Why do Americans think "white" is an exclusive ethnicity?

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#1 Posted by lightleggy (15909 posts) -

After watching some dumb "latinos saying things white people says" buzzfeed video I really began to wonder...why the hell do americans think that "white" is an ethnicity that can only encompass "everyone from europe, except spain of course".

I'm costa rican, most people here are white, as in, really white, to the point that when I've been outside of the country, all of the locals keep telling me I look like im from russia, netherlands, or bosnia.

Yet for americans, if I tell them I'm from costa rica, they go "oh so you're not white, you're latino".

My skin is white, it really doesn't matter if I'm not from ireland or something like that, it doesn't changes the fact that my skin is white, that not every latino is going to have dark skin, just like not every european is going to have white skin. This isnt something to imply that skin color makes you superior or anything, but it just pisses me off to see americans saying that "being white" is not a matter of skin color (which should be) but rather a matter of where you were born.

So why the hell is it like this? Is there any sort of explanation for it?

#2 Posted by thegerg (14859 posts) -

I'm an American and I've never encountered what you're talking about.

#3 Edited by turtlethetaffer (16675 posts) -

It's called an over saturation of political correctness and white guilt. Honestly I think the whole labeling people by their ethnicity thing is just stupid to begin with, especially since White means, like you said, pretty much anywhere in Europe. If I was more sensitive and prone to having my feeling hurt I'd correct people and say that I'm of Irish and Scottish heritage but the fact of the matter is that I just don't give a shit. I think that having such labels in the first place is divisive and counter productive anyways.

But we wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so we label people according to their heritage or skin color.

#4 Posted by SaintLeonidas (26050 posts) -

LOL. As if this is exclusive to the term "white".

#5 Edited by Meinhard1 (6768 posts) -

To be sure there are a lot of, often unintentionally, racist people in this country but this just an American thing?

Certainly what is considered "white" and "black" is subjective ... in the early 1900s US immigrant groups now considered "white" were though of as black. (e.g. Italians). Similarly someone who is mostly African may have genes for white skin, while someone who is mostly German may have genes for black. In either case people are put in one group or another based on their culture's norms and a select few phenotypes they see, visually.

I would think any culture is going to have in groups and out groups determined largely be physical appearance. It's all really silly and often harmful in the racism that results, but perhaps human nature, nonetheless.

#6 Posted by lightleggy (15909 posts) -

To be sure there are a lot of, often unintentionally, racist people in this country but this just an American thing?

Certainly what is considered "white" and "black" is subjective ... in the early 1900s US immigrant groups now considered "white" were though of as black. Similarly who is mostly African may have genes for white skin, while someone who is mostly German may have genes for black.

I would think any culture is going to have in groups and out groups determined largely be physical appearance. It's all really silly and often harmful in the racism that results, but perhaps human nature, nonetheless.

I don't see this as "extremely racist". My problem is that in America (and yes, I mean only in America, because this shit doesn't happen in europe or the rest of the american continent) being white means "having european ancestors, unless they are spaniards", not "having white skin" which is how it should be. For some reasons americans think that if you were born in a latin american country and have white skin, you're still not white for being born in a latin american country.

In the rest of the world, your ethnicity will be defined by your skin color. My passport establishes my description as "white" while my cousin's (who has a more latin look) says "medium-dark skinned". It doesn't describe us both as "latinos" because that is kind of assuming that every single person from a certain ethnicity will have the exact same traits as the others.

#7 Edited by lightleggy (15909 posts) -

To be sure there are a lot of, often unintentionally, racist people in this country but this just an American thing?

Certainly what is considered "white" and "black" is subjective ... in the early 1900s US immigrant groups now considered "white" were though of as black. Similarly who is mostly African may have genes for white skin, while someone who is mostly German may have genes for black.

I would think any culture is going to have in groups and out groups determined largely be physical appearance. It's all really silly and often harmful in the racism that results, but perhaps human nature, nonetheless.

I don't see this as "extremely racist". My problem is that in America (and yes, I mean only in America, because this shit doesn't happen in europe or the rest of the american continent) being white means "having european ancestors, unless they are spaniards", not "having white skin" which is how it should be. For some reasons americans think that if you were born in a latin american country and have white skin, you're still not white for being born in a latin american country.

