In response to a question asked by a Twitter follower
An idea of “whiteness”
Although whiteness is a social construct, it is something that has been used to marginalize people groups. In history the idea of whiteness has changed and is still changing. There have been some groups that were seen as PoC but were grandfathered into whiteness (ref. 1)
A few of those groups that still maintain “whiteness” are:
Basically, European immigrants (ref. 2, 3, 4) and some of *North Africa (ref. 5, 6, 7). (“Jews” are in quotes because this only pertains to Ashkenazi Jews; which is the group that we are taught about in school and are the main group to be recognized as traditionally Jewish. That’s a different discussion for another time.)
As you can tell, the idea of whiteness is floppy. The reason for that is because back in the day whiteness is what granted to citizenship rights (i.e voting). Whiteness quickly became a game of monkey in the middle, where the goal was to keep rights & privileges away from “black” folk. Additionally, whiteness is too much of an idea & oppressive tactic to be biological.
Becoming “people of colour”
When having a conversation of “Who is white?” that requires that you equally address “Who is not white?” Those who fell into the category of non-white became to be identified as “people of colour”.
The journey from “coloured” to “minorities” to PoC was one spearheaded by the black community. Each step used to bring us further away from oppressive terminology & ideas. But even today you will see that black folk tend to be excluded, even in mentions of PoC & PoC communities, which is one of the reasons why the term BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) has been emerging in the U.S. (ref. 8)
Be mindful that this is only a portion of the idea of whiteness. Other points would have digressed.
Image: Toa Heftiba Şinca
1. NPR – The Racial History Of The ‘Grandfather Clause’
2. PBS – How a shifting definition of ‘white’ helped shape U.S. immigration policy
3. JSTOR – Caucasians Are Made and Not Born: How European Immigrants Became White People (Journal)
4. The Undefeated – White immigrants weren’t always considered white — and acceptable
5. The Guardian – Why don’t we think of north Africa as part of Africa?
6. Aljazeera – Are Arabs white?
7. LA Times – Are Arabs and Iranians white? Census says yes, but many disagree
8. NPR – The Journey From ‘Colored’ To ‘Minorities’ To ‘People Of Color’