Over time, there have been a number of changes in North America for the correct term(s) for the various peoples who comprise our citizens..
All of us here either migrated from or are descended from someone who migrated from elsewhere.
Yet we insist on terms like Black, Brown, Red, White, Yellow to put us into somesort of category or other.
When I was quite young, negro seemed to be acceptable. Because of a southern a disparaging slangy corruption of that word, and very derogatory use, it has became not correct.
The term then became black. It was used by everyone and if my memory is correct, promoted by those to whom it referred. Remember “Black Power”.
However, black as means of identification has also became not correct and the term is now African American.
The term brown to describe people whose ancestors has evolved in a number of different places. A famous Canadian comedian has used this term for himself and his family. Is it “correct”. Not too sure. But, it sure is better than some of the more derogatory terms that have been used. The problem with brown is that it can be used for some very disparate people (middle east through south Asian to possibly Oceania).
Using red to describe people again encompasses a large variety of cultures.
We now use “first nations” or “native Americans”.
These terms; however, also tend to lump together people and together who can be quite different. Do the Inuit, Innu, Iroquoian, Cree, Dene, Siouan, Salish, Aztec all see themselves as the same.
The term “the yellow peril” was used to incite fear. Again, this is a term that encompasses a wide group of cultures.
People who have been lumped together as yellow have been very instrumental in building our country. In the wisdom of those who seem to decide these things, the term “Asian Americans” is in use.
We don’t use Black, Brown, Red, Yellow but the remaining group of people who have chosen to settle in North America are lumped together as White.
Whites are of predominantly of European descent but they to come from a vast array of cultures and backgrounds that include among others, Anglo, Slavic, Nordic, Germanic, Celtic, Saxon, Romance, Mediterranean (at least some) cultures.
Why is it OK to lump one group together by colour but not others? In the immortal words of the late George Carlin, “It’s a mystery”..
Should people be considered under any broad common identifier name?
Why do I have to be lumped together with a bunch of others I don’t know, might not like and probably disagree with just because I may sort of look like them?
Why can’t we all just be thought of where we live and our given name?
The Plaidneck (from the County)
(see also: Culturally inspired team names April 2012)