Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Are You White or European American?

So I posted this question on my Facebook page the other day -- White folks, do you really call yourselves European-Americans?--and was bombarded with responses.

On Sunday I was listening to this otherwise wonderful lecture on diversity, but the White, er, I mean European-American gentleman speaking kept referring to himself and other White people as European Americans and I couldn't help but cringe every time he said it. The term just sounded so forced and ridiculous. Like maybe Mr. Speaker ingested a little too much diversity training. But then when I thought about it, why is that any different than Black people calling themselves African-American. Personally, I refer to myself as a Black American because I feel strongly that Black America is a unique cultural group. It's why I capitalize Black, because it's my culture not a color. I wrote about this in a post here on the Meltingpot.

But still I want to know; White Folks, do you refer to yourselves as White or European-American? And please tell me why.

I am really listening because at the end of the day, as long as you're not referring to yourselves as something offensive, you should be able to self-identify anyway you'd like. And I will respect that.

Peace.

13 comments:

Maureen Sullivan said...

I guess I am a "white American". I usually refer to myself as a Danish-American because with my Irish name you would never know I was Danish. I don't look Danish either, I have brown eyes and brown hair (which I bleach so I can look a little more Danish). I have in jest referred to myself as a European American, or a Northern European American, or even as a Scandiribbean-American (my husband is from the West Indies and I identify with that culture too)

I just read Heidi Durrow's book and I LOVED it! There was so much I identified with.

Regina said...

I'm white. I commonly refer to myself as Irish-catholic. To me thats more of a cultural thing. Yes, my family is descended from Irish and Italians, but I was raised in Philly PA by a mostly Irish Catholic family.

On another note, I never understood how people born and raised in America refer to themselves as Irish-American, Italian-American.. etc. (Especially if they never even gone to that country, even on a visit.) You are American in my mind. American descended from somewhere. We all are. Thats the beauty of America.
(I mean that to sound curious, not mean. I really wonder about it....)

soy yo said...
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soy yo said...

I never have. I am Russian, French, Danish, Dutch, Native American, and maybe some other stuff. The Russian is from Russia's far east, so that is maybe Asian and it is the largest section of my ancestry. I'm pretty sure that there are different ethnic groups of Russia in that mix, but it hasn't been traceable.

I look white, and grew up culturally "white," so that is my short answer if asked about my race.If we are getting into further detail, I'll mention my background.

Maureen Sullivan said...

BTW I grew up part of the time in Denmark. That is why I call myself Danish-American. I do not always identify with "white American" culture. I feel more Danish than I do American most of the time. Also people often assume I am Catholic (again because of my Irish name). Apparently I "look" French or French Canadian since I get approached by tourists (speaking French to me) all the time. I finally did learn French.

LT said...

MS,
Interesting, how even if you're White you can be mis-identified. Glad you liked Heidi's book! I have a Black friend named Erin McDonald and everyone assumes she's Irish too...until they meet her.

Regina,
Yeah, Irish-Catholic feels like a culture. And it makes sense if that's what you feel defines you the most.

Soy Yo,
Short hand in Race speak is definitely useful.

Eileen said...

I grew up thinking of myself as Irish. Then I went to Ireland for a semester and realized I was Irish American. Then I lived in Africa where I was just American. Now, if we are talking about race in the States, I usually say I'm white, though sometimes I write White for the reasons you stated, Lori (However, it kind of freaks people out when you capitalize the W, so I don't always do it.) But on my website bio, I don't mention any of those things. I mention that I'm a Quaker because that seems the most distinctive of my identities or the one that is most likely to tell a reader something about my approach to life. I don't mind European American, but I hate the term Caucasian, probably because my ancestors were not from the Caucuses.

soy yo said...

Yeah I think the word Caucasian is not accurate, and I am annoyed when I hear it used to describe what we Americans describe as "White."

On another note, my son is half Mexican, and his father was a Mexican Indian, not mixed with Spanish. So my son looks very Latin, and also nothing like me, lol! He is very handsome, so he doesn't need to look like me!

Anyway, sometimes in the US, sometimes people would see him, and since I have dark hair, start speaking Spanish to me. I also was once asked if I was Mexican and then chastised when I answered "no," for not being proud of what I was. I just said, "If I were Mexican, I'd be proud to say so, but I'm just not."

On top of all that, we live in Finland now, and I think most people probably perceive my son as Middle Eastern or something other than half Mexican, since there aren't many Latin Americans here. I don't really know what people think most of the time, though.

I HAVE had some firends take a liking to him and to me simply because they think he looks like "them." (Moroccan and Iranian friends)

OK, sorry to veer way off topic! I really like this blog, and I find race and mixed people fascinating too.

soy yo said...
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Beth said...

Like other commenters, I think of myself in national/ethnic/cultural terms (Lithuanian in my case) rather than racial; so given those choices, I would definitely pick "(Eastern) European American.". I internalized "white" as equivalent to WASP as a very young child, and never felt any connection to that identity whatsoever (I remember very vividly feeling I had no "correct" identity on standardized tests, and being so frustrated about it); it was only much later, as I got into social justice studies in college, that I got interested in "okay, this is what other people see me as, so now what do I do with that?"

Anonymous said...

Im White, to be honest I do like the term European-American since it is far respectful than being called just a "white" person. My reason for this is simple. Lets be honest here, every ethnic group in America today - Every single one is hyphenated today. Asian-Americans ? Check. Arab-American ? Check. Latino-American ? Check. African-American ? Check. Native-American etc etc etc.

White people hail from Europe, so we are European-Americans. And since every formal outlet uses African-America [etc] in sentences, it is odd to say "white" when compared to that.

Anonymous said...

The politically correct term of "European-American" is used a lot among the highly educated, such as among scholars and professors. But among common American people, it's not used that often, but is gradually being used more and more among them. In the future we will hear the term "European-American" to refer to Americans of European ancestry just as often as we hear the term "African-American" to refer to Americans of African ancestry or the term "Asian-American" to refer to Americans of Asian ancestry. And just as the term "Negro" is considered outdated and offensive by today's standards when refering to African-Americans, the term "Caucasian" should also be considered outdated and offensive by today's standards when refering to European-Americans. People still commonly use the term "Caucasian" today but in the future it will not be commonly used just as the term "Negro" is not commonly used today. As a European-American (my ancestry is Irish, German, Dutch and English; I have a German last name) I am offended when people refer to me as a "Caucasian." Please refer to me and my people as "European-American." Thank you.

pepjrp said...

Thank you for your honesty sir. And yes I am a European American. In fact, myself and other European Americans have written, called and requested 100's if not more networks and newspapers to give us the same courtesy and respect as they give all other ethnicity's. It is offensive to hear African American, Native American, etc and then we are referred to as just a color. It is like referring to a number of adults as Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, Mr. Johnson and Bill. Guess who is Bill in this example? It is racist and discriminatory in my opinion. I always annotate or write it in whenever race comes up if possible, like in a survey for example. If a website does not allow me to, yet it just lists me as a color, while give extra respect to other groups, then I choose the other category, because I am not just a color. I also despise the Negro word equivalent of Caucasian. That word is so 1940's. Thank you sir for this opportunity. We are European Americans.