In French, we never use the label “Caucasian” (unless we mean those peoples of the ex-USSR that live between the Black and Caspian Seas, but then without any hint at race).

So this may be some cultural habit. Did it come to English from German?

Out of curiosity, what term do you use?

Well, simply “Blanc” (White) in the common language or, in more specific settings, criminal or newspaper, “de race blanche” (of white race).

Of course, our countries are less multicoloured than America. We hardly ever use the term for domestic affairs, and then very rarely when speaking of events or people in the Americas or Africa.
For doemstic affairs, it is rarely necessary to mention somebody’s race, and custom has it so that it is not mentioned. Apart from the White majority, there are less than 3% North-Africans (improperly called Arabs) and very few Blacks and Orientals. But usually, someone’s name suffices to identify his/her origin.
Race is a politically incorrect feature to mention: one will rather use “d’origine africaine” or “d’origine méditerranéenne” (of African or Mediterranean descent). Notice the “Med” instead of “North Africa” or “Maghreb”.

I have a question for SDStaff Dex. He says that Blumenbach’s views are of course no longer held. The only thing I know about Blumenbach’s views is what I’ve read in this article, but I’m curious - what aspect of his views makes it “of course?” I mean, granted that if it’s possible to talk about races at all given the widespread mixing that’s been happening all along, skull conformation doesn’t seem to be the most reliable indicator - but then what do I know? I’m just trying to understand what makes his views absurd from today’s standpoint. I don’t know if I’d agree with his views in any case - again, there’s the question of whether race has ANY meaning now, and I’m not sure whether I’d split things up in quite the way he did anyway. But surely it doesn’t qualify as ridiculous that most populated geographical areas have produced visually identifiable sets of physical characteristics or tendencies - far northern Europeans tend to be fair skinned and light haired, southern Africans tend to have dark skin, hair, and eyes, and so forth.

I’m not defending Blumenbach; I don’t know anything about him or his views. I’m just trying to understand why we ‘of course’ no longer hold views that don’t seem (as presented here) to be grossly unreasonable. What am I missing?

Back in my school days I was taught that there were four races, Mongoloid (Asian including Indians, Maoris and American Indians), Negroid (Black), Caucasoid (White including Nordic and Mediterranean) and Australoid (Australian and Tasmanian Aborigines).

The “of couse” is the extremely simplistic notion of races, based on skull size.

My apologies, the original draft contained a lengthy rant (by me) about the silliness of racial classifications. While there may be some sort of theoretic races, the fact is that each race has innumerable sub-divisions. There are borderline groups that can’t be classified as “black” or “white” or whatever. You can find “Caucasians” (such as Italians or Spaniards) whose skin is as dark or darker than some “Negroids”

And, of course, there is today considerable mixing of national groups or sub-races, or races, or whatever.

I thought that the search for proto-Indo-European was still going on. I realize that this was sort of a side issue in the report, but the wording made it sound as if this theory was discarded along with Blumenbach’s racial theories.

Thanks, Dex, that clarifies things somewhat. And I agree with your position, although not entirely. There are still groups of physical characteristics, tendencies toward which are shared by natives of specific geographical areas.

But yes, there are MANY subdivisions within them, and of course HUGE variations across individuals within a ‘group.’ But to deny, for example, that, BY and LARGE, individuals whose ancestry comes from northern Europe TEND to have lighter skin, hair, and eyes than individuals whose ancestry comes from southern Africa would be PC carried to the point of insanity. Is that fact meaningful in any way? Probably not much beyond aesthetics (purely a matter of personal taste) and whatever survival benefits (if any) may have been associated with the combination of physical tendencies and climate/terrain.

Nevertheless, the physical tendencies exist, and are readily visible in many cases. That doesn’t change because we’re more enlightened now, if in fact we are. (From what you said, Blumenbach’s views were pretty enlightened then.) LIke any other classification, it’s a convenience, a short hand we use in communication. Unfortunately, the line between classification and stereotype (in the bad sense) is very murky.


thank you for your info. :slight_smile:

Av says: << for example, that, BY and LARGE, individuals whose ancestry comes from northern Europe TEND to have lighter skin, hair, and eyes than individuals whose ancestry comes from southern Africa >>

Yes, certainly there are physical characteristics that tend to be regional – skin color, shape of eyes, hair color, shape of nose, etc. But let me play your example out further. BY and LARGE, individuals whose ancestry comes from Sweden TEND to have lighter skin, hair, and eyes than individuals whose ancestry comes from Spain.

The point is that the notion of three or four “races” is no longer tenable. Yes, there are lots of regional physical characteristics, at a national level let alone at a continental level. But the notion of four (or five) continents and therefore four races is a grotesque oversimplification (and one that arbitrarily splits Europe from Asia, for instance.)

Those who hold to the notion of four races (for instance, government bureaucrats) are puzzled when it comes to the children of intermarriages, unless we call them “mongrel” or some similar odious designation.