This White Woman Finds the Term “Caucasian” Offensive – But Not For Reasons You’d Think

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First of all: don’t let me use that form of headline on a regular basis. Even ironically it can find a away to seep in.

Second of all, by which I mean the very point of this essay: We really need to remove “Caucasian” from our lexicon and replace it with “white”.

There are the obvious literal reasons. The Caucasus is a specific region that straddles the superficial divide between Europe and Asia. When the brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013 turned out to come from the Caucasus everyone turned into a genius who made the observation that they’re Caucasian. We need to prevent “Actually, ” comments like that thought to be clever little “jokes” by the mouths that spew them from happening. We’ve Orientalised the Caucasus for, well, basically all of European’s dictated history. “Caucasian” came to mean white because it was used by some 18th century German guy who thought that there was no ancestral relation between people he thought were attractive, and people he thought weren’t attractive. He had a thing for Georgians (Eurasians, not peaches) and thus wanted to apply the term “Caucasian” to people in his favour. The others were all Mongolians, according to this 18th century German guy (okay, if you need a name for this monster – Christoph Meiners) and in later revisions as enthusiastic bigots spread this message, these terms were changed to “Caucasoid” and “Mongoloid” to sound more scientific, and “Negroid” was added to help further dehumanize black people.

Whatever evidence you may use of key developments in humanoid species migrating to Europe through the Caucasus, that is irrelevant to everyday dialogue and modern sociological discussion.

Using a pseudoscience term instead of “white” was trying to add legitimacy to eugenics and supremacy through euphemisms. It’s a white-made concept spread to promote white pride and reinforce white hegemony. Admitting to that should make us even whiter in the face since it’s such a shameful and significant part of our history. Not only does this fake legitimacy expose how white the term “Caucasian” is, but stealing the term from what’s later excluded as a non-white identity is the very same way “Aryan” was adopted by Nazis. “Aryan” is Indo-Persian, and in fact the same etymology as the country of Iran, which is very solidly not blond-hair-blue-eyed Deutschbags.

In most places where I read or hear the word today, “Caucasian” is a used to pretend we’re all equal, or at least to speak of something pro-white without sounding racist. It’s “I’m not racist, but” in one word. A white person saying “I’m into, you know, more…Caucasian features” when describing sexual attractions is trying not to sound racist in partner selection. (It’s really nobody else’s business what you find attracting, including what skin colour you want your partner to have, but if you ramble on into the risk of white skin being bred out of the human population you are volunteering yourself to be called out.) Describing wanted suspected criminals in the news as “Caucasian” is very common practice, but in my mind it’s soaked in the subtext of “See, not ALL criminals are people of colour!” I’m pretty sure in our minds we all think of ourselves as “white” – even those who deny that they believe race exists and they just call themselves “human” – so when we hear “Caucasian” used in describing a criminal we don’t internalize it.

I don’t care if white people are racially profiled. Either it’s white people making fun of white people well, white people eating their own feet, or people of colour who see much more to this white canvas than we do. We see white as a default background. “Caucasian” makes it sound like we’re one of several colours that’s painted onto it. We’re not. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. We still think we are the background, the default to everything, what’s to be measured against. “Caucasian” is trying to continue oppression while denying it’s happening. It’s trying to appear sensitive to others while actually only trying to save ourselves. It’s just another way that we like to pretend we’re all on equal footing now. It’s an appropriation of the geographic Caucasus because some German dude had a fetish in the 1780s. If we’re not comfortable calling ourselves white, we deserve it anyway.

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