As I often write about race-related issues, many of these terms will be about the so-called races. Sometimes I use the commonly understood meaning of certain terms (common to people living in England). Note that my research has led me to form my own judgements about certain terms, explained below.
race: technically there’s only one – human. Scientifically speaking race = species. What we often describe as races are probably better described as meta- or panethnicities, or in some cases just ethnicities or phenotypes.
‘black’: a person of mainly (>50%) or exclusively (100%) indigenous African ancestry and possesses phenotypic features typical of such people (especially brown skin). This includes their diasporic descendants, e.g. Afro-Caribbeans, Afro-Latinos, African-Americans, ‘black’ Britons and Siddis.
Note that I also include Negritos, Aborigines, Dravidians, Melanesians and similar looking peoples even though they have no recent African background. In their origin countries they are seen as ‘black’ too.
(However, if it weren’t for the confusion it would cause I’d only define as ‘black’ those people with the darkest possible skin colour regardless of ethnicity. See darkest-skinned below)
|A beautiful ‘black’ woman of diasporic African descent -and with her natural hair to boot!|
|A group of ‘black’ children from the Solomon islands (nearest to Australia not Africa),and yes their hair is naturally blond|
‘white’: a person of mainly (>50%) or exclusively (100%) European ancestry and possesses phenotypic features typical of such people (especially peach/ pink skin). This includes their diasporic descendants, e.g. most Americans, most Australians, most Latinos, Sephardic & Ashkenazic Jews, and Africanised Europeans (e.g. Afrikaners & Boers). I also include Aryans, by which I mean the Persians who went to India thousands of years ago, not modern-day Europeans who scream “‘white’ power” or “‘white’ pride”.
(However, if it weren’t for the confusion it would cause I’d only define as ‘white’ those people with the lightest possible skin colour regardless of ethnicity. See palest-skinned below)
|Yvonne Ridley, an English journalist who was capturedby the Taliban and became a Muslim (of her own free will)|
|Ali G – let’s move on|
|Young Kalash girl, looks like a typical European but is actually Pakistani!|
(I put black & white in quote marks because they’re inaccurate. No-one on this planet has literally black skin, and maybe apart from some albinos no-one has literally white skin. Also note how geography, ancestry and culture have no impact on the above definitions. Contrary to common thought these terms don’t refer to ethnicity or nationality. Sociologically they’re just colour metaphors for race, as are ‘red’, brown and ‘yellow’ though these are more accurate insofar as they refer to literal skin tone)
Asian: a person of mainly (>50%) or exclusively (100%) Asian ancestry with cultural ties to living Asian people. However, phenotype is almost useless to define them by, not to mention it means different things in different places. In USA it usually means East Asians (Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Koreans, etc.) but in UK it usually means South Asians (Pakistanis, Indians, Srilankans, Bangladeshis, etc.). Thus I say Easians for the former, Sasians for the latter.
For Asians from Indochina, I find it most logical to call them Indochinese as they’re geographically, genetically & culturally between India & China.
|A man of East Asian background (Korean, not Chinese)|
|Helen Doreena, a gorgeous Indian actress living in…you guessed it, Malaysia|
mixed race: personally I don’t like it because it’s too generic. In UK it most often means a half-‘white’ half-‘black’ person but this ignores the fact that many ‘white’ & ‘black’ people have some degree of admixture regardless of appearance. I use more specific terms like mulatto (half-‘white’ half-‘black’ – or ‘grey‘ since we’re using racial colour metaphors), dougla (half-‘black’ half Indian), pardo (someone who is visibly between ‘white’ and ‘black’), melungeon (mixed ‘black’, ‘white’ and native American), Garifuna (mixed Afro- & native Caribbean), etc. However, I never use half-caste as it’s offensive and meaningless.
|Vin Diesel: part Italian part ‘black’ American|
|Family of melungeons, once tried to pass themselves off as “dark-skinned Portuguese”!|
African: a person of indigenous African background with cultural ties to such people. I include ones whose Africanness is sometimes doubted, e.g. Somalis, ancient Egypians (Kemetics), Nubians, original North Africans (Moors, Berbers & Kabyles) and Khoikhoi & San. All of these groups I also regard as ‘black’ (except Kabyles). Note: I usually don’t count members of the African diaspora as Africans – most of us had our original cultures, names & languages beaten out of us (literally) and replaced with those of ‘white’ people. Plus it makes it easier to distinguish in conversation.
|San (I think) woman and baby. That baby is so cute!|
However, there’s one group I’m confused about – Amazighs. Some say they’re native Africans, some say they’re Africanised Europeans (Greeks). I’m not sure so I’ll include them as Africans for now, but regardless they’re still ‘white’.
