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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

'Race' Terms - A How To Guide

I need help. 

I don't say what I mean because I use the wrong words. 

As far back as I can remember I've been trying to listen to the message and overlook poor word choices. In conversation it's important to have an open heart. Children and young adults don't even know the correct words to use.

I try to read between the lines and look for the underlying truth.  

What prompted this article is another blog where I read a mishmash of convoluted ethnic terms - and - they were described as 'races' - a common mistake. 

I have made some progress. I have stopped correcting people when they use the term 'race' when they are actually referring to ethnic heritage. 'Race' is such a complicated concept that it's not worth the battle most of the time. Racism is all too real. So 'race' does have components of reality to it, even if they are all (or nearly all) socially constructed. 

Ok. Here's what's been bothering me.

 inconsistency with ethnic labels

I've done this too, but I'm working on it. One group of people with be labeled a color and in the same sentence or article another group will be referred to as a 'race', then another labeled by their national heritage, then another group labeled from their continent of origin. Why - in the same sentence or article does the identifier jump all over the logical map?

Here are some sample lists referring to groups of people. Which make sense? Do any make sense? Which are absurd?

People by Color People by 'Race' People by Continent People by Census label People by what I've seen in blogs
Black Negro African Black, Negro Blacks
Brown Hispanic American Hispanic Hispanics
Red Native American American Native American Native Americans
White Caucasian European White Caucasian
Yellow Mongoloid Asian Nation of Origin Asians

Answer: The two columns on the right are a mishmash of color, ethnicity, continental heritage, and fallacy of biological 'race'.

PEOPLE, please stick to one type of descriptor when listing groups of people. Treat all groups equally.

Let's say you agree with me and you want to stick to one type of descriptor. How do you know which descriptor to stick to? One way is to follow the example of others. For example Dr. Cornel West uses color sometimes and flavors at other times. Sometimes he lists the the five different colors of people; sometimes he says the 'chocolate' side of town or the 'vanilla' side of town.

And PEOPLE, one of my pet peeves is using the 'race' terms. The vast majority of media has stopped using the term Negro, Negroid and Mongoloid - now please - can we stop using the outdated term Caucasian!?  I would prefer that people use European or (in the U.S.) European American. Using the term 'White' does not acknowledge the foreignness of Europeans in the Americas.

PS - I know Hispanic is not a 'race' and I know this whole example is U.S. centric, but I wanted to simplify the chart to get the point across. Feel free to run me through the ringer =)


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