From Academic Kids

For other uses, see White (disambiguation).

Template:NPOV Whites (or White) is a broad term used to describe people of ethnic European, Caucasus , Middle Eastern and North African descent, especially those with fair coloured skin. In North America the term Caucasian is widely understood to mean white, although it is much less common in other countries where one would more likely understand the use of the word Caucasian to refer to people from the Caucasus region.


Use of Term

The term White is often used in contrast with other racial colour terms, such as Black, Brown (non-White Hispanic), Asian, and Red (Amerindian), etc. These terms were in more common usage in the beginning of the 20th century as ethno-historians attempted to trace humanity's history through linguistics, a process that has been largely discredited with the advent of DNA analysis. At the turn of the 20th century, scholars typically thought of Whites as being the desendents of Indo-Europeans and divided Whites into two categories: Semitic (who are not Indo-European) and Aryan. Although the most prevalent term in casual conversation, the term White is increasingly rare in academic and formal discussions of racial demographics, however it is still often used in discussions of racial attitudes, particularly in the humanities, and in fields such as Black studies, critical race theory and Whiteness studies.

Varying definitions

The scope of the term White has changed over time, and varies from place to place. In Haiti, Cuba and Brazil, for example, lighter skinned mulattos (people of mixed African and European descent) of considerably more European ancestry and apperance are often considered "White"; in the United States or Canada, those same people would always be considered "Black". See also: One drop rule.

Other difficulties of the term, in the United States for example, is that Anatolian Turks, Iranians and Jews (those that are classified as Caucasoid; Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrahi) may also be seen as non-White by a majority of people, even though some people in these groups a may look similar to some Southern Europeans. In the United States, generally speaking, the biggest dilemma of White inclusion is for Americans of Middle Eastern and North African descent; Berbers, Anatolian Turks, Iranians, Kurds, etc. For the purposes of statistics they are always categorised as White by US government agencies and the US census, however, this racial classification does not always lead to a sense of inclusion for most of them, as they are often excluded from the general structural concepts of White-American society, and may even experience hostile rejection.

By contrast in Europe, Canada and Australia those same Middle Easterners and North Africans are almost never regarded as White, neither by society's general understanding of the term nor by government institutions. Instead, they are regarded as racial minorities. This latter understanding of the term in Australia has little to do with White separatist exclusionism, but rather a traditional (and still currently espoused) definition of White which has never encompassed Middle Easterners or North Africans (nor Southern Europeans), and which unlike the history of the definition of "White" in the United States, has undergone continuous alterations to include an ever growing number of people. See also: Wog - As a racial reference in Australian English.

Bestowing the "non-White" label upon any person who is of Middle Eastern, North African, Jewish, Southern European and Eastern European descent, is a serious point taken in an ideology that is highly espoused by many White separatists. This occurs even within countries such as Italy, where northern Italians have been accused of possessing racially motivated separatist sentiments stemming from allegedly irreconcilable differences with Southern Italians.

It is argued that much of North Africa's and Arabia's population is Black or mulatto due to importation of Black slaves by Islamic traders across the Sahara desert, where they mixed with the native Arabs. It is undeniable that many people in North Africa, such as alleged terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui of Moroccan descent, have enough black African ancestry to be considered "Black" in the United States. However, others have argued that at least in the Middle East (e.g. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, etc.), most Arabs (who are not Indo-European) can be more closely related to Persians – and vice versa – due to both the ancient slave trade and the wars that involved Macedonian, Byzantine, Roman, Holy Roman, Persian and other empires.

Additionally, the popular definition of White in the United States often excludes all Hispanics from the Americas (even those of unmixed European descent) but includes all those from Spain. Of the countries of Latin America, those that it can be said are composed of an overwhelmingly European population are Argentina and Uruguay. Chile and Costa Rica are also quite "European", and posses mestizo majorities that are on average much more European than Amerindian, however, very few would acknowledge their admixture and simply view themselves as "White". Countries such as Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, on the other hand, posses Amerindian majorities, and although they also harbour large mestizo minorities, these are on average much more Amerindian than European. Furthermore, Guyana and Surinam have significant South Asian populations. Also, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are composed mainly of people of African or mixed African descent.