In the rest of the world, your ethnicity will be defined by your skin color. My passport establishes my description as "white" while my cousin's (who has a more latin look) says "medium-dark skinned". It doesn't describe us both as "latinos" because that is kind of assuming that every single person from a certain ethnicity will have the exact same traits as the others.

#8 Posted by LJS9502_basic (150355 posts) -

As an American I've never ever encountered this. Perhaps it's just you.

#9 Edited by Star0 (443 posts) -

Not sure if I should laugh at the stupidity of this thread of be in fits of laughter...OR both.

#10 Edited by Meinhard1 (6768 posts) -

@lightleggy said:

@Meinhard1 said:

To be sure there are a lot of, often unintentionally, racist people in this country but this just an American thing?

Certainly what is considered "white" and "black" is subjective ... in the early 1900s US immigrant groups now considered "white" were though of as black. Similarly who is mostly African may have genes for white skin, while someone who is mostly German may have genes for black.

I would think any culture is going to have in groups and out groups determined largely be physical appearance. It's all really silly and often harmful in the racism that results, but perhaps human nature, nonetheless.

I don't see this as "extremely racist". My problem is that in America (and yes, I mean only in America, because this shit doesn't happen in europe or the rest of the american continent) being white means "having european ancestors, unless they are spaniards", not "having white skin" which is how it should be. For some reasons americans think that if you were born in a latin american country and have white skin, you're still not white for being born in a latin american country.

In the rest of the world, your ethnicity will be defined by your skin color. My passport establishes my description as "white" while my cousin's (who has a more latin look) says "medium-dark skinned". It doesn't describe us both as "latinos" because that is kind of assuming that every single person from a certain ethnicity will have the exact same traits as the others.

I guess I'm not convinced that this is unique to America, but we may have more vague notions of ethnicity here since there are so many groups represented, "melting pot" and whatnot.

Still, I won't speak for other countries. In America black and white is about more than skin color. It has to do with who the culture identifies as part of the dominant "white" group, and who is considered part of the "black" minorities. I read this article the other day. I'll share it, in case you're interested. http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/09/black-in-america-its-not-just-about-the-color-of-your-skin/

#11 Posted by jasean79 (2357 posts) -

Have you filled out an application lately? For the "ethnicity" section your choices are usually among the following:

  1. Latino/Hispanic
  2. African American
  3. Native American
  4. White

So, while I agree that "white" isn't necessarily an ethnicity, then why do employers still feel the need to label it as such on their applications? Why not be politically correct and just put "European American", because that's essentially what I am.

#12 Edited by dave123321 (33787 posts) -

You haven't convinced me, tc

#13 Posted by wis3boi (31118 posts) -

@Star0 said:

Not sure if I should laugh at the stupidity of this thread of be in fits of laughter...OR both.

#14 Posted by magicalclick (22449 posts) -

That's is nothing compare to Taiwanese. If you cannot say one particular non-official dialog in Taiwan. Doesn't matter you all came from China, all speaks Mandarin, all yellow skin, all born in Taiwan you are still not Taiwanese.

#15 Edited by osirisx3 (1756 posts) -

i blame communism

#16 Edited by musicalmac (22905 posts) -

Costa Rica is where we spent my honeymoon. Two of the best weeks of our lives.

#17 Edited by Nengo_Flow (9515 posts) -

Americans have always had a hard time knowing the difference between skin color and nationality. That mentality spreads to everyone if born and/or raised in America regardless whether or not the person saying/thinking it is black or latino.

I've heard people all the time say that this guy is not white becuz he is Mexican:

Also heard black people say this guy isnt black becuz he is Cuban

#18 Posted by AM-Gamer (3583 posts) -

@lightleggy: Most people from Spain would still be considered white.

#19 Posted by MuD3 (1218 posts) -

@thegerg said:

I'm an American and I've never encountered what you're talking about.

same here..

#20 Edited by Pedro (21037 posts) -

@jasean79 said:

Have you filled out an application lately? For the "ethnicity" section your choices are usually among the following:

  1. Latino/Hispanic
  2. African American
  3. Native American
  4. White

So, while I agree that "white" isn't necessarily an ethnicity, then why do employers still feel the need to label it as such on their applications? Why not be politically correct and just put "European American", because that's essentially what I am.

I hate those freaking list for I am not exclusively anyone of those.

#21 Posted by Korvus (3225 posts) -

Yet for americans, if I tell them I'm from costa rica, they go "oh so you're not white, you're latino".

