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Monday, September 26, 2011

Replace the "White" ethnic label in the U.S.

by Glenn Robinson

Why are European-American's called 'White'?

Many ethnic labels have changed through the course of U.S. history. The next one that needs to change is "White".

Modern politically correct terms for every ethnic group have a tie to the regional heritage of that group -- except for White.

Vague and disrespectful labels of the past have changed to respectful modern descriptions:

Oriental changed to Asian-American
Negro changed to African-American
Native Savage changed to Native-American

European-American changed to White.

Using color labels verbally is acceptable. It's conversational and prevents guessing wrong about nation of origin. Writing should be more precise. Color labels should not be the first choice. When official paperwork is involved, especially government forms, what would this color label imply? The term "White" in the U.S. was originally used as a way to group all Europeans (regardless of color) together as a team because it was the "whites" against the people of color. The early days of the U.S. was not primarily about fitting into your group of national origin, it was an actual 'race' war (for what was understood at the time), due to the sudden collision of different phenotypes brought together by the new larger and faster sailing ships of the day. Everyone had to make sense of each other, and phenotypes of a feather flocked together.

Using the word European-American makes European-American's sound like foreigners. (Which they are - but European-Americans don't want to have a foreign sounding label. Another issue is that using the word "White" is perpetuating a false brand of purity, goodness, and cleanness

I don't expect my European-American brothers and sisters to stop using the label of "White" for themselves, nor the government to stop using the term "White". I think they like the positive branding.

However, all my non-European-American brothers and sisters should be happy to label European-Americans what they really are: European-Americans.


Glenn is a European-American married to a Mexican-American. They have two children. Glenn is interested in progressive immigration reform, and desegregation within schools and communities. He is a life long learner with interests in sociology, anthropology, psychology, history and politics.
Connect to Glenn at CommunityVillage.us