as many (but by no means all) people from the Mediterranean and the Middle East and Central and South America tend to have darker complexions that people from Scandinavia or Britain. The exceptions are extremely numerous (e.g., my Dad’s surgeon from Egypt who was paler than my father, despite the fact that no member of my Father’s ancestry originated farher south than the 45th Parallel).

It is an artifact word that may be used innocently (as a much shorter label than either European or Northern European) or with malice (as used by various “Aryan” nuts who are attempting to defend the “purity” of some imaginary race to which they want to claim membership).

Inventing a new term would be a waste of energy.

White, Red, Black, Brown, Pink, or Green. Who the fuck cares?
The only time I use these terms is if I have to give the Police a description of a person, or to describe a lovely lady to a friend. We all bleed red.
(Do green people bleed red? Maybe.):smiley:

Oh, I forgot yellow. Don’t want to leave anyone out.

Sometimes white, sometimes pink. I have a game I play with some white friends called “white, pink”. I take my thumb and press down on their skin, displacing the blood until only the whiteness of their skin shows. Then I quickly remove my thumb and say “white”. Once the blood returns, restoring the normal pinkish hue, I say “pink”. This continues until they get annoyed, which takes a surprisingly long time (probably because the first few moments of the game are filled with bewielderment, and that has to die down before annoyance can set in). The funnest place to play this is the forehead.

pizzabrat, you do things like that…and you still have friends? :smiley:

But seriously, this quote from monstro

made me think about the census. On it, you’re allowed to put either “White - Non Hispanic” or “Hispanic” which I guess means that if you’re white, but from south of the border, then you’re not white, as far as the federal government is concerned, which seems pretty stupid to me.

Some of the black kids I went to school wish sometimes refered to themselves as “ashy”. So Phase42, that is just not true.


White is just a state of mind really most physical characteristics these days do not tell the whole story about a person’s ethnicity. I know several racially mixed people who could easily be viewed as a white person of european descent. When someone says “white” it’s really a political term that means the person’s ancestry came from europe.

I am not white. I am human. And when our Evil Alien Overlords come to enslave us all, that’s just what I’m a-gonna tell them.