- Anonymous asked
Totally honest explanation:
In the US, white people like to use Caucasian instead of white because it sounds more neutral and scientific and it makes them less uncomfortable to think that they belong to a race, because they’re not used to racialization (they think of themselves as the default, and everybody else as racialized).
A lot of POC will also use Caucasian simply because we know that white people don’t like to be called white. So we might use the word white ourselves, but if a white person is around, and we need to be polite to them, we’ll use Caucasian so they don’t get mad, but we think it’s kind of silly.
Unfortunately, the word Caucasian is super inaccurate. There are a lot of people in the actual real Caucasus region many of whom have only tenuous white privilege in the US, especially Muslims. So using the word Caucasian to mean “white as determined in the US” leads to a lot of confusion for everyone. Honestly, though, because of our education system, most people who use the word “Caucasian” in the US are only dimly aware of foreign countries and don’t even know that a region called “the Caucasus” even exists.
There’s nothing wrong with using the word “white,” other than the fact that it makes many white people uncomfortable to be called white. It’s the simplest and most neutral word we have available in a limited toolkit. “Caucasian” as a racial descriptor is potentially racism-reinforcing and always inaccurate.
- smallswingshoes asked
The definition of “whiteness” in the United States has shifted over time in order to—you guessed it—protect the interests of people who benefit from “whiteness.” Two noticeable expansions of the concept of [white] American-ness are the inclusion of poor white people after the Civil War and the inclusion of Irish/Catholic/Italian/Eastern Europeans, etc. after the Civil Rights Movement. (Hmmmmmm…..) The book How the Irish Became White is one of the more famous books on this topic.
Critical race theorists like to use the term “differential racialization” to label this phenomena. They also note that race is a social construct: ”categories that society invents, manipulates, or retires when convenient. ”
Critical writers in law, as well as social science, have drawn attention to the ways the dominant society racializes different minority groups at different times, in response to shifting needs such as the labor market. At one period, for example, society may have had little use for blacks, but much need for Mexican or Japanese agricultural workers. At another time, the Japanese, including citizens of long standing, may have been in intense disfavor and removed to war relocation camps, while society cultivated other groups of color for jobs in war industry or as cannon fodder on the front. Popular images and stereotypes of various minority groups shift over time, as well. In one era, a group of color may be depicted as happy‑go‑lucky, simpleminded, and content to serve white folks. A little later, when conditions change, that very same group may appear in cartoons, movies, and other cultural scripts as menacing, brutish, and out of control, requiring close monitoring and repression. (Delgado & Stefancic)
In my screenwriting class this week, my instructor explained that if you do not signify a race or ethnicity, your character will be assumed to be white. There will be no clarification, no one will ask you to explain, the director and casting agent will create a whites-only casting call for auditions.
This obviously isn’t news. We know that the default for Hollywood is white even though mathematically, according to the demographics of California and the entire world, this is laughably illogical.
I asked him how you signify that you want open casting in your script for any race or ethnicity because you want the best actor for the character.
He didn’t understand and started talking about words like “eurasian” in the descriptive lines following your character’s introduction.
I explained that I wasn’t asking about how to denote racial ambiguity (which is another favorite of Hollywood), rather an actual open casting call that wasn’t limited to white and white passing people.
He said he had never come across this.
Never, in his entire decade+ career, had he ever come across an open casting call.
So when people say shit like, “oh well maybe they just got the best actor for the role!”, they deserve to have their faces slammed into the nearest available surface.
Usually race/ethnicity are not specified but racially coded types (eg. ”Girl Next Door”) are sent out. Sometimes the casting people/writers don’t realize that these tropes are racially coded.
"PLEASE SUBMIT ALL ETHNICITIES" and "ALL ETHNICITIES WELCOME PLEASE SUBMIT" are sometimes used to advertise for roles that are open to seeing everyone.
The problem is that even when roles state that they want to see “all ethnicities” there’s been enough times where productions have said this and not meant it (or said this and cast a disproportionate amount of white actors anyway) that many agents and actors are jaded and no longer trust these casting calls.
Where, for example, did the term Caucasian come from? Although many take it to be ‘real’ and don’t think about its racist connotations, the term has racist origins. It was developed in the late eighteenth century by a German anthropologist, Johann Blumenbach. He developed a racial classification scheme that put people from the Russian Caucasus at the top of the racial hierarchy because he thought that Caucasians were the most beautiful and sophisticated people; darker people were put on the bottom of the list: Asians, Africans, Polynesians, and Native Americans (Hannaford 1996). It is amazing when you think about it that this term remains with us, with few questioning its racist origin and connotations.
- peaceloveandafropuffs asked
Heck yes it’s problematic.
(Sometimes, I think people are scared to say the word “white”—maybe because then it acknowledges that white privilege exists?)