White is a racialized classification of people and a skin color specifier, generally used for people of European origin; although the definition can vary depending on context, nationality, and point of view. In the US, this term has at times been expanded to encompass persons of Mexican, South Asian, West Asian, and North African descent, persons who are often considered "non-White" in other contexts in the United States. It has also been alleged that, in the United States, people of Southern European and even Irish descent have been excluded from this category, although this idea has been contested. The usage of "White people" or a "White race" for a large group of mainly or exclusively European populations, defined by their light skin, among other physical characteristics, and contrasting with "black", "red", "brown", "yellow", and other "colored" people or "persons of color", originated in the 17th century. Until the end of the 18th century, Europeans also described peoples of East Asia as "White". The term "white" may or may not be capitalized. The National Association of Black Journalists recommended that the "w" in white be capitalized in 2020. The AP Stylebook says that the "w" should not be capitalized.
The concept of a unified White race did not achieve universal acceptance in Europe when it first came into use in the 17th century, or in the centuries afterward. Nazi Germany regarded some European peoples such as Slavs as racially distinct from themselves. Prior to the modern age, no European peoples regarded themselves as "White", but rather defined their race, ancestry, or ethnicity in terms of their nationality. Moreover, there is no accepted standard for determining the geographic barrier between White and non-White people. Contemporary anthropologists and other scientists, while recognizing the reality of biological variation between different human populations, regard the concept of a unified, distinguishable "White race" as socially constructed. As a group with several different potential boundaries, it is an example of a fuzzy concept.
The term "White race" or "White people" entered the major European languages in the later 17th century, in the context of racialized slavery and unequal social status in the European colonies. Description of populations as "White" in reference to their skin color predates this notion and is occasionally found in Greco-Roman ethnography and other ancient or medieval sources, but these societies did not have any notion of a White, pan-European race. Scholarship on race distinguishes the modern concept from pre-modern descriptions, which focused on physical complexion rather than race.
According to anthropologist Nina Jablonski:
In ancient Egypt as a whole, people were not designated by color terms [...] Egyptian inscriptions and literature only rarely, for instance, mention the dark skin color of the Kushites of Upper Nubia. We know the Egyptians were not oblivious to skin color, however, because artists paid attention to it in their works of art, to the extent that the pigments at the time permitted.
The Ancient Egyptian (New Kingdom) funerary text known as the Book of Gates distinguishes "four groups" in a procession. These are the Egyptians, the Levantine and Canaanite peoples or "Asiatics", the "Nubians" and the "fair-skinned Libyans". The Egyptians are depicted as considerably darker-skinned than the Levantines (persons from what is now Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan) and Libyans, but considerably lighter than the Nubians (modern Sudan).
The assignment of positive and negative connotations of white and black to certain persons date to the very old age in a number of Indo-European languages, but these differences were not necessarily used in respect to skin colors. Religious conversion was sometimes described figuratively as a change in skin color. Similarly, the Rigveda uses krsna tvac "black skin" as a metaphor for irreligiosity.
Classicist James H. Dee states "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." People's skin color did not carry useful meaning; what mattered is where they lived. Herodotus described the Scythian Budini as having deep blue eyes and bright red hair and the Egyptians – quite like the Colchians – as melánchroes (μελάγχροες, "dark-skinned") and curly-haired. He also gives the possibly first reference to the common Greek name of the tribes living south of Egypt, otherwise known as Nubians, which was Aithíopes (Αἰθίοπες, "burned-faced"). Later Xenophanes of Colophon described the Aethiopians as black and the Persian troops as white compared to the sun-tanned skin of Greek troops.
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 the enslavement of indigenous peoples in the Spanish Empire. 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, which was later 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? A Talk on the Occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 1998"
In the 16th and 17th centuries, "East Asian peoples were almost uniformly described as White, never as yellow." Michael Keevak's history Becoming Yellow, finds that East Asians were redesignated as being yellow-skinned because "yellow had become a racial designation," and that the replacement of White with yellow as a description came through scientific discourse.
A three-part racial scheme 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." By the mid-seventeenth century, the novel term español ("Spaniard") was being equated in written documents with blanco, or "white". In Spain's American colonies, African, Native American (indios), Jewish, or morisco ancestry formally excluded individuals from the "purity of blood" (limpieza de sangre) requirements for holding any public office under the Royal Pragmatic of 1501. Similar restrictions applied in the military, some religious orders, colleges, and universities, leading to a nearly all-white priesthood and professional stratum. Blacks and indios were subject to tribute obligations and forbidden to bear arms, and black and indio women were forbidden to wear jewels, silk, or precious metals in early colonial Mexico and Peru. Those pardos (people with dark skin) and mulattos (people of mixed African and European ancestry) with resources largely sought to evade these restrictions by passing as White. A brief royal offer to buy the privileges of whiteness for a substantial sum of money attracted fifteen applicants before pressure from White elites ended the practice.
In the British colonies in North America and the Caribbean, the designation English or Christian was initially used in contrast to Native Americans or Africans. Early appearances of White race or White people in the Oxford English Dictionary begin in the seventeenth century. Historian Winthrop Jordan reports that, "throughout the [thirteen] colonies the terms Christian, free, English, and white were [...] employed indiscriminately" in the 17th century as proxies for one another. In 1680, Morgan Godwyn "found it necessary to explain" to English readers that "in Barbados, 'white' was 'the general name for Europeans.'" Several historians report a shift towards greater use of white as a legal category alongside a hardening of restrictions on free or Christian blacks. White remained a more familiar term in the American colonies than in Britain well into the 1700s, according to historian Theodore W. Allen.
