This is something I wanted to bring up in the "politically correct" journal. The terms to describe ethnicity seem a bit odd to me. A brief definition of ethnicity is the quality of being part of a certain culture. By extension, it can also refer to culture back to which a person’s family history traces.
- Some of you might remember the front page of standardized tests where you have to fill in your personal information. One box was specifically devoted to ethnicity. I remember the choices used to have this pattern "  Asian American  African American  Caucasian Hispanic  Native American  Other". Years later I took another standardized test and the choices had changed to " Asian  African American  Hispanic  Native American  White  Other". Apparently, a lot of people in previous years didn’t know what "Caucasian" meant and had written "White" in the "other" field. It was a facepalm moment if there ever was one. Looking back on the change, I realized that something else was wrong with the change. "White" is not an ethnicity. It’s slang for a skin color. So the idea of ethnicity was misused. Ethnicity is supposed to refer to a culture, not a skin color regardless of correlation.
- I want to point out that "Caucasian" is not a correct term (by etymology) for ethnicity. I am not an expert, but in I think "European" would be much more accurate term for describing ethnic origins. Caucasian refers to the Caucasus Mountains even though the use of the word is used to describe people whose origins stem from a very broad area. So as much as I liked the term "Caucasian", it turns out to be a very loose and unhelpful term in describing ethnic origins. I've heard that the origins of the term refer to "Aryans" giving it a fairly racist fundamental meaning, but I'd suggest doing some of the research for yourself.
- Recall that ethnicity mainly refers to being part of a culture, while referring to cultural origins is just an extra extension of the word. I think there is some confusion between these two qualities. Say a Mexican was to move to America. She lives in a neighborhood with others of Mexican descent and participates in the same cultural traditions they did in Mexico. Would "Mexican" be a correct term for her culture (therefore her ethnicity)? It clearly would be. What if she participated in both Mexican and American traditions? Would her ethnicity still be Mexican, or would it be American as well? An anthropologist might know, but not me. If she had a child, would the child still be "Mexican"? If he grows up in a Mexican culture, yes. What if the family moved somewhere else in America and no longer lived in a Mexican community? Can they simply change ethnicity by changing the culture in which they are involved? Would the son’s children be "Mexican" if they never have any part in the culture? "Mexican" would then only be a description of their ethnic origins, not their culture. This dual use of "ethnicity" is a bit confusing and inconsistent. I’d rather keep the terms "ethnicity" and "ethnic origins" as separate terms for the sake of clarity.
6 years ago
23 Jan 2013 15:51 CET