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Is the term Caucasian relevant and accurate?


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  #1  
November 8th, 2011, 12:14 PM
MindyRambo's Avatar Super Mommy
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Given these definitions, do you think caucasian is correctly used in society? So basically 90% of Americans are not caucasian.

The first time I ever read the definition, (I knew it was originally people originating from the caucus mountains) the North Africa part surprised me. North Africa consists of Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, South Sudan, Tunisia and Western Sahara. Obviously these people are not "white" and in fact in some cases, they are the blackest of the black (for lack of a better term)



Definition of Caucasian:

a. Anthropology Of or being a human racial classification distinguished especially by very light to brown skin pigmentation and straight to wavy or curly hair, and including peoples indigenous to Europe, northern Africa, western Asia, and India. See Usage Note at race

Caucasian - definition of Caucasian by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.


1. Anthropology. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of one of the traditional racial divisions of humankind, marked by fair to dark skin, straight to tightly curled hair, and light to very dark eyes, and originally inhabiting Europe, parts of North Africa, western Asia, and India: no longer in technical use.
2.
of or pertaining to the Caucasus mountain range.
3.
of or related to the non-Indo-European, non-Turkic languages of the Caucasus region.

Caucasian | Define Caucasian at Dictionary.com
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  #2  
November 8th, 2011, 01:30 PM
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well huh... can't say I knew that, I've never had to look it up.

And I can honestly say I've never seen it used correctly on anything then, in fact I've often seen it listed as Caucasian/White. Which would lead me to believe they had the same meaning since all the other colors/races were already listed.

So no, I'd say it is not accurate or relevant as used in society today.
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  #3  
November 8th, 2011, 01:39 PM
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IMO, terms are never used correctly. We as a society like to just put people in these bubbles for whatever reason, and 75% of the time, we put them in the incorrect bubble. The whole thing just seems so silly to me.
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  #4  
November 8th, 2011, 03:13 PM
fluffycheeks's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
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"classification distinguished especially by very light to brown skin pigmentation and straight to wavy or curly hair"

Sooooo.... basically anyone fits this classification?



Quote:
Originally Posted by K.A.T View Post
IMO, terms are never used correctly. We as a society like to just put people in these bubbles for whatever reason, and 75% of the time, we put them in the incorrect bubble. The whole thing just seems so silly to me.

That's how I feel. African American isn't used correctly either. I have a Haitian friend who never knows what box to check. She isn't technically African American (although she looks like one) and she's not technically hispanic (although that's what's closest to her in geographical origin). Maybe she should check caucasian, lol! They should just provide crayons with these forms and you can fill in the color that is closest to your own. My 8 year old doesn't call herself white, by the way, she calls herself "peachy-pink," which I think is more accurate anyway.
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  #5  
November 8th, 2011, 03:28 PM
MindyRambo's Avatar Super Mommy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K.A.T View Post
IMO, terms are never used correctly. We as a society like to just put people in these bubbles for whatever reason, and 75% of the time, we put them in the incorrect bubble. The whole thing just seems so silly to me.
ITA. And no one seems to care either. I can't tell you how many times I've heard about "speaking chinese" or "having chinese"

You can't have a culture, and Chinese is not a language! LOL reminds me of that family guy ep. where they are living in China, and Peter comes home and asks Lois what's for dinner and she says Caucasian lol Just to show how we misuse terms as common practice.

I've also heard people say Mexicans speak Mexican lol
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  #6  
November 8th, 2011, 08:08 PM
K.A.T's Avatar Enjoying her Sticky Bun
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HA! That episode cracked me up. He was all hey there's Jackie Chan. Ahh the silly things that crack me up. Shipoopi!
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  #7  
November 9th, 2011, 03:01 AM
MindyRambo's Avatar Super Mommy
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LOL, I think that ep. was to show white people how silly they are sometimes, because some say all asian people look alike, so he called everyone jackie chan, then when the asian guy saw him he called him ethan hawke lmao and said all white americans look like ethan hawke to him, oh i love that show.
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  #8  
November 9th, 2011, 07:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MindyRambo View Post
Given these definitions, do you think caucasian is correctly used in society? So basically 90% of Americans are not caucasian.