Arab: this is a confusing word, because the definition is very changeable. Contrary to what most think, Arabs are not a unified ethnicity. Arabs used to just be anyone who spoke Arabic (at least as a first language) regardless of ancestry and phenotype, now it refers to anyone with cultural/ linguistic ties to Arabised people even if they don’t live in the Arabian peninsula. Some argue that Arabs used to be a distinct ethnic group or groups primordially of East African background but became more fractured as they mixed with others. The USA classifies Arabs as ‘white’, despite the fact that most Arabs have medium to dark brown skin. Me, I’m not sure so I’ll keep my mouth shut for now.
Note that Arab is not synonymous with Muslim, and Arabs (however defined) existed thousands of years before Islam came to Arabia. Many Arabs were and still are Christians & Jews.
|Mahri Arab man|
|Group of Jordanian Christians|
native American: a person of predominantly (>50%) or exclusively (100%) pre-Columbian American ancestry. By this I mean North Americans like Ojibwe, Algonquians, Cherokees & Sioux – but I also include Canadians, Caribbeans and South Americans like the Inuktitut, Taínos, Aztecs, Tapirapé, Arawaks, Wayúu & Caribs.
I do not call these people Indian. That was Columbus’s screw-up and the fact that it still hasn’t fallen into total disuse shows how bad ideas can live on for ages. Like racism. Amerindian/ Amerind is even worse, a fusion of a correct & incorrect label.
|Indigenous Brazilian man|
|Nowadluk, a native from Alaska|
darkest skinned: self-explanatory – people with the darkest possible skin colour (almost literally black), with no regard for ethnic/ geographical origin.
|Darkest skinned Tamils|
dark skinned/ chocolate skinned:
|RIPPED Tamil man!!!|
medium skinned/ tawny skinned:
light skinned/ barely brown/ fair skinned:
(from what I understand ‘black’ Americans may also call them high yellow, which I think sounds stupid so I don’t use it)
pale skinned/ fair skinned:
|Baby pouting lips|
(yes I know I also called Mariah Carey & Alicia Keys fair skinned. That’s because their tint is pretty similar to that of ‘white’ people even though the hue is more yellow-brown. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tints_and_shades and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hue for what I mean by tint and hue.)
palest skinned: self-explanatory – people with the lightest possible skin colour (almost literally white), with no regard for ethnic/ geographical origin.
|Guess which one demonstrates palest skinned|
(Of course all of these have gradations and distinctions in between, and I admit these are oversimplifications. However, I think they are useful and I stick with them. For now)
nigger: a particular subgroup of ‘black’ people (fortunately the minority, unfortunately a very vocal & overly noticed minority). Their distinction is not in ancestry or bodily traits, but in mental & behavioural traits like perceptions, speech patterns and beliefs. They’re the type of ‘black’ people who habitually live up to the negative stereotypes ‘white’ people have of us, i.e. wantonly violent, nymphos, lazy, averse to education, etc. The problem with niggers is not ignorance per se. It’s willful ignorance; they make the stereotypes part of their identity. They’re even stupid enough to equate all ‘black’ people with themselves and see nigger as a term of endearment! Usually men are called niggers but the term can apply to women.
Synonyms include nigga, niggah, nigguh, nig, nucca, nyukka & niggar.
|The Boondocks‘s Riley Freeman, a nigger-in-training saying dumb s*** a nigger would say|
whigger: a particular subgroup of ‘white’ people who act like niggers. It’s bad enough when they’re just copying what they see on the media and make it part of their identity (trying to be “gangsta”), but it’s far worse when they claim such behaviour makes them ‘black’. See Ali G for a perfect example. As with nigger, whigger is most often used to refer to men but can be used on women too.
Synonyms include wigger, wigga & whigga.
|An Italian-American whigger (aka. guido)|
I’m sure there are native American & Asian versions of niggers & whiggers but I have no idea what to call them. I’ll add more terms in later posts.