“Caucasian” vs. “white”

Here at IDEA — and, indeed, around the world — people tend to use “Caucasian” and “white” interchangeably. But, as Associate Editor Bryn Austin recently reminded us, there are important cultural, ethnic, historical, and etymological differences.

Going forward, we will be encouraging our editors and subjects to take a closer look at these terms and pick one that is the most accurate and most specific. If you consider yourself white, it is likely that “white” is simply more accurate than “Caucasian.” However, as with all personal labels, it will come down to what the subject prefers. Respect and accuracy are our goals. This might result in some inconsistencies on pages, with some past subjects being labeled “Caucasian” and future subjects preferring “white” or a more specific label. But, again, it will ultimately be up to the subject to come up with a description.

Ideally, when describing ethnicity, many words could be used. The more the better. For instance, a description of “white (American with Irish and English ancestry)” could be used for a resident of the United States with European ancestry whom we’ve previously labeled as simply “Caucasian.” And, of course, we encourage subjects of non-white races and ethnicities to also choose the verbiage with which they are most comfortable, perhaps using previous IDEA subjects’ choices as a guide.

It’s also worth noting that if you wish to submit your voice to IDEA but do not identify as either male or female, we invite you to simply tell us how you would like to be identified. The same goes for Latina, Latino, or Latinx (the latter if you identify as non-binary).

2 Comments on ““Caucasian” vs. “white”

  1. I think this is great and I’m glad we’re doing this, Cameron. “Caucasian”, or even “white”, always struck me as too broad and potentially confusing, so I support this move 100%.

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