..rather than being a straightforward description of skin color, is a term denoting a specific set of ethnic groups and functions as a color metaphor for race.
The definition of a “white person,” …
..differs according to geographical and historical context.
Various social constructions of “whiteness” have had implications in terms of national identity, consanguinity, public policy, religion, population statistics, racial segregation, affirmative action, eugenics, racial marginalization and racial quotas.
The concept has been applied with varying degrees of formality and internal consistency in disciplines including sociology, politics, genetics, biology, medicine, biomedicine, language, culture and law.
History of the term…
The notion of “white people” or a “white race” as a large group of populations contrasting with non-white or “colored” originates in the 17th century. Pragmatic description of populations as “white” in reference to their skin color predates this notion and is found in Greco-Roman ethnography and other ancient sources.
Vicki Leon contrasts this in her book…
”Uppity Women of Ancient Times,”
..noting that the Sumerians paintings and mosaics depict a people possessing dark blue eyes
In the literature of the Ancient Near East and Classical Antiquity, descriptions of the physical aspect of various nations in terms of color is commonplace.
The Sumerians referred to themselves as ùĝ saĝ gíg-ga, meaning “the black-headed people”.
The Ancient Egyptian (New Kingdom) funerary text known as the Book of Gates distinguishes “four races of men”.
These are the Egyptians, the Levantine peoples or “Asiatics”, the “Nubians” and the “fair-skinned Libyans”.
Xenophon describes the Ethiopians as black, and the Persian troops as white compared to the sun-tanned skin of Greek troops.
Herodotus similarly used Melanchroes “dark-skinned” for the Egyptians and he compared them to the Aithiopsi “burned-faced” for the Ethiopians. Herodotus also describes the Scythian Budini as having deep blue eyes and bright red hair.
These color adjectives are typically found in contrast to the “standard” set by the own group, not as a self-description.
Classicist James Dee found that, “the Greeks do not describe themselves as “white people,” or as anything else because they had no regular word in their color vocabulary for themselves, and we can see that the concept of a distinct ‘white race’ was not present in the ancient world.”
Assignment of positive and negative connotations of white and black date to the classical period in a number of Indo-European languages, but these differences were not applied to skin color per se.
Religious conversion was described figuratively as a change in skin color. Similarly, the Rigveda uses krsna tvac “black skin” as a metaphor for irreligiosity.
The pseudo-Aristotelian Physiognomica (2nd century BC) in keeping with the Aristotelian doctrine of the golden mean postulates that the ideal skin tone was to be found somewhere between very dark and very light:
“Those who are too black are cowards, like for instance, the Egyptians and Ethiopians. But those who are excessively white are also cowards as we can see from the example of women and Europeans, the complexion of courage is between the two.”
Similar views were held by a number of Arabic writers during the time of the medieval Caliphate period. Some Arabs at the time viewed their “swarthy” skin as the ideal skin tone, in comparison to the darker Sub-Saharan Africans and the fairer “ruddy people” (which included Levantines, Persians, Turks, North Caucasians, South Caucasian and Europeans).
“White people” and modern racial hierarchies…
The term “white race” or “white people” entered the major European languages in the later 17th century, originating with the racialization of slavery at the time, in the context of the Atlantic slave trade and enslavement of native peoples in the Spanish Empire.
While first a social category, it has repeatedly been ascribed to strains of blood, ancestry, and physical traits, and was eventually made into a subject of scientific research, which culminated in scientific racism, before being widely repudiated by the scientific community.
According to historian Irene Silverblatt, “Race thinking … made social categories into racial truths.”
Bruce David Baum, citing the work of Ruth Frankenberg, states, “the history of modern racist domination has been bound up with the history of how European peoples defined themselves (and sometimes some other peoples) as members of a superior ‘white race.'”
Alastair Bonnett argues that ‘white identity’, as it is presently conceived, is an American project, reflecting American interpretations of race and history.
According to Gregory Jay, a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Before the age of exploration, group differences were largely based on language, religion, and geography. … the European had always reacted a bit hysterically to the differences of skin color and facial structure between themselves and the populations encountered in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
(see, for example), …
Shakespeare’s dramatization of racial conflict in Othello and The Tempest). Beginning in the 1500s, Europeans began to develop what became known as “scientific racism,” the attempt to construct a biological rather than cultural definition of race …
Whiteness, then, emerged as what we now call a “pan-ethnic” category, as a way of merging a variety of European ethnic populations into a single “race” … Gregory Jay, “Who Invented White People?”
