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Caucasian


  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    Shaila Dewan: Has ‘Caucasian’ Lost Its Meaning?

    Shaila Dewan is an economics reporter for The New York Times.AS a racial classification, the term Caucasian has many flaws, dating as it does from a time when the study of race was based on skull measurements and travel diaries. It has long been entirely unmoored from its geographical reference point, the Caucasus region. Its equivalents from that era are obsolete — nobody refers to Asians as “Mongolian” or blacks as “Negroid.”And yet, there it was in the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. The plaintiff, noted Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in his majority opinion, was Caucasian.To me, having covered the South for many years, the term seems like one of those polite euphemisms that hides more than it reveals. There is no legal reason to use it. It rarely appears in federal statutes, and the Census Bureau has never put a checkbox by the word Caucasian. (White is an option.)

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