Please Do Not Call Me “Caucasian”

There has been quite an uproar about an NPR (National Public Radio in the U.S.) commentator, who used the term “Gringo” for white Americans.

Personally, I don’t care if you call me “Gringo”. What I find offensive is the term “caucasian”. It is anthropologically and ethnologicially wrong and scientifically ignorant.

The term was probably invented by the German anthropologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach. Around 1800, he theorized that all of the indigenous populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia originated in the Caucasus region. (Locate the Caucasus on a map. Most Europeans would not even consider it to be part of Europe).

In this region, so Blumenbach thought, God had created the “perfect man”. As they spread out in all directions, Blumenbach (and his fellow “monogenists”) believed, people degenerated in appearance.

Blumenbach wrote: “Caucasian variety – I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus, both because its neighborhood, and especially its southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgian; and because all physiological reasons converge to this, that in that region, if anywhere, it seems we ought with the greatest probability to place the autochthones (birth place) of mankind.” [From: Blumenbach, De generis humani varietate nativa (3rd ed. 1795), trans. Bendyshe (1865)]

The 4th edition of Meyers Konversations-Lexikon (Leipzig, 1885-1890) shows the “caucasian race” as comprising Aryans, Semites and Hamites. Aryans are further subdivided into European Aryans and Indo-Aryans (the latter corresponding to the group later designated Indo-Iranians.

Blumenbach’s theories (most of which were derived from a bizarre pseudo science called “craniology” — the examination of skulls) are considered absurd by today’s standard of knowledge.

The term “caucasian” is anachronistic, misleading, scientifically wrong and should be dropped altogether. What should be used instead? “Caucasoid”, “Europid” and “Europoid” have been suggested, but are a similarly demented.

“European” would suffice. “European-American”, if you must. “Europeans” can be subcategorized into “Nordic” or “Germanic European” peoples, Slavic peoples, etc. — although in practice, these groups have been mixing in Europe for thousands of years. What matters more are the distinct cultural (and linguistic) differences, which have been preserved in Europe to this day.

In the U.S., the Supreme Court in 1923 decided that Asian Indians may be “caucasian” but not “white”. (United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind). In 1946, the court modified its opinion. The issue came to the court’s attention because of their relevance to immigration laws which, before 1965 favored white Europeans. As a result, the court was left to decide who was to be considered “white”.

Outside of American English and in science, the term “caucasian” has fallen out of use a long time ago, and it should be thrown out from everyday American language as well.

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