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Re: [Czechlist] Caucasian - Westerner or Easterner?

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  • James Kirchner
    When I was a kid, I was taught three racial classifications: Caucasian (or Caucasoid), Negroid and Mongoloid. Caucasian didn t refer to people now called
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 1, 2009
      When I was a kid, I was taught three racial classifications:
      Caucasian (or Caucasoid), Negroid and Mongoloid.

      "Caucasian" didn't refer to people now called "white", but also to
      people from the Indian subcontinent and to most Latin Americans. This
      meant that as an American of German-Czech ancestry, I was of the same
      race as the Lebanese, the Iranians, the East Indians and the Sri
      Lankans. Skin color was not the determinant of one's racial
      classification, but largely facial features and probable source of
      ancestral migration. When "white" was used as shorthand for
      "Caucasian", I understood it to include me, most Mexicans and
      everybody in New Delhi. This was how I was taught.

      As far as I know, it is still believed that the original speakers of
      the Indo-European languages originated in the Caucasus and spread west
      to Europe and south to India, whatever race they were.

      The idea of "Caucasian" meaning a "white Westerner" is a product of
      the narrowing of racial distinctions in the US, arising from US
      government racial classifications, which in my opinion are based
      largely on the racial prejudices of yahoos in California in the
      1960s. Then add to that racial distinctions promoted by various
      grievance groups, and then people who migrated from one classification
      to another as government and business began doling out special goodies
      based on racial minority status.

      I'm still uncomfortable with the fine racial distinctions made by
      Americans in their 20s and 30s. This has produced a series of shocks
      to me once every five or ten years. The main milestones are these:

      1. I was shocked in the 1980s when I heard an East Asian wife and a
      white husband referred to on the radio as an "interracial couple".
      Technically they were of two separate races, but I had never heard of
      anyone calling such a marriage "interracial", and my friends and
      coworkers also found it odd. It would have been odd if the non-white
      spouse had been Mexican or Puerto Rican, also.

      2. I was shocked in the 1990s to find out that a fifth-generation,
      one-eighth Irish, Lebanese-American coworker was listing herself as
      "Asian" on federal forms, obviously for the purpose of hiring and
      promotion advantage. All Arabs had been white when I was growing up.
      All my Arab-American friends are still white to this day.

      3. I was shocked last year to see a young American woman's
      description of her parents: "My father is Italian, and my mother is
      white." When did Italians stop being white people? This was actually
      the real-life culmination of a joke I'd been telling for 20 years, in
      which I said that someday my blond, green-eyed niece would be
      considered of mixed race, because her mother's eyes are brown.

      Get ready for it to get even weirder. I know a Czech woman in
      Colorado whose children think she's of a different race than they are,
      because she tans in the summer and they don't.


      On Mar 1, 2009, at 11:22 AM, Check Your Czech! wrote:

      > Where does the term Caucasian, referring to a white Westerner, come
      > from? Caucasus? Does
      > the white race originate in Russia? :o)

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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