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Is the term 'Caucasian' outdated?

How do we refer to race?
How do we refer to race?
Lynda Sanchez / Flickr

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How we talk about race has changed over the years. The same thing goes for how we talk about ourselves and other people. Instead of “Negroid,” the term we now use is black or African-American. Instead of “Mongoloid,” the political correct term to use is now Asian.

As we strive for accuracy and cultural sensitivity, one group of people have kind of been left out in the cold: Caucasians. The word has become a favorite to describe people who are white. The problem is, it’s not at all accurate. Caucasian, literally, refers to people who are from Caucasus, a region at the border of Europe and Asia. The term “white” also isn’t the most ideal, as some Hispanics consider themselves white.

How do you talk about race in your everyday life? Do you say black or do you use African American? Do you say white or Caucasian? Does it depend on the situation?


Nell Painter, Edwards Professor of American History, Emeritus at Princeton University. She is the author of the book, “The History of White People.” (W. W. Norton & Company, 2010)

Jennifer Hochschild, Professor of Government and African and African American Studies at Harvard University