The first time I ever read the definition, (I knew it was originally people originating from the caucus mountains) the North Africa part surprised me. North Africa consists of Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, South Sudan, Tunisia and Western Sahara. Obviously these people are not "white" and in fact in some cases, they are the blackest of the black (for lack of a better term)
The bolded is simply not true. MANY of the ethnic groups that historically inhabited North Africa were characterized by light-skin. i.e., the Berbers. The definition that you quoted states that the group labeled 'caucasian' includes people from North Africa, NOT that everyone from North Africa is a caucasian. North Africa was historically inhabited both by caucasians AND by non-caucasians. The former generally had lighter skin, and the latter darker skin, but they both came from the same area.

As for the original question, I am pretty weary of arguing about terminology like this, because it seriously doesn't matter. Language evolves. The purpose of language is to communicate ideas to another person. If I understand a word to mean one thing, and I say it to you, and you understand it to mean the same thing, then communication has been accomplished. It doesn't matter in the slightest of the original meaning of the word was somehow different. In this day and age, we use the word 'caucasian' to refer to white people because we have to call them something. There's nothing inherently offensive or wrong about the term, and, as far as I'm concerned, any historical discrepancies are pretty irrelevant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MindyRambo View Post
ITA. And no one seems to care either. I can't tell you how many times I've heard about "speaking chinese" or "having chinese"

You can't have a culture, and Chinese is not a language! LOL reminds me of that family guy ep. where they are living in China, and Peter comes home and asks Lois what's for dinner and she says Caucasian lol Just to show how we misuse terms as common practice.

I've also heard people say Mexicans speak Mexican lol
I'm totally confused. Why on earth can't you say that Chinese is a language? It absolutely is a language, with many different spoken dialects but a single written alphabet. I live in China, and 'Chinese' is what the people here call it (at least, those who speak English . In Chinese they call it zhongwen or putonghua). My students, who take classes from both Chinese teachers and American teachers, have a class labeled on their schedule with the title 'Chinese.' That is the class where they study their language. Other terms, such as Mandarin and Cantonese, refer to different dialects. Mandarin is the dominant dialect, but both Mandarin and Cantonese are Chinese.

I'm just really confused as to what I'm missing here. I've never on earth heard someone suggest that it 's offensive to say "speaking Chinese."
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  #9  
November 9th, 2011, 08:24 AM
MindyRambo's Avatar Super Mommy
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Well I never said Chinese or Caucasian were offensive. I asked if they were accurate.

And I did indicate that in some cases the people in North Africa are light skinned and in some cases they are dark skinned.

Also, I wouldn't call it Chinese because Mandarin and Cantonese are like the difference between French and English. They may be different dialects, but I don't see them as the same language at all. They just have the same alphabet.
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  #10  
November 9th, 2011, 08:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MindyRambo View Post
LOL, I think that ep. was to show white people how silly they are sometimes, because some say all asian people look alike, so he called everyone jackie chan, then when the asian guy saw him he called him ethan hawke lmao and said all white americans look like ethan hawke to him, oh i love that show.
YES! That cracked me up even more. I enjoy that show a bit too much, and it's all because of it's inappropriateness.
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  #11  
November 9th, 2011, 11:32 AM
MindyRambo's Avatar Super Mommy
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Yeah but what I like is that even though it may be inapropriate, it seems it's always done in a way to show the bias of everyday people. Case in point the example where the show the kids a video at school of "how to spot a gay"

"If instead of drawing blood, you get a deadly corrosive acid, you've got a gay"

I don't see that as offensive because it's pointing out what a lot of society thinks of gay people and how ridiculous it is (ie. homosexuals not being able to donate blood)
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  #12  
November 9th, 2011, 12:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MindyRambo View Post
Yeah but what I like is that even though it may be inapropriate, it seems it's always done in a way to show the bias of everyday people. Case in point the example where the show the kids a video at school of "how to spot a gay"

"If instead of drawing blood, you get a deadly corrosive acid, you've got a gay"

I don't see that as offensive because it's pointing out what a lot of society thinks of gay people and how ridiculous it is (ie. homosexuals not being able to donate blood)
Ahh yes another inappropriate funny courtesy of FG. Geesh I have a twisted sense of humor.
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  #13  
November 9th, 2011, 02:34 PM
MindyRambo's Avatar Super Mommy
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Me too You gotta laugh at some stuff, otherwise you'll spend your whole life crying about it
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  #14  
November 10th, 2011, 10:48 AM
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So I have one. Say you have someone that is from South Africa. They are white and immigrated over here to the US. Are they not African-American?
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  #15  
November 10th, 2011, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GinaB View Post
So I have one. Say you have someone that is from South Africa. They are white and immigrated over here to the US. Are they not African-American?
If you go based on where they were born and then emigrated to, solely. Then, yes, they are African American. However, American's will most likely not consider a white South African to be African American. It's so incredibly stupid it's just makes me People tend to only look at skin pigmentation and then place you in what bubble they think you fall under. Kev gets it all the time. He's not African American, he's West Indian American. His family did not originate from Africa, they came from the West Indies. So "Caucasians" tend to label him AA while true AA's will not. Then to get the bigger slap in the face, since he's American born, emigrated West Indians will not consider him anything other than American. It's so moronic if you ask me.
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  #16  
November 10th, 2011, 03:58 PM
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It seems to me that race and ethnicity are being used interchangably in this debate. They are not the same thing.
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  #17  
November 10th, 2011, 04:08 PM
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ETA--