Same here, when I tell anyone in Europe I'm Portuguese, I'm white, I tell an American I'm Portuguese I'm latino (if anything I'm Hispanic...). Well, to be honest, if I tell anybody in Europe I'm Portuguese then I'm Portuguese, in the US I'm latino XD Don't really understand their obsession with colour =P

(Yes, this is a generalization, no I haven't talked to every single American, yes I'm sure some Americans don't care)

#22 Posted by sonicare (53451 posts) -

I too am an american and have not encountered this.

#23 Posted by sonicare (53451 posts) -

That's is nothing compare to Taiwanese. If you cannot say one particular non-official dialog in Taiwan. Doesn't matter you all came from China, all speaks Mandarin, all yellow skin, all born in Taiwan you are still not Taiwanese.

True, but those are usually the indigenous taiwanese. And they have reason to resent the Chaing-Kai-Shek followers that came later and took over the island.

#24 Posted by AutoPilotOn (8220 posts) -

From what user see a lot of people break it down into just a few categories. You are either white, black, Mexican (Latino), or Asian. I actually had someone think Spain was in South America "why else would they all speak Spanish down there"

#25 Posted by airshocker (29042 posts) -

Yeah I'm not sure what you're talking about either, TC.

#26 Posted by gamerguru100 (10502 posts) -

As far as I'm concerned, if your ancestry is primarily or wholly European, you're white, no matter what country you were born in. Some people in this country can't seem to wrap their heads around the concept of a "white Hispanic". It's simple, really. A white Hispanic is someone of European descent who was born in a Spanish-speaking country or has ancestry from such a country. Contrary to popular belief, not every Hispanic or Latino is a brown-skinned mestizo.

#27 Posted by iloveatlus (255 posts) -

Isn't white a synonym for Aryan race?

#28 Posted by themajormayor (25700 posts) -

Americans think alot of crazy things.

#29 Posted by killerfist (19812 posts) -

@jasean79 said:

Have you filled out an application lately? For the "ethnicity" section your choices are usually among the following:

  1. Latino/Hispanic
  2. African American
  3. Native American
  4. White

So, while I agree that "white" isn't necessarily an ethnicity, then why do employers still feel the need to label it as such on their applications? Why not be politically correct and just put "European American", because that's essentially what I am.

Is this for the US? You have to fill out ethnicity? Why does this matter in an application?

Here in the Netherlands, and I'm pretty sure all other european countries as well, your Nationality would suffice.

#30 Posted by AutoPilotOn (8220 posts) -

@killerfist: yes most applications and other paper work ask. But I think most also have option to choose not to say.

#31 Edited by jun_aka_pekto (15919 posts) -

I've never encountered it either. I go by face value. If he looks white he's white. If he looks black then he's black. If he looks mixed, then he's mixed.

Like hell it doesn't happen in Europe. When we vacationed there a number of years ago, many there thought my wife n kids were Japanese (my wife is from the Philippines). I'm like, "What?" and just shrugged it off. Same thing with the Turks.

#32 Posted by jasean79 (2357 posts) -

@jasean79 said:

Have you filled out an application lately? For the "ethnicity" section your choices are usually among the following:

  1. Latino/Hispanic
  2. African American
  3. Native American
  4. White

So, while I agree that "white" isn't necessarily an ethnicity, then why do employers still feel the need to label it as such on their applications? Why not be politically correct and just put "European American", because that's essentially what I am.

Is this for the US? You have to fill out ethnicity? Why does this matter in an application?

Here in the Netherlands, and I'm pretty sure all other european countries as well, your Nationality would suffice.

I don't know why it matters. Probably something to do with meeting their "equal opportunity employer" quota. I always put "white" and never get hired. I'm going to start putting "Latino" and see if that increases my chances.

#33 Posted by thegerg (14859 posts) -

@jasean79 said:

Have you filled out an application lately? For the "ethnicity" section your choices are usually among the following:

  1. Latino/Hispanic
  2. African American
  3. Native American
  4. White

So, while I agree that "white" isn't necessarily an ethnicity, then why do employers still feel the need to label it as such on their applications? Why not be politically correct and just put "European American", because that's essentially what I am.

