“…conventional American racial categories are rooted in colonialism, slavery, and an elaborate ideology developed to justify a system of racial inequality. Given racial categories’ sociohistorical rather than biological roots, the notion that “races” describe human biological variation has been officially rejected by the American Anthropological Assoication. As we critique outmoded systems of racial classification, we must also question the labels we use for “races.”
-Carol C. Mukhopadhyay
Mukhopadhyay went on to explain in her essay that the word caucasian was developed in the eighteenth century by as anatomist who claimed that the people from the Caucasus mountain range were the most beautiful people in the world and then he decided to label all fair skinned people caucasian. This is why I’m do not identify as caucasian.
There is a lot power and privilege tied up into that particular word. The word is a relic of a now outdated concept that passed off the social construction of race as biological difference. The fact that we still use caucasian as a valid term when we have moved away from the other outdated labels represents the white supremacy still inherently present in the United States. As a society, other groups have changed their labels to more accurately reflect the social construction of race, but white folks are still clinging to this faux-biological label and the idea of superiority that is historically tied to it.
I was in the process of joining NASPA in November of 2010 and their registration form for membership only offered Caucasian as racial category for white people. I sent in an email to their membership committee, a representative replied to my email and said that he’d discuss the concern at their next meeting. I have yet to hear back, but the point is, I’m choosing not to identify as Caucasian because it historically represents ideas that are no longer relevant or even scientifically viable.
EDIT: As I thought about this post after it was published, I realized that this has more meaning in the context of what has happened with President Obama and Donald Trump this week (which I commented on yesterday). I think given the very public new context, examining the language we use and the ways in which we use it to wield power over people is important. Some may claim that Caucasian is just a label that we use, but given its historical context, it is more than that. Constantly evaluating our language and the historical context that it brings to us is an important part of moving forward to a socially just society.