In the United States decennial census, Latin American is not seen as a racial category and the term 'more than one race' is used instead. However, the census also takes note of whether or not one is Hispanic. Relatively few Hispanics in the United States are of primarily European descent; the majority of U.S. Hispanics are mestizo. Whites whose families have lived in the United States and Canada for several generations will usually have ancestors from a variety of nationalities, although those with a diverse racial background are in the minority. Of those that do have mixed racial heritage, they are clustered in areas where there is a ghetto, Indian reservation or Chinatown. However, if a person has a European appearance, he is often considered "White" by non-Whites in the same context of Whites viewing such a person to be non-White. The majority of American Whites are of just 6/8 European ancestry, with Finnish, Germanic, Celtic, Romance, Slavic, Baltic, Greek, Albanian, Armenian, Basque and Caucasian ancestries. Approximately 1/8 of American "Whites" have historic Afro-Asiatic, Altaic or Indo-Aryan descents from Europe being externally colonised. Approximately 1/8 of American "Whites" have relatively newer Asian American and American Indian, African American and West Indian or Hawaiian and Filipino descents from Europeans colonising the outer world.

Criticisms of the term

One recent genetic study suggests that approximately 30% of self-identified Whites (non-Hispanic) in the U.S. possess some sub-Saharan Africa ancestry (from the population now called "Black" or African American in the U.S.). Among those Whites found in the study to have Black ancestry, they average an admixture of 2.3% Black (of 128 grandparents, 3 are Black and 125 are White). The author of the study, Penn State molecular biologist Mark Shriver, a self-identified White who had no idea that he had any African ancestry, discovered he was in fact 22% Black.[1] (http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=15042002-084051-5356r) Many however have argued that the percentage rates are too small in most cases to warrant the abandonment of the umbrella terminology, contending that those Americans who retain some form of miscegenated blood due to interracial couples are more often a rather invisible part of the populace. Indeed, Whites who have ancestors which settled in the Western United States during the 19th century may have American Indian and/or freed African American ancestors.

The broad usage of "White" is sometimes criticized by those who argue that it de-ethnicizes various groups. During the era of Jim Crow Laws in the Southern United States, facilities were commonly divided into separate sections for "White" and "Colored" people. These terms were defined by law, with people of northern and western European being labeled "White" and African-Americans labeled as "Colored". The categorization of people of other ethnicities and mixed ancestries varied from state to state and in different municipalities.

Areas of habitation

Countries with a majority of White ethnic Europeans include all the nations of Europe, as well as some of the countries colonized by them through the 15th century to 19th century; such as the United States, Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, asiatic Russia and oceanic Australia and New Zealand. In these nations, the relatively small indigenous populations were overwhelmed by White colonists from one or more European "mother countries". The distribution of Europeans worldwide may be explained by the traditional argument that Europeans thrive best in temperate climates above about 30 latitude in both hemispheres, but do not fare well in the tropics, except at high elevations. Indeed, Europeans have colonized most of those portions of the north and south temperate zones which had low indigenous population densities at the time of their "discoveries", which excluded East Asia but included virtually all other temperate regions. Blacks and Amerindians, who have traditionally been thought to tolerate tropical climates better than Whites, are (along with mestizo and mulatto peoples) predominant in tropical Latin America.

Whites are also nearly unique in that they exhibit a variety of hair and eye colours. In parts of the world north of 50 North latitude, sunlight is low and weak enough that people (and white coloured polar animals for that matter) with blond hair, blue eyes, and pale skin have an advantage over those with darker colouration. Benefits include resistance to rickets, possibly frostbite, and a suggested aesthetic appeal. However, the only major part of the world where such conditions exist is in northern Europe and western Russia. Parts of Alaska and western Canada, and, in the Southern Hemisphere (south of 50 South latitude), a small section of South America including Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands would fit the requirement as well, but they were thinly populated at the time of discovery and are now dominated by the descendants of European settlers.

Significant minorities of Whites live in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, New Caledonia and other Pacific Islands, and in the various Latin American and Caribbean countries. Many of these nations have experienced considerable political conflict between the White minority (descended from settlers from the former colonial power) and a mixed or non-European unmixed majority, heightening the sense of White racial identity.

Additionally, throughout history various nations have also designated the term "honorary-White" to various non-caucasoid groups (primarily Northeast Asians), while at the very same time excluding a variety of distinct caucasoid groups from that same term.

See also

Further reading

  • Karen Brodkin, How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America, Rutgers, 1999, ISBN 081352590X.
  • Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White, Routledge, 1996, ISBN 0415918251.
  • Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race, Harvard, 1999, ISBN 0674951913.he:האדם הלבן

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