Western studies of race and ethnicity in the 18th and 19th centuries developed into what would later be termed scientific racism. Prominent European scientists writing about human and natural difference included a white or west Eurasian race among a small set of human races and imputed physical, mental, or aesthetic superiority to this White category. These ideas were discredited by twentieth-century scientists.
In 1758, Carl 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, his descriptions of these groups included cultural patterns and derogatory stereotypes.
In 1775, the naturalist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach asserted that "The white color holds the first place, such as is that of most European peoples. The redness of the cheeks in this variety is almost peculiar to it: at all events it is but seldom to be seen in the rest".
In the various editions of his On the Natural Variety of Mankind, he categorized humans into four or five races, largely built on Linnaeus' classifications. But while, in 1775, he had grouped into his "first and most important" race "Europe, Asia this side of the Ganges, and all the country situated to the north of the Amoor, together with that part of North America, which is nearest both in position and character of the inhabitants", he somewhat narrows his "Caucasian variety" in the third edition of his text, of 1795: "To this first variety belong the inhabitants of Europe (except the Lapps and the remaining descendants of the Finns) and those of Eastern Asia, as far as the river Obi, the Caspian Sea and the Ganges; and lastly, those of Northern Africa." Blumenbach quotes various other systems by his contemporaries, ranging from two to seven races, authored by the authorities of that time, including, besides Linnæus, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, Christoph Meiners and Immanuel Kant.
In the question of color, he conduces a rather thorough enquire, considering also factors of diet and health, but ultimately believes that "climate, and the influence of the soil and the temperature, together with the mode of life, have the greatest influence". Blumenbach's conclusion was, however, to proclaim all races' attribution to one single human species. Blumenbach argued that physical characteristics like skin color, cranial profile, etc., depended on environmental factors, such as solarization and diet. Like other monogenists, Blumenbach held to the "degenerative hypothesis" of racial origins. He claimed that Adam and Eve were Caucasian inhabitants of Asia, and that other races came about by degeneration from environmental factors such as the sun and poor diet. He consistently believed that the degeneration could be reversed in a proper environmental control and that all contemporary forms of man could revert to the original Caucasian race.
Main article: Caucasian race
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. During this period the Caucasian race, named after people of the 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.
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 Lothrop Stoddard (1920) classified as "brown" most of the populations of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, and counted as "white" only the European peoples and their descendants, as well as some populations in parts of Anatolia and the northern areas of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Some authorities,[who?] following Huxley (1870), distinguished the Xanthochroi or "light whites" of Northern Europe with the Melanochroi or "dark whites" of the Mediterranean.
Although modern neo-nazis often invoke Nazi iconography on behalf of White nationalism, Nazi Germany repudiated the idea of a unified White race, instead promoting Nordicism. In Nazi propaganda, Eastern European Slavs were often referred to as Untermensch (subhuman in English), and the relatively under-developed economic status of Eastern European countries such as Poland and the USSR was attributed to the racial inferiority of their inhabitants. Fascist Italy took the same view, and both of these nations justified their colonial ambitions in Eastern Europe on racist, anti-Slavic grounds. These nations were not alone in their view; there are numerous cases in the 20th century where some European ethnic groups labeled or treated other Europeans as members of another, inferior race.
Until recently, persons from India were considered White in the US census
Chile's ethnic makeup is largely a product of Spanish colonization. About three fourths of Chileans are mestizo, a mixture of European and Amerindian ancestries. One fifth of Chileans are of white European (mainly Spanish) descent.
...Basque families who migrated to Chile in the 18th century vitalized the economy and joined the old Castilian aristocracy to become the political elite that still dominates the country.
incitement to violence does not stop just because the intended victim is white
Camus argues that white people in France, and in Europe in general, are being replaced by Muslim immigrants, in what he calls "genocide by substitution."
"White people in France are not in danger," Diallo said, referencing the issue of police brutality. In 2016, for instance, a 24-year-old black man named Adama Traore was trampled and killed by police in the town of Beaumont-sur-Oise
France has a long tradition of overseas colonialism. While whites in the United States have historically exploited many people of color mostly within the country, whites in France have played a major international role in colonizing areas of the globe such as the African continent.
Most white people in France only know the banlieues as a kind of caricature, such as that presented by the right-wing populist Marine Le Pen during her political campaigns.
Finally, as I also argue in How to Be Less Stupid About Race, those of us engaged in the work of anti-racism in and outside of the academy, must continually disrupt efforts to establish a false equivalence between whites and racialized minorities. While many whites in France refuse to acknowledge institutionalized racism and white supremacy, there is widespread belief in the specter of "anti-white racism,"
Large differences in the variation of individual admixture estimates were seen across populations, with the variance in Native American ancestry between individuals ranging from 0.005 in Quetalmahue to 0.07 in Mexico City (Figure 4, Figure S1, and Table S2), an observation consistent with previous studies...
She had barely reached the front porch when the friend's mother realized that her daughter's playmate was a Finn. Helmi was turned away immediately, and the daughter of the house was forbidden to associate with 'that Mongolian'. John Wargelin, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and a former president of Suomi College, also tells how, when he was a child in Crystal Falls some years earlier, he and his friends were ridiculed and stoned on their way to school. 'Because of our strange language,' he says, 'we were considered an alien race who had no right to settle in this country.'