In USA, is "white" just codeword for anyone of European ancestry? Because I thought..

I thought Many people of Middle Eastern and North African ancestry were considered “white” in America. Yes I know that many of them are also “brown”. Still they are very diverse in looks. It shocked me that people like Rami Malek, Nasim Pedrad, Amal Clooney and Gigi Hadid were considered “not white” or in Gigi’s case “half white”. So it made me wonder if “white” just applies to anyone of European ancestry because people like Gal Gadot, Melissa Gorga, Alessia Cara and Alicia Vikander are more “brown skinned” and “ethnic” looking than those people that I mentioned above… but are called “white” because their ethnicity is European (respectively being Ashkenazi Jewish, Southern Italian and Scandinavian).

I’ve seen people who said that George Clooney married a “POC” woman (she’s of Lebanese ancestry) despite the fact that George is darker than his own wife! There were articles talking about Rami’s Emmy win was “diverse” and several called him a “non white” actor because hes Egyptian. Nasim was described as “not white” (Persian) which made me wonder why people were getting mad at the casting of Naomi Scott in Aladdin (whose Half Indian/Half English), with many calling Naomi saying is a “white girl” despite Nasim (also in the movie) being literally “white skinned” while Naomi is at least “brown”. Gigi Hadid has also called herself or been described as “half white” even though her Palestinian father looks like any other Sun-Tanned Anglo American you see in California.

There really aren’t hard and fast rules for what is “white”. It’s typically dependent on how the individual identifies themselves, and their phenotype (what they look like.)

The Middle East - especially the portion referred to as the Levant, which includes Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq - has a wide variety of phenotypes. You will see people who look fully European, and you will see people who are very dark and look very non-European. And it’s totally unsurprising that this would be the case, since the region is the crossroads of the Eastern Hemisphere where countless empires have left a genetic and cultural legacy.

To me, “white” is shorthand for “looking like you could reasonably pass in Europe.” By this definition, many people with Arab or Persian ancestry look white. ARE they white? You’d have to ask them. But you probably shouldn’t.

The lil’wrekkers boyfriend is Palestinian. He considers himself ‘white’, or non-black, I should say. I’ve asked him pointedly about it. He considers blacks to be mostly of African descent. I’ve argued with him that it’s not always the case. He won’t budge on it though. He grew up in his earliest years near Egytian peoples. I don’t he had a good experience there. The lil’wrekker has forbade me to talk to him about it anymore. But, as any Mom would, I’ll bide my time and get another shot at it.:wink:

So–not recognizing all of those names, I highlighted each one and googled them, looking at the cluster of photos shown on the right-hand pane of the google search.

Here are my instant impressions:

Rami Malek–not white
Nasim Pedrad–white
Amal Clooney–not white
Gigi Hadid–white
Gal Gadot–white
Melissa Gorga–not white
Alessia Cara–not white
Alicia Vikander–white

In the mid 19th century, Irish were considered non-white. Later than designation switched to Italians. Then Jews. The British are said to have a saying, “The Wogs start at Calais.” I think Wog and non-white are really the same thing.

I didn’t know who she was, but looked her up. Amazed that she’s apparently fully Italian (Calabrese.) Insomuch as Southern Italians sometimes have Levantine admixture, it usually looks like just that. But Alessia looks like some combination of Polynesian and Latina.

It often depends on who is using the term. Somebody sufficiently racist may not classify Jews as white. They may also exclude anybody who has a even a little bit of non-white (whatever that is) blood. The flip I think can be the cases mentioned, where based only on a photo lineup a person may be classified as white, but knowledge of the person’s background will reveal they don’t have European ancestry, and therefore not white by many people’s definition. Similarly saying that someone is a person of color doesn’t necessarily give a good indication of their melanin levels.

The problem is that physical features are a pretty poor indicator of ancestry and genetic lineage.

When creating surveys to ask US residents about their ethnic/racial identity we typically will use the terms white, Caucasian, and European descent interchangeably, though I think “white” is going to be the most common by far. Typically, for reasons, the white group is divided into Hispanic and non-Hispanic.

There is no set definition of “white”. “White” is the most arbitrary category of them all.

In this thread, it seems that Gal Gadot is identified as “white” by most posters, but she doesn’t consider herself as such, as neither do many of the (presumably white-passing) Jewish posters who chimed in. Who is to say who is right or wrong?

I tend to think of anyone who can pass as a generic European mutt is “white until otherwise specified”. So that would encompass a pretty broad swath of phenotypes, but possibly exclude some folks who do consider themselves “white”. Like, in grammar school I had an Arab Egyptian classmate who was obnoxiously adamant that he was white, but his brown skin and frizzy hair told all of us American kids that he was crazy. There is no way I can reprogram my mind so that someone with his phenotype is white, but now I’m mature enough not to argue with someone over something like this. (I am curious if thirty more years in the US has changed the way that guy self-identifies.)

Virtually everyone from the MIddle East very likely has at least some subSaharan ancestry.[sup]1[/sup] Long before Europeans slavers took west Africans to the New World, Arab slavers were taking east Africans to various parts of Asia. In the 9th century, there were slave revolts in what is now Iraq. They were successful for a while, but eventually were reconquered. For more about them, look up Zanj.
[sup]1[/sup] Probably also true of Europeans

Honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with how assimilated you are, to a point. How you dress, act, talk, and your name. I had NO idea Nikki Haley had Indian parents. She was white to me and if she self identifies as white, fine by me. I don’t care what people think of themselves.

I had an Ethiopian professor in college, who quite dark and he did NOT like the idea of being categorized as black. To him, a black person was African American. To him it was more cultural

The official Thai Dictionary translates /Farang/ (ฝรั่ง) as “a person of white race” but blacks from the U.S.A. are often called ‘Farang’ (or ‘Farang Dam’ — black Farang) while white-skinned Arabs would usually not be called ‘Farang.’

Farang came from Arabic and Persian. It originally meant ‘Frank’ as in the Frankish people France is named after, dating from the Crusades, when Europeans invading the Middle East were all called “Franks.” So Arabs aren’t Farang, as it was coined in opposition to Arab.

For that matter, Ariana Grande. As she said when she appeared on SNL, “People assume I’m Hispanic, but actually, I’m just very, very Italian.”

“White” is not a geographical classification. Neither is it a biological one. It’s a a socio-political category whose membership has varied over the centuries.

The purpose of defining whiteness is to designate the ruling class in a white-supremacist society. By knowing who is white and who is non-white, people can understand who is due the privileges of being white. All along. It was possible for some people to “pass” as white if their features looked more or less like the whites people around them.

As has been stated, there were times when Irish people were not included as white, or Italians. It’s still sometimes debated whether Jewish people are white.

I’m a bit skeptical that people like Gal Gadot can declare themselves “non-white.” If white people treat her as if she’s white then doesn’t that make her white?

That’s the real definition—do other white people think you’re white and treat you that way?

Just curious, but why?

I think it’s more important whether white people treat you as white after they find out your ethnicity. If they see you as “other” once you reveal your ancestry, then a non-white identity does make some sense.

Yes, I meant that

Gal Gadot was born in the Middle East, has Middle Eastern features and speaks with a Middle Eastern accent. Do people treat her as white, or as Middle Eastern?

So far as I can tell most people treat her as white, not as Middle Eastern, but I am not in a position to observe that directly.

How do you treat someone as white?