In the long run, the government's definitions of who gets money and prizes for being a favored race or ethnicity and who belongs to the legally disfavored groups who have to ante up the money and prizes is hugely important.
For example, the government's effort to compensate the descendants of American slaves by defining everybody who wants to assert any sub-Saharan ancestry as a protected race is the fundamental reason the non-force of nature Barack Obama is in the White House. Similarly, the Nixon Administration's creation of a Hispanic ethnicity out of people of Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban descent is the reason the media has anointed Marco Rubio as Presidential Timber: the growth of the Mexican-American population makes the Cuban Rubio a natural!
Not surprisingly, there have been rumblings among the currently legally unprivileged as they strategize how to bail out of the white/Caucasian category. Arab groups, for example, have been asking to be excused from being white and instead get their own category so they can sue when disparate impact is not in their favor. The end game, which we are still a long way from, of course, is to leave Mitt Romney as the last remaining white person in America.
(When it comes to being legally privileged, I'm a Big Tent guy. I want as many people stuffed into the unprivileged tent with me to share the burden. But that's a pretty rare insight these days.)
Golfer Vijay Singh
"Caucasian" as a synonym for white is particularly troublesome to people who don't want to get left holding the fuzzy end of the racial privilege lollipop. Why? Because it is so geographically expansive. Physical anthropologists generally saw the Caucasoid race as extending to include North Africa, the Near East, and most of South Asia.
In 1982, however, immigrant Indian and Pakistani businessmen, looking for low interest SBA loans and affirmative action in government contracting, talked the Reagan Administration into reclassifying them from white/Caucasian to Asian/Oriental, even though grouping Indians with Chinese rather than with Afghans makes little sense from the standpoint of physical, genetic, linguistic, or cultural anthropology. (The Himalayas really are a major barrier.) In America over the last generation or two, being nonwhite pays.
Here's a half-Indian New York Times reporter explaining, in effect, why the word that raises questions about her father's side of the family's legal privileges should be forgotten forever.
By SHAILA DEWAN
Published: July 6, 2013
AS a racial classification, the term Caucasian has many flaws, dating as it does from a time when the study of race was based on skull measurements and travel diaries.
As opposed to today, when the study of race is based on assertions of political power in imposing intellectual taboos.
It has long been entirely unmoored from its geographical reference point, the Caucasus region.
Actually, the Caucasus Mountains are near the center of the traditional range of the Caucasoid race. People from the Caucasus region, such as Armenians, were always considered white in America for legal purposes.
Even now, the word gives discussions of race a weird technocratic gravitas, as when the police insist that you step out of your “vehicle” instead of your car. ...
I associate the word "Caucasian" with the LAPD from watching Adam 12 in the 1960s. It worked well for police radio talk "See the man, male Caucasian" especially in low light situations. Joseph Wambaugh's LAPD cop novels over the last 40 years have had a running theme of almost always having at least one character who is sort of a white European and sort of not.
There is another reason to use it, said Jennifer L. Hochschild, a professor of government and African-American studies at Harvard. “The court, or some clever clerk, doesn’t really want to use the word white in part because roughly half of Hispanics consider themselves white.”
It's almost as if white Americans could use Hispanic racism to divide and conquer, when we all know the duty of whites is to unite-and-submit to The Others.
There are a number of terms that refer to various degrees of blackness, both current and out of favor: African-American, mulatto, Negro, colored, octaroon.
They are out of favor because lighter-skinned elites like the mulatto Barack Obama saw it was in his career interest to be "black" instead of something more accurate, as he demonstrates at some length in Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.
... IN the South, I was often asked about my ethnic origins, and I had a ready answer. “My father is from India,” I would recite, phrasing it in such a way as to avoid being mistaken for an American Indian. “And my mom is white.” Almost invariably, if I was speaking to black people, they would nod with understanding. If I was speaking to white people, I would get a puzzled look. “What kind of white?” they would ask. Only when I explained the Norwegian, Scottish and German mix of my ancestry would I get the nod.
I theorized that this was because blacks understood “white” as a category, both historical and contemporary — a coherent group that wielded power and excluded others. Whites, I believed, were less comfortable with that notion.
But Matthew Pratt Guterl, the author of “The Color of Race in America, 1900-1940,” had a different take. “They’re trying to trace your genealogy and figure out what your qualities are,” he said. “They’re looking in your face, they’re looking in the slope of your nose, the shape of your brow. There’s an effort to discern the truth of the matter, because all whitenesses are not equal.” In other words, they weren’t rejecting the category, they were policing its boundaries.
Such racial boundaries have increasingly been called into question in the debate over affirmative action, once regarded as a form of restitution to descendants of slaves, but now complicated by all sorts of questions about who, exactly, is being helped. “What if some of them aren’t poor, what if some of them don’t have American parentage, what if some of them are really stupid?” Ms. Painter, the historian, asked. “There’s all kinds of characteristics that we stuff into race without looking, and then they pop out and we think, ‘I can’t deal with that.’ ”
Doubtless, this society will continue to classify people by race for some time to come. And as we lumber toward justice, some of those classifications remain useful, even separate from other factors like economic class. Caucasian, though? Not so much.
Shaila Dewan is an economics reporter for The New York Times.
We must lumber toward justice by continuing to provide Ms. Dewan's relatives on the paternal side taxpayer subsidized loans.
And ever since the Reagan Administration did such a huge favor for Indians by removing them from the official definition of white / Caucasian, they've been voting Republican ever since out of gratitude.
Oh, wait, the opposite appears to have happened.
No doubt, we can count on Republican deep thinkers like Kurt Bardella to figure all this out.