Is this for the US? You have to fill out ethnicity?

no

#34 Posted by sonicare (53451 posts) -

@jasean79 said:

Have you filled out an application lately? For the "ethnicity" section your choices are usually among the following:

  1. Latino/Hispanic
  2. African American
  3. Native American
  4. White

So, while I agree that "white" isn't necessarily an ethnicity, then why do employers still feel the need to label it as such on their applications? Why not be politically correct and just put "European American", because that's essentially what I am.

Is this for the US? You have to fill out ethnicity? Why does this matter in an application?

Here in the Netherlands, and I'm pretty sure all other european countries as well, your Nationality would suffice.

Last form that I saw that asked for race was medical form. It listed something like Black, Asian, White, and perhaps Pacific Islander. It also had subcategory for some of them that included: white (nonhispanic), white (hispanic), black (nonhispanic), and black (hispanic). It was a medical form and thus I believe they have reason to ask for your race and possible ethnicity as some diseases can vary amongst different backgrounds. The government also occasionally follows race and ethnicity in terms of assuring equal opportunity for hiring and such.

#35 Posted by FatalScorpion (40 posts) -

Yeah I'm an American, with Mexican heritage and yes I have to deal with this ALL the time. America needs to move on from this nonsense.

#36 Posted by dave123321 (33787 posts) -

@jasean79: please don't lie on the application my friend

#37 Posted by playmynutz (5981 posts) -

People should also be classified as red and yellow

#38 Edited by bobaban (10554 posts) -

Who the hell cares what you're "classified" as, its just an arbitrary label; it doesn't define you.

#39 Edited by magicalclick (22449 posts) -

@sonicare:

Disagree on justified discrimination. None of them are indigenous except the natives that are pushed into the mountains. They are just close minded selfish people who feel the need to discriminate grand children of long dead followers.

I feel much more welcomed in USA or South California. I actually can't recall any discrimination from white people. They are actually very polite, even though people from out of state thinks it is very fake. And in USA, Chinese, Cantonese, Taiwanese actually stay together as one race rather than divided. That's so much better than Taiwan.

And honestly, if there is discrimination in USA, I would rather get discriminated by white people. At least I am not white, not born in USA, and don't speak good English. Getting discriminated by fellow Asian is just horrible.

#40 Posted by zpluffy (251 posts) -

Never encounter this. If I see a white guy then he's white. If black then he's black. Ethnicity is different from the color of the skin.

#41 Posted by always_explicit (2715 posts) -

I am colour blind when it comes to my fellow humans beings. One love.

#42 Posted by JimB (181 posts) -

@jasean79: The only place you will find those questions are on government forms. The private sector is forbidden by law to ask ethnic questions.

#43 Posted by thegerg (14859 posts) -

@JimB said:

@jasean79: The only place you will find those questions are on government forms. The private sector is forbidden by law to ask ethnic questions.

No they are not.

#44 Posted by jasean79 (2357 posts) -
#45 Edited by bforrester420 (1366 posts) -

@lightleggy: If you omit the Spanish in "white", you would also have to omit Greek, Italian, Portugese, and Baltic/Slavic as well. As an American, I usually think of "white" as Anglo-Saxon (English, French, Austrian, German, Swiss, Belgian, Dutch...northern/western European) and Scandinavian.

#46 Edited by LJS9502_basic (150355 posts) -

@bforrester420 said:

@lightleggy: If you omit the Spanish in "white", you would also have to omit Greek, Italian, Portugese, and Baltic/Slavic as well. As an American, I usually think of "white" as Anglo-Saxon (English, French, Austrian, German, Swiss, Belgian, Dutch...northern/western European) and Scandinavian.

Don't speak for Americans. Say YOU usually think. kthanx

#47 Posted by bforrester420 (1366 posts) -
#48 Posted by LJS9502_basic (150355 posts) -

@LJS9502_basic: Reread my post... 'I usually think of "white"...'

I read your post....and I'm still not sure why you had to state "As an American..."

#49 Posted by bforrester420 (1366 posts) -

@bforrester420 said:

@LJS9502_basic: Reread my post... 'I usually think of "white"...'

I read your post....and I'm still not sure why you had to state "As an American..."

Because the thread is about what "Americans" consider white. I was making the statement that I am an American, so it's understood that I am an American, and this is what I personally think of in terms of the "white" race.

#50 Edited by dave123321 (33787 posts) -

@jasean79: maybe your willingness to lie is a symptom of a larger issue that shows through on the application