White People as a Social Category…
A three-part racial schema in color terms was used in seventeenth century Latin America under Spanish rule. Irene Silverblatt traces “race thinking” in South America to the social categories of colonialism and state formation: “White, black, and brown are abridged, abstracted versions of colonizer, slave, and colonized.”
“The term white came into wide use in the British colonies in America from the 1680s.” …
White people in the science of race 18th century beginnings.
In 1758, Carolus Linnaeus proposed what he considered to be natural taxonomic categories of the human species. He distinguished between Homo sapiens and Homo sapiens europaeus, and he later added four geographical subdivisions of humans: white Europeans, red Americans, yellow Asians and black Africans. Although Linnaeus intended them as objective classifications, he used both taxonomical and cultural data in his subdivision descriptions.
(Johann Friedrich Blumenbach)
In 1775, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach described the white race as “the white color holds the first place, such as it is that most Europeans. The redness of cheeks in this variety is almost peculiar to it: at all events it is but seldom seen in the rest… Color white, Cheeks rosy”.
He categorized humans into five races, which largely corresponded with Linnaeus’ classifications, except for the addition of Oceanians (whom he called Malay).
He characterized the racial classification scheme of Metzger as making “two principal varieties as extremes:
(1) the white man native of Europe, of the northern parts of Asia, America and Africa..”,
(Classic white European male)
..and the racial classification scheme of John Hunter as having, “seven varieties:…
(2) brownish as the southern Europeans, Turks, Abyssinians, Samoiedes and Lapps;
White, as the remaining Europeans, the Mingrelians and Kabardinski”. Blumenbach is known for arguing that physical characteristics like skin color, cranial profile, etc., were correlated with group character and aptitude. Craniometry and phrenology would attempt to make physical appearance correspond with racial categories.
The fairness and relatively high brows of Caucasians were held to be apt physical expressions of a loftier mentality and a more generous spirit.
The epicanthic folds around the eyes of Mongolians and their slightly sallow outer epidermal layer bespoke their supposedly crafty, literal-minded nature.
Later in life, Blumenbach encountered in Switzerland “eine zum Verlieben schöne Négresse” (“a Negress so beautiful to fall in love with”).
Further anatomical study led him to the conclusion that ‘individual Africans differ as much, or even more, from other individual Africans as Europeans differ from Europeans’.
Furthermore he concluded that Africans were not inferior to the rest of mankind ‘concerning healthy faculties of understanding, excellent natural talents and mental capacities’.
These later ideas were far less influential than his earlier assertions with regard to the perceived relative qualities of the different races, which opened the way to secular and scientific racism.
In a 1775 work, Von den verschiedenen Rassen der Menschen (“Of [About] The Different Races of Humans”), German philosopher Immanuel Kant used the term “weiß” (white) to refer to “the white one [race] of northern Europe.”
19th and 20th century: the Caucasian race…
Huxley’s map of racial categories from On the Geographical Distribution of the Chief Modifications of Mankind (1870).
Huxley’s Xanthochroi or “light whites” are shown in red. They gradually blend into the category of Melanochroi or “dark whites” (shown in pink) in Southern Europe and North Africa, and into the Mongoloids B category ( light brown) in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Blending of all three types mentioned is indicated for the Balkans, Anatolia, the Levant, Persia and Northern India.
The study into race and ethnicity in the 18th and 19th centuries developed into what would later be termed scientific racism. During the period of the mid-19th to mid-20th century, race scientists, including most physical anthropologists classified the world’s populations into three, four, or five races, which, depending on the authority consulted, were further divided into various sub-races.
According to Webster: “Cau·ca·sian,” 1. Anthropology. Of, relating to being a major human racial division traditionally distinguished by physical characteristics such as very light to brown skin pigmentation and straight to wavy or curly hair, and including peoples indigenous to Europe, northern Africa, western Asia, and India. No longer in scientific use.
During this period the Caucasian race, named after people of the North Caucasus (Caucasus Mountains) but extending to all Europeans, figured as one of these races, and was incorporated as a formal category of both scientific research and, in countries including the United States, social classification.
According to Webster: “Mon·gol·oid,” 1. Anthropology. Of, relating to being a major human racial division traditionally distinguished by physical characteristics such as yellowish-brown skin pigmentation, straight black hair, dark eyes with pronounced epicanthic folds, and prominent cheekbones and including peoples indigenous to central and eastern Asia. No longer in scientific use.
There was never any scholarly consensus on the delineation between the Caucasian race, including the populations of Europe, and the Mongoloid one, including the populations of East Asia.
Thus, Carleton S. Coon (1939) included the populations native to all of Central and Northern Asia under the Caucasian label, while Thomas Henry Huxley (1870) classified the same populations as Mongoloid, and Lothro Stoddard (1920) excluded the populations of the Middle East and North Africa as well as those of Central Asia, classifying them as “brown”, and counted as “white” only the European peoples.
Some authorities, following Huxley (1870), distinguished the Xanthochroi or “light whites” of Northern Europe with the Melanochroi or “dark whites” of the Mediterranean. 21st century.
Alastair Bonnett has stated that, a strong “current of scientific research supports the theory that Europeans were but one expression of a wider racial group (termed sometimes Caucasian), a group that included peoples from Asia and North Africa”.
Bonnett, does, however, note that this is not a commonplace definition: in Europe and North America the inclusion of non-Europeans is a “technicality little favoured outside certain immigration bureaucracies and traditional anthropology.”
Raj Bhopal and Liam Donaldson opine that white people are a heterogeneous group, and the term white should therefore be abandoned as a classification for the purposes of epidemiology and health research, and identifications based on geographic origin and migration history be used instead.
Definitions of white have changed over the years, including the official definitions used in many countries, such as the United States and Brazil.
Some defied official regulations through the phenomenon of “passing”, many of them becoming white people, either temporarily or permanently. Through the mid-to-late 20th century, numerous countries had formal legal standards or procedures defining racial categories.
However, as critiques of racism and scientific arguments against the existence of race arose, a trend towards self-identification of racial status arose.
Below are some census definitions of white, which may differ from the social definition of white within the same country. The social definition has also been added where possible.
Ethnography of Argentina and Argentines of European descent…
Argentina, although no official censuses based on ethnic classification have been carried out in Argentina, some international sources state that White Argentines and other whites (Europeans and Middle-Easterners) in Argentina make up somewhere between 89.7%, (around 36.7 million people) and 85.8%, (34.4 million) of the total population.
From 1788, when the first British colony in Australia was founded, until the early 19th century, most immigrants to Australia were English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish convicts.
These were augmented by small numbers of free settlers from the British Isles and other European countries. However, until the mid-19th century, there were few restrictions on immigration, although members of ethnic minorities tended to be assimilated into the Anglo-Celtic populations.
People of many nationalities, including many non-white people, emigrated to Australia during the goldrushes of the 1850s.
However, the vast majority was still white and the goldrushes inspired the first racist activism and policy, directed mainly at Chinese people.
From the late 19th century, the Colonial/State and later federal governments of Australia restricted all permanent immigration to the country by non-Europeans. These policies became known as the “White Australia policy”, which was consolidated and enabled by the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, but was never universally applied.
Recent censuses in Brazil are conducted on the basis of self-identification. In the 2000 census, 53.7% of Brazilians (approximately 93 million people in 2000) were White and 39.1% Pardo or multiracial Brazilians; but in 2008 a new National Survey of Household was conducted, and the percentage of Brazilians who self-identified as “Brancos” diminished to 48.4% (92 million people), while the Pardos increased up to 43.8%.
This significant percentage change is considered to be caused by people who used to identify themselves as White and now reappreciated their African and/or Amerindian and/or East Asian ancestry, and so they changed their self-identification to “Pardo” and “Asian”.
About 30% of Chilean population is Caucasian according to a research of the University of Chile. Other studies estimates White population at 20%, or 52.7% of Chilean population.
Contrary to most other Caribbean nations, Cuba became predominantly populated by European immigrants (followed in such regard by Puerto Rico). In 1958, it was estimated that approximately 74% of Cubans were of European ancestry, mainly of Spanish origin, 10% of African ancestry, 15% of both African and European ancestry (mulattos), and a small 1% of the population was Asian, predominantly Chinese.
Puerto Rican people and Demographics of Puerto Rico…
Contrary to most other Caribbean nations, Puerto Rico gradually became predominantly populated by European immigrants. Puerto Ricans of Spanish and Italian descent comprise the majority.
In 1899, one year after the U.S invaded and took control of the island, 61.8% of people self-identified as White. One hundred years later (2000), the total increased to 80.5% (3,064,862); not because there has been an influx of whites toward the island (or an exodus of non-White people), but a change of race conceptions, mainly because of Puerto Rican elites to portray Puerto Rico’s image as the “white island of the Antilles”, partly as a response to scientific racism.
White American, European American, and Definitions of whiteness in the United States…
The current U.S. Census definition includes white “a person having origins in any of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa.”
