Saturday, May 19, 2012


The news that white births are now a minority in the US, as shocking as it may be to some fellow Caucasians, sounds good to me.  Racial distinctions are inherently meaningless and often destructive so the sooner we dispense with them, the better.

Juan Cole states the matter well in his discussion of whiteness
Whiteness as it was constructed in the nineteenth century was not about skin color but about being Protestant and propertied...[s]o not all whites were equally white. Moreover, Catholic immigrants such as the Irish, the Poles and the Italians were either not considered white when they first came or were denoted as a lesser category of white. Jews, Arabs, Japanese and Chinese were also not considered white.... The Latinos have for the moment been categorized as non-white, but surely everyone can see how arbitrary that is. Many Latinos in Argentina and Brazil are of Italian ancestry. If they come to the US now, they are a ‘minority’ or ‘brown.’ But their cousins who just came straight to Rhode Island are ‘white.’

Ultimately, the whole idea of whiteness can only be kept going through a set of racial and class exclusions. Working-class African-Americans eternally get the short end of the stick. Recent immigrant groups are often excluded along with them.
The better outcome would be to just stop using the word ‘white.’ As should be clear from the above, it doesn’t actually mean anything. If you really had to categorize citizens of the US by ancestry (why?), use geographical terms. We have African-Americans. Why not have European-Americans or Euros? Since there may not be a currency called that much longer, we can repurpose the term.

 Best of all if we can just say that in the US, we are all Americans and stop categorizing people with regard to their adaptation to ultraviolet waves. It is anyway a temporary adaptation.
 Racial distinctions, like national borders, privilege some and exclude many.  No doubt that is why they are so useful.

Other chroniclers of whiteness, in case you are interested, include  Neil Irvin Painter and Martin Mull.

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