Difference Between Ethnicity and Race | Difference Between | Ethnicity vs Race

I was taught in school that there are only 4 races of humans; Asian, Caucasian, African, and Australian. Everyone on earth supposedly is just some combination of those. We were taught that doctors can tell a person's race just from the shape of a skull. No skin or hair are necessary for that.
Caucasian is still relevant because it's 1 of the 4 races, but it's too broad to use every day. Since society does tend to like people having a label (it's one of the ways we identify each other) my race is Caucasian, my ethnicity is of German, Irish and English (Western European) descent, my culture is American and my "identifiable color" (lol) is "white."
There I think that about covers it.
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  #18  
November 10th, 2011, 05:36 PM
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I don't like that term. I have always seen it used w/ reference to a certain area, and that is the first time I've seen it written that it includes people of European descent. I prefer the term white. Was just having this discussion today w/ students actually and that how mixed ethnicities are SO common now that soon everyone (almost) will be a mix of everything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by foxfire_ga79 View Post
ETA--

Difference Between Ethnicity and Race | Difference Between | Ethnicity vs Race

I was taught in school that there are only 4 races of humans; Asian, Caucasian, African, and Australian. Everyone on earth supposedly is just some combination of those. We were taught that doctors can tell a person's race just from the shape of a skull. No skin or hair are necessary for that.
Caucasian is still relevant because it's 1 of the 4 races, but it's too broad to use every day. Since society does tend to like people having a label (it's one of the ways we identify each other) my race is Caucasian, my ethnicity is of German, Irish and English (Western European) descent, my culture is American and my "identifiable color" (lol) is "white."
There I think that about covers it.
I call BS on this. I despise the term "race" it is only ever used when classifying in a hierarchical manner. I really do not think you can tell by the shape of a skull. I would have to see some strong research on that one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GinaB View Post
So I have one. Say you have someone that is from South Africa. They are white and immigrated over here to the US. Are they not African-American?
Yes. To me anyone who moved here from S. Africa after being born there is African American. I also do not like that term to describe people of African descent (hundreds and hundreds of years ago). You were born here? You are American.
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  #19  
November 10th, 2011, 05:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mayandsofiasmommy View Post
I don't like that term. I have always seen it used w/ reference to a certain area, and that is the first time I've seen it written that it includes people of European descent. I prefer the term white. Was just having this discussion today w/ students actually and that how mixed ethnicities are SO common now that soon everyone (almost) will be a mix of everything.



I call BS on this. I despise the term "race" it is only ever used when classifying in a hierarchical manner. I really do not think you can tell by the shape of a skull. I would have to see some strong research on that one.


Yes. To me anyone who moved here from S. Africa after being born there is African American. I also do not like that term to describe people of African descent (hundreds and hundreds of years ago). You were born here? You are American.


Types of Human Skull Shapes | eHow.com


Whether it's true or not, I don't know. I'm not an anthropologist or biologist or any other scientific -ologist and I haven't personally studied skulls. But this is what I was taught in high school. The same biology teacher told us that just from looking at a pelvic bone a doctor could tell not only that a woman had had children, but how many she'd delivered vaginally.
Apparently, a lot can be learned just from bones and teeth....
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  #20  
November 11th, 2011, 08:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MindyRambo View Post
Also, I wouldn't call it Chinese because Mandarin and Cantonese are like the difference between French and English. They may be different dialects, but I don't see them as the same language at all. They just have the same alphabet.

Not at all true. Mandarin and Cantonese are different DIALECTS. French and English are different LANGUAGES. They don't even have the same roots. English is a Germanic Language (like German) and French is a Romance Language (like Italian). Totally different. A better comparison would be Midwestern American English to Scottish English. Both are prevalent languages in a certain region, but very different dialects of that language, which can make it very difficult to understand each other at times. However, they are still the same language, and we still can call the language English.
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