The U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation describes white people as “having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa through racial categories used in the UCR Program adopted from the Statistical Policy Handbook (1978) and published by the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards, U.S. Department of Commerce.”
The “white” category in the UCR includes non-black Hispanics.
The cultural boundaries separating white Americans from other racial or ethnic categories are contested and always changing. According to John Tehranian, among those not considered white at some points in American history have been: the Irish, Germans, Jews, Italians, Spaniards, white Hispanics, Slavs, and Greeks.
Studies have found that while current parameters officially encompass Arabs as part of the White American racial category, many Arab Americans from places other than the Levant feel they are not white and are not perceived as white by American society.
Professor David R. Roediger of the University of Illinois, suggests that the construction of the white race in the United States was an effort to mentally distance slave owners from slaves.
By the 18th century, white had become well established as a racial term. The process of officially being defined as white by law often came about in court disputes over pursuit of citizenship.
The Immigration Act of 1790 offered naturalization only to “any alien, being a free white person”. In at least 52 cases, people denied the status of white by immigration officials sued in court for status as white people.
By 1923, courts had vindicated a “common-knowledge” standard, concluding that “scientific evidence” was incoherent.
Legal scholar John Tehranian argues that in reality this was a “performance-based” standard, relating to religious practices, education, intermarriage and a community’s role in the United States.
In 1923, the Supreme Court decided in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind that people of India were not “free white men” entitled to citizenship, despite anthropological evidence in “the extreme northwestern districts of India” there is present the “Caucasian or Aryan race” with an “intermixture of blood” from the “dark skinned Dravidian”.
A report from the PewResearchCenter in 2008 projects that by 2050, Non-Hispanic white Americans will make up 47% of the population, down from 67% projected in 2005.
White Americans made up nearly 90% of the population in 1950.
One-third of Americans classified as “white” in a study contained between two and twenty percent African genetic admixture, which can be extrapolated to about 74 million whites in America with this admixture.
One drop rule…
The one drop rule, that a person with any amount of known African ancestry (however small or invisible) is not white–is a classification that was used in parts of the United States.
It is a colloquial term for a set of laws passed by 18 US states between 1910 and 1931, many as a consequence of Plessy v. Ferguson, a Supreme Court decision that upheld the concept of racial segregation by accepting a separate but equal argument.
The set of laws was finally declared unconstitutional in 1967, when the Supreme Court ruled on anti-miscegenation laws while hearing Loving v. Virginia, which also found that Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 was unconstitutional.
The one drop rule attempted to create a bifurcated system of either black or white regardless of a person’s physical appearance, but sometimes failed as people with African ancestry sometimes passed as “white”, as noted above.
This contrasts with the more flexible social structures present in Latin America (derived from the Spanish colonial era casta system) where there were less clear-cut divisions between various ethnicities.
As a result of centuries of having children with white people, the majority of African Americans have some European admixture, and many white people also have African ancestry.
Robert P. Stuckert, member of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at OhioStateUniversity said that the majority of the descendants of African slaves are white.
Writer and editor Debra Dickerson questions the legitimacy of the one drop rule, stating that “easily one-third of black people have white DNA”. She argues that in ignoring their European ancestry, African Americans are denying their fully articulated multi-racial identities.
The peculiarity of the one drop rule may be illustrated by the case of singer Mariah Carey, who was publicly called “another white girl trying to sing black”, but in an interview with Larry King, responded that (despite her physical appearance) and the fact that she was raised primarily by (her white mother), due to the one drop rule she did not “feel white”.
Uruguayans and Argentines share closely related demographic ties. Different estimates state that Uruguay’s population of 3.4 million is composed of 88% to 93% white Uruguayans.
Uruguay’s population is heavily populated by people of European origin, mainly Spaniards, followed closely by Italians, including numbers of French, Germans, Irish, British, Swiss, Eastern Europeans, Southern Europeans, Dutch, Belgians, Austrians, Scandinavians, Lebanese, and Armenians which migrated to Uruguay in the late 19th century and 20th century.
According to the 2006 National Survey of Homes by the Uruguayan National Institute of Statistics: 94.6% self-identified as having a white background, 9.1% chose Afro/Black ancestry, and 4.5% chose a native American ancestry (people surveyed were allowed to choose more than one option).
I could continue with my own two cents, however since I doubt that even half of those who begin reading this offering have reached this point, consequently I will leave my…
two cents on the table until another day…
Have a great day, I’ll be back tomorrow