Saturday, April 9, 2016

European vs. White

The importance of names has been on my mind lately--see my last post, "Call me by My True Names." It began with something I had never seen before at my latest trip to the doctor, a new doctor. On the forms for new patients was a term I'd never seen or considered for myself: European. There was no "White," just as there was no "Black" or "Yellow" or "Brown" or "Red."

I think this is an important change and have been using it since on all forms I complete. Not checking "White" but writing in European in the "Other" box. My reasons?

1) The current PC terms for racial categories are based on geographical location, not color.

2) Why should white people be the only exception to this? I'm not offended at being called white and am not, therefore, seeking a kinder, gentler term for myself. I simply think we should have consistency because...

3)Race is social, not scientific. There is no biological basis for race. Race is an entirely social construct. That being the case, it makes much more sense to use the geographical categories to classify ourselves as people.

4) White being the only non-geographical identifier, sets us--as ever--apart from. This distinction reinforces the idea that White is the standard. That Whites have no country, no race, no culture. Whites are then positioned as "normal," the standard against which all others are compared. Non-Whites, then, become the only ones of place, culture, and color. The truth is, of course, that Whites do have countries of origin, have a socially constructed race, and have just as much culture as any other group of people. White people simply have the privilege, and incredibly powerful advantage, of not having to notice it because it is everywhere. It is The Norm. We never push against it or disrupt it because of our race...though we may based on other things such as wealth--or lack thereof--gender, gender classification, sexuality, immigrant status, language, education, region...

What say all of you? Am I right? Should European be the term we use and is that change as important as